Policy du jour (or, the breakfast special)

Today was the monthly departmental employee meeting for A&SC for all full-time permanent employees in the department. Now, that sounds deadly, we know, but keep in mind that at the moment there’s only two of us full-time permanent types here and we usually just go out to breakfast, Arlene buying.  (The non-full-time, non-permanent employees are invited but one isn’t a morning person and the other is in Germany, so it’s pretty much just the two of us). And though we do get menus, we don’t have an agenda.

In what looks like a glaring lack of transition, but is in fact related, lately the Archives & Archivists listserv has been discussing reading room policies for the use of digital cameras.  Arlene has been reading some of these and keeps coming back to the same query she’s been asking for a few years: why? Why do we have a  prohibition on the use of digital cameras in the reading room?  So over breakfast this morning, she asked MC that question.  (See?  I told you it related to breakfast: these meetings aren’t all social.)  And we both agreed that while we had some concerns, neither of us could come up with any reasonable justification for a complete ban.  The concerns we had could be addressed in a policy statement to be signed by the researcher wishing to take digital images.

Some of our thoughts were: what about documents that contain sensitive or non-public information?  What about fragile or light sensitive materials?  What about researchers who want to take images of a whole book or collection or anything else that might conflict with copyright or other rights issues?  And not to mention, when we digitize something, we have a copy of the digital file but if the researcher digitizes it, we don’t.  So we pondered those thoughts a little and realized that a lot of our concerns are already addressed by existing policies and as far as us getting a copy of the image, we could make that a requirement of the policy.

So the next step was to draft something, which Arlene did immediately upon return to the office.  MC proofed and reminded Arlene of the bits she’d forgotten.  Then Arlene took it to Kevin Tripp, our archivist colleague with the Alaska Moving Image Preservation Association (AMIPA) and Kevin read it.  And he came up with one of those breath-stealing, blatantly obvious points that prove exactly why you should always ask somebody not involved in drafting an official document to proof it: he asked why we were just talking about digital photography?  Some people still use film, you know.  (Thanks, Kevin, for being willing to read and comment.  And for being able to point out a giant defect gently.)

The policy then went off to the Dean of the Library (always keep your boss informed!) and he had some suggestions too about removing some of the more arbitrary language, which we happily incorporated into the document.  And so it’s done.  A one day policy/form.  Now, like all policies, it isn’t static.  We want to make sure we’re flexible enough to change policy when needed.  But we think it’s a pretty good starting place.  See what you think.  Our new photography in the reading room form.

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