Cultural heritage institutions and repositories preserve and provide researchers access to collections and services. By providing reference assistance an institution fulfills its mission. Researchers may visit in-person, through a website, or send research requests via mail or e-mail. Depending on the size and complexity of an institution, there are numerous practices that may be adopted.
Sample Forms and Policies
- Reference Room Rules
There are a number of rules that are common to most reference operations; these are to protect the collection from damage and theft
Other rules typically deal with operations—only staff will retrieve records from storage, only staff will make photo copies, etc.
- No bags, briefcases, backpacks, or coats in the reference area
- No pens allowed while using materials; and
- No food, no drink, no smoking
These rules should be reviewed and researchers acknowledge that they understand them before they are allowed to use the collections.
- Researcher Registration/Using the Collections
It is common to ask researchers to register or sign-in when entering the building, or research area. This allows the institution to calculate how many researchers it serves during a given period. Registering researchers also provides a level of security, allowing institutions to know who is using collections. A couple of examples are:
- Visitor Registers Typically, these will record the date, time in/time out of repository, name, address, and a general subject being researched
- Registration Forms Capture much the same information as the Registers. In addition, they may contain specific information on what collection and what parts of the collection were examined
- Research Services
Many institutions provide some research services, either for free or a fee. Policies should be adopted that outline the level(s) of service you will provide. Often a form is generated with the patron’s information and request, institutions must decide how many requests from an individual you are willing to entertain at a time. Often there is a limit of one request per patron until the first one is completed. This is a matter of fairness. One motivated researcher can easily monopolize the time of an entire staff.
- Copying Collections
Repositories should also have in place a clear reproduction policy. This policy should first identify if the researcher can copy the materials or if staff must make the copies. Many items require special handling and staff must make copies for the researcher. Reproduction policies should also outline any copyright restrictions or other restrictions related to how the researcher may use the information.