Security and Access for Unique Collection Items: A Beginner’s Guide

It is a sad truth that libraries and archives can lose unique items to theft. This presentation will report on the findings from nine weeks in the second half of 2023 spent exploring collection security in research and public libraries and archives in key institutions in the UK, Europe, and the US. The research was funded thanks to a Churchill fellowship and encompassed a broad range of collection security issues. Talking points included how can users access collections, what rules apply to researchers, what is allowed in the consultation space, how is storage managed, what policies are in place, and lastly what every institution dreads, what experiences have they had with thefts?

Attendees will be guided through some of the security and access considerations for every unique library collection in these times of increased retail theft and seeming resignation to financial scams. We all want as many people as possible to access our unique collections but keeping those items intact and available for the next generation is an important balance to get right. Recognising that not all budgets are the same and neither are library spaces, join in to hear some practical tips and suggestions about providing access and security for your unique collection.

Philippa Stevens

Chruchill Fellow

Author Bio

Philippa Stevens was the Manager of Information & Access at the State Library of NSW when she was awarded a Churchill Fellowship on her topic “To benchmark the balance of access, security and preservation for significant library collections”. She undertook the research in August / September / October 2023 although she had resigned from her position having held it for just over a decade. Prior to this she was the Manager of Fisher Library at the University of Sydney for four years. She has experience with busy reading rooms and library buildings, managing complex rosters and large staffing teams and became increasingly interested in managing access to unique library materials in her time at the State Library. Having lived and breathed the topic for most of 2023 she wants to share as much as she can from what she learned on this amazing trip. Philippa presented on her Fellowship at the Council for European Research Libraries Security Working Group Summer School in September 2023 and was rated highly by the other attendees. She has regularly presented to the NSLA Visitor Experience group both in person and online. She also has experience of addressing the staffing team of over 70 people in her branch on key issues such as Covid safety through those years, but also strategic planning, changes in staffing etc for the ten years she was in the position of Manager.