Selection Policies for Special Collections Materials

Library materials are designated Special Collections when their format, age, scarcity, or other unusual characteristics merit special handling.

The Special Collections librarian (Curator) determines what materials shall be placed in Special Collections according to the criteria below. The librarian may also confer with members of the Library faculty regarding the transfer of items already in the collection that meet these criteria and for the purchase of new materials for the collection by Bibliographers from their budget allocation. Examples of this are poetry and prose issued by small presses such as Black Sparrow Press that are purchased by the English Bibliographer and small press publications on California purchased by the Social Science Bibliographer.

Criteria for Library materials that should be designated Special Collections:


  1. Handwritten documents and typescripts bound between covers.
  2. Letters, papers, scrolls,typescripts, and other unbound documents.

Printed Books

  1. Early Imprint Books.
    • All books printed before 1800.
    • U.S.: books printed before 1830.
    • California: books printed before 1870.
    • Southern California: place> books printed before 1900.
  2. Unique or irreplaceable books.
  3. Limited editions of 300 copies or less.
  4. First editions of significance.
  5. Materials of aesthetic importance.
  6. Fine press books especially California:place>:State> presses.
  7. Materials subject to damage or loss.
    • Volumes or portfolios of fine or loose plates.
    • Materials whose illustrations make them subject to mutilation or theft.
    • Materials of fragile construction.
    • Books with manuscript materials or significant original documents laid or tipped in.

Audio-Visual Material

  1. Photographs.

    All prints and negatives taken from 1840-1900. [see James M. Reilly's Care and Identification of 19th Century Photographic Prints]

    Prints and negatives related to an existing collection or collecting area*

  2. Moving picture film and video tape.

    Because of special requirements for storage and preservation these materials are not normally accepted.

  3. Sound recordings.
    • Phonograph disks, audiotapes, or other digital media part of an existing collection*.
    • Rare early recordings on cylinders, wire, and other media. *
    • Rare sound recordings of music, stage or other performances.
    • Master copies of recorded interviews.

Other Materials

The categories a-d would normally be related to an existing collection area

  1. Paintings and fine prints.
  2. Sculpture.
  3. Antique furniture.
  4. Objects d’art.
  5. Rare printed and manuscript map and music scores.

Technical Processing

The same general principles apply to this material type as apply to the acquisitions and cataloging of all other material types. See the Technical Processing section of BOOK.

Access Policy

Special Collections materials are available for use in the Special Collections reading room, and are not circulated outside the room except for exhibitions in the Library and at other institutions, and for copying and photographing. The Exhibition Loan form must be completed and signed by the Special Collections librarian for all loans outside the Library.

Because Special Collections has a fixed stack area, any increase in the numbers of Special Collections materials beyond stack capacity must be accommodated by the automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS). The Special Collection librarian selects all materials destined for the AS/RS.

Special Collections staff retrieves all collection materials from its stacks and storage facility for researchers to use in its reading room.

The Library has established the following collection areas for Special Collections: American literature; California and the West; children's literature; history of printing and publishing; human sexuality; music; 19th and 20th century Europe; radio and television scripts; religion; theater plays and motion pictures; United States history.