Archival and Special Collections Facilities: Guidelines for Archivists, Librarians, Architects, and Engineers

Polona Vilar (Department of Library and Information Science and Book Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 26 July 2011




Vilar, P. (2011), "Archival and Special Collections Facilities: Guidelines for Archivists, Librarians, Architects, and Engineers", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 67 No. 4, pp. 738-739.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The book presents a standard, approved and officially adopted by the Council of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) in February 2009, following a review of the SAA Task Force on Archival Facilities Guidelines, the SAA Standards Committee and the general archives, conservation, library, and building professions. The standard has been created by archivists, architects, and preservationists, guided by the two editors who are themselves renowned in archival world. As such it is a valuable source of information for anyone planning new or renovating existing archival facilities.

The book has nine sections covering:

  1. 1.

    building site selection, evaluation and design;

  2. 2.

    building construction, where recommendations are given about location, structure, roofing, environmental issues regarding underground construction, mechanical and electrical systems;

  3. 3.

    archival environments for various types of record holdings: from most common (paper‐based, film‐based and electronic) to less common (leather, metal, glass, wax);

  4. 4.

    fire protection from risk assessment to building and stack construction and mechanical and electrical systems, to fire detection and alarms and also fire suppression;

  5. 5.

    security also going from assessment to various parts in the building, each requiring a different approach to security (external, stacks, loading dock, reading room, exhibits);

  6. 6.

    lighting for different parts of the building (from stacks, mixed‐use spaces, reading rooms, to public vs non‐public spaces and spaces for staff);

  7. 7.

    materials and finishes covering external building materials, stacks, areas for temporary storage (processing areas, exhibit galleries, holding areas), exhibit cases, laboratories and reading rooms;

  8. 8.

    storage equipment speaking about shelving systems, materials and finishes, construction and performance, layout, dimensions, accessories, oversized records, cold storage, and cabinets; and

  9. 9.

    functional spaces which covers topics such as loading dock, receiving, supply storage, service corridors, elevators, laboratories, processing rooms, computer rooms, staff spaces, reading rooms, public spaces and exhibitions.

Each section begins with a rationale for being part of the standard. Throughout the standard a series of terms are used to indicate the level of importance of any particular issue to help building designers prioritize in making design choices and evaluating options: required (marked with must), highly recommended (marked with should), acceptable (marked with may) and not recommended. The book is enhanced by an appendix of prohibited materials and a glossary. There is also an extensive bibliography, which on its own will be a valuable source for further reading.

Instead of having to wander among piles of scattered standards and recommendations in, as the book says, “professional, trade association and institution‐specific sources”, this book provides the most in one place. It is written clearly and concisely, following an expanded outline format. To use words of Peter J. Wosh, Chair of SAA Publications Board: “Archivists will undoubtedly consult this as their first step in planning a facilities project […]”. Besides archivists the book's audience undoubtedly includes librarians, preservationists, building designers, in fact anyone planning a new or remodelled archival facility which should meet the needs of staff and visitors and ensure the best possible conditions for the preservation of the collections.

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