The Special Collections Handbook, Third Edition

Customers outside of North America (USA and Canada) should contact Facet Publishing for purchasing information.

ALA Member
Item Number
Facet Publishing, UK

Primary tabs

You don't need to be an ALA Member to purchase from the ALA Store, but you'll be asked to create an online account/profile during the checkout to proceed. This Web Account is for both Members and non-Members. 

If you are Tax-Exempt, please verify that your account is currently set up as exempt before placing your order, as our new fulfillment center will need current documentation. Learn how to verify here.

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

An essential resource for staff working with special collections in a wide range of settings, including academia, public libraries, and museums, this new edition has been revised and updated to reflect the growth and complexity of the environment in which special collections operate. Cullingford thoroughly covers the essential principles, skills, and knowledge to manage special collections in any setting, including

  • preservation;
  • developing and managing collections, including enriched guidance on decolonizing collections;
  • understanding objects;
  • emergency planning and security;
  • facilities, with discussion of working towards zero-carbon buildings;
  • managing remote access by staff and users;
  • legal and ethical concerns, including new material on the 2018 UK Data Protection Act;
  • cataloging;
  • digitization and digital resources;
  • the implications of the “digital shift” and the place of special collections in online and hybrid teaching and learning;
  • marketing, outreach, and advocacy; and
  • fundraising.

Part 1. Discovering collections

1 Understanding objects in Special Collections


Part 2. Collections management

2 The care of Special Collections

3 Emergency planning for Special Collections

4 Acquiring and developing Special Collections

5 Cataloguing, description and metadata in Special Collections

6 Digitization and digital libraries in Special Collections


Part 3. Managing public access

7 Legal and ethical issues in Special Collections

8 User services in Special Collections

9 Marketing and communications in Special Collections

10 Widening access to Special Collections

11 Using Special Collections in education


Part 4. Governance and resources for Special Collections

12 Special Collections spaces

13 Organizational resources for Special Collections: people

14 Influencing and fund-raising for Special Collections


Appendix A The Special Collections reference shelf

Appendix B Skills for your Special Collections career

Appendix C Latin and palaeography

Alison Cullingford

Alison Cullingford is Special Collections Librarian at the University of Bradford, UK, where she is responsible for over 100 collections of modern archives and rare books. The service was the first English university to achieve Archive Accreditation. She also managed the Unique and Distinctive Collections project for Research Libraries UK. An active member of the CILIP Rare Books and Special Collections Group and many other sector groups, she also regularly presents at conferences, blogs and tweets on the importance of the special collections librarian.

"The new edition provides updates on key topics and adds almost a hundred pages of content while still focusing on giving a broad overview of Special Collections ... Best suited for someone seeking a general introduction or as an introductory text for a class. It would also be useful for someone working in one area of Special Collections who wants to gain an understanding of another aspect of the field, such as someone in museum archives wanting to learn more about rare book librarianship. The bibliography also provides a helpful reference source."
— Technical Services Quarterly

"Considering how many materials and formats can fall under the rubric of 'special collections,' it seems like a daunting endeavor to compile a single handbook which covers all their management and care, but Alison Cullingford has done so with great finesse."
— Library Resources & Technical Services

"As a cataloger with over 20 years of experience with special collections, I was unable to identify any critical topics that were missing, and appreciated Cullingford’s realistic and pragmatic approach to the challenges common to this work ... The volume would be a welcome addition to a special collections staff reference shelf."
— Technicalities

Praise for previous editions

”A comprehensive manual for special collections and rare book librarianship; there is no contemporary one-volume U.S. equivalent ... Highly recommended."
— Library Journal

”As a practical handbook, this volume should be on the shelf of every special collections library – it should, indeed, be on the shelf of every library. There is much that all librarians may glean from it, whether their institution houses a special collection or not. It is worth every information professional understanding how special collections work to facilitate organizational communication and understanding, to see whether there are opportunities for collaboration or simply to understand how special collections function within a wider institution."
— Reference Reviews

The Special Collections Handbook should be an essential tool to anyone managing Special Collections or archives, no matter their professional background or area of expertise."
— Archives and Records