Creating a Local History Archive at Your Public Library

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  • Description
  • Table of Contents
  • About the author
  • Reviews

Archival collections at public libraries present their own challenges distinct from other library materials, but they also offer the promise of unique connections between the library and its users, particularly when the archives relate to local history. Written by an archivist and librarian with hands-on experience in multiple archival and manuscripts repositories, this concise guidebook presents best practices for the acquisition, access, and care of local history materials in public libraries. Providing guidance on creating a new archive as well as reinvigorating an existing one, it addresses 

  • what makes for a successful local history collection, with real-life examples that can serve as models;
  • policies, planning, procedures, and day-to-day work involved with archival collections;
  • processing, from appraisal and legal transfer to arrangement and description;
  • maintenance of the collection, offering guidance on proper care, storage, security, and disaster prevention and recovery; and
  • continuing education for staff.

This book will help public librarians and archivists give their local history archive the care and attention it so richly deserves.


Chapter 1    Defining, Creating, and Developing a Local History Archive
The History of Local History
Scope and Formats of Materials
Mission Statements


  • Policies and Procedures
  • Planning
  • Staffing
  • Scenarios

Chapter 2    Collection Development Policies for a Local History Archive
Priorities and Limitations of the Local History Archive
Gift Policy
Deaccessioning Policy
Resource Sharing/Cooperative Policy
Policy Implementation and Review

Chapter 3    Acquiring and Making Local History Collections Accessible
Processing Step 1: Appraisal



  • Appraisal Theory
  • Organizational and Institutional Records
  • Personal Papers
  • To Accept or Not to Accept
  • Recap: Conducting an Appraisal, How to Do It

Processing Step 2: Legal Transfer



  • Deed of Gift
  • Organizational Agreement
  • Records Transmittal Form
  • Monetary Appraisals for Donors
  • Donor Requested Restrictions
  • Abandoned or Orphaned Collections    
  • Recap: Legal Transfer, How to Do It

Processing Step 3: Accessioning



  • Deaccessioning
  • Processing Plan
  • What’s in a Name?
  • Recap: Accessioning, How to Do It

Processing Step 4: Arrangement



  • Levels of Arrangement and Description
  • Recap: Arrangement, How to Do It

Processing Step 5: Description



  • Finding Aids
  • Digitization
  • Unknown Provenance
  • Recap: Description, How to Do It

Processing Step 6: Access



  • Access Policy
  • Utilizing the Online Public Access Catalog
  • Web Finding Aids
  • Copyright
  • Outreach
  • Reference Services
  • Recap: Access, How to Do It

Chapter 4    Care of a Local History Archive



  • Digitization as Access and Preservation

Disaster Awareness, Prevention, and Recovery



  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index


Faye Phillips

Faye Phillips is the owner of V F Phillips Consulting specializing in library and archival services, local history research and publications, and appraisal. From 1986 to 2012 she was a librarian, archivist, administrator, and associate dean at the Louisiana State University Libraries in Baton Rouge. Her publications include works on local history, and the administration of archives and special collections. She has designed and taught courses on local history, archival practices, preservation and digital libraries.

"This is a good introduction to the multiple factors and processes involved in setting up a local history archive. It provides good guidance on types of materials to include in such a collection including personal records and genealogical resources."

"Phillips’s thorough guide, with its emphasis on current processing technology, is a useful addition to the literature."
— Library Journal

"A good resource for libraries looking to start a local history collection or evaluate the current one. By using real-life scenarios, Phillips offers the reader ideas for handling a number of situations that may arise."

"Phillips’s book stands out among the constellation of archival manuals for its focus on management issues and challenges unique to local history archives in public libraries ... [it] would be a very useful tool not only for local history archives in public libraries, but any archival repository situated inside a larger organization."
— Journal of Contemporary Archival Studies