Management of Library and Archival Security: From the Outside Looking In

Rachel McLean‐Shirley (Sessional Lecturer, Liverpool Business School, Liverpool John Moores University)

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 1 April 2000




McLean‐Shirley, R. (2000), "Management of Library and Archival Security: From the Outside Looking In", New Library World, Vol. 101 No. 2, pp. 88-91.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This collection of articles (six in all) is written by a wide range of professionals including a former FBI special agent, a preservation specialist, an archivist and the head of a major university special collection, potentially offering a diverse range of perspectives on the issue of library and archive security.

Susan M. Allen’s article “Theft in libraries and archives: what to do during the aftermath of a theft” outlines the various ways in which a theft may be discovered, and goes on to look at the stages of a recovery plan. She explains the notification process, the necessity of compiling an inventory of what is missing, and the importance of creating a chronology of events. Her conclusion, reflecting on the consequences of a theft for an archive and for its staff, is very useful.

Beth L. Patkus “Collections security: the preservation perspective” and Gregor Trinkus‐Randall “Library and archival security: policies and procedures to protect holdings from theft and damage” offer sound practical advice to anyone planning a preservation policy, including environmental control, disaster preparedness, storage and handling as well as more obvious security issues. However, these two articles tend to duplicate information on many preservation issues, and I did find myself questioning Patkus’ suggestion that “Librarians and Archivists…tend to be less aware that other sources of dangers to collections – such as environmental, disaster or handling damage – can also pose serious security risks”.

I found the article by William E. Chadwick “Special collections library security: an internal audit perspective” difficult to read and not very practical. The article is mainly concerned with the prevention of theft by library users and employees. It concludes that “library management must reassess its user‐friendly philosophy. The risks of laissez‐faire atmosphere that is conducive to fraud and abuse outweigh the benefits”. In a climate where librarians and archivists are under increasing pressure to justify their existence through their access policies it would have been more useful to look at how to strike the access/preservation balance.

The case study by Robert K. O’Neill “Sting!the Irish stones caper: a case study in international cooperation involving the recovery of stolen antiquities” and Edward F. Clark’s “Law enforcement and the library” were both very informative, and amusing.

I feel that the practical value of this collection is somewhat limited for professionals outside of the USA. Frequent references to the law surrounding theft of documents and artefacts as well as references to projects such as “Bookwatch USA” highlight the American bias of the information.

The editor’s claim that “these articles present a somewhat fresh approach to the complex and difficult issue of library and archives security” was not substantiated. Management of Library and Archival Security: From The Outside Looking In would make interesting, but not essential, further reading to the practising librarian or archivist.

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