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New Coding for Special Collections

New object codes for special collections approved.


May 27, 2014—The Library Leadership Team (LLT) approved new object codes for special collections. The new codes will allow libraries to measure special collections purchasing more effectively and to start to develop a richer understanding of resourcing needs around special collections acquisitions. 

The new object codes are available to use for FY15 budgeting, and will be available to use to record acquisitions on July 1, 2014, i.e. the start of fiscal year 2015. 

The object codes are:


7020 Manuscripts+Archives Collections, GENERAL
7021 Rare Books^Special Collections
7022 Manuscripts^Archival Material^Special Collections
7023 Serials^Special Collections
7024 Audio-Visual Materials^Special Collections
7025 Maps^Special Collections
7026 Graphic Materials^Special Collections
7027 Mixed Format Materials^Special Collections
7028 Electronic Data^Special Collections
7029 Digitally Reformatted Materials^Special Collections


Answers to some questions are below. Additionally, an open session will be held on June 10, 2014 from 2:30-3:30 in the Lamont Forum Room for anyone who has additional questions or would like to share ideas about how information around the costs associated with acquiring special collections can be effectively captured.

Why are we developing new object codes for special collections? 

The benefits of more robust recording of special collections include:

  • Creating a way to measure the anticipated greater emphasis on acquiring special collections, something that was suggested in LIWG and affirmed in the Collections and Content Strategy report as a desired direction of collection growth
  • Developing a richer understanding of our resourcing needs, as special collections/archives require different activities, often unrecorded or ‘hidden,’ costs to acquire, catalogue, store and access
  • Providing data to improve our ability to benchmark our use of resources against peer libraries, many of which have different collections profiles

What is a special collection?

In June 2012 the former Affinity Group 5 created working definitions of specialized research center libraries, special collections libraries, special collections, and institutional archives as a first step in clarifying their work, their assumptions, and their relationships to one another (and others at Harvard). What emerged from their discussions is that key characteristics of a ‘special collection’ at Harvard include (1) collections of unique or rare materials which do not physically circulate, (2) materials that usually require mediated access and (3) materials that require special handling, storage, preservation, care and/or security. 

For more nuanced detail, see the full description here. While the conversation around a definition of ‘special collections’ continues here at Harvard and in the profession, we believe that we can move forward in parallel with this effort to improve our recording of information about special collections, and even that this effort may abet the definitional conversation.

How did this proposal come about?

The Library Leadership Team convened an ad hoc special collections financial data working group. Members include Meg Benson (HCL), Marilyn Dunn (RIAS/Schlesinger), Megan Sniffin-Marinoff (HL/Archives), Susan Pyzynski (FAS/Houghton), Maureen Rekrut (HL), Tracey Robinson (LTS), Lisa Schwallie (HL) and Ann Whiteside (GSD). This group made a recommendation to the LLT, which approved and endorsed implementation.

Do I have to use these new codes?

You do not have to use these new codes. All of the previous coding is still available to you. However, we encourage you to use the new special collections coding to record information about your special collections. This will allow us to gain a more accurate view of what the university is collecting as a whole.

How do I use the new codes?

If you have a collection that predominately fits one of the categories in 7021-7026 or 7028-7029, please code accordingly. If you have a collection that is of mixed special materials, please use 7027.

Can I use the new codes even if I’ve budgeted in the old codes?

Yes. Your school may allow you to move the relevant portions of your budget to the new codes between now and early June. Even if you do not move money into the special collections object codes, we recommend using these codes starting on July 1, 2015 to record acquisitions of special collections materials. This will provide more accurate collections information University-wide, and also give you information to inform your FY16 budgeting.

I can only use certain object codes in Aleph. Will the object codes in Aleph be updated?

Yes. The universal set of object codes available for use in Aleph will be updated to include these object codes no later than July 1, 2014. If your funds are set up with no object code restrictions, you can use the new object codes without any further action. However, the majority of funds in Aleph across the University are limited to certain object codes within that set. For those funds, the object codes will need to be added individually. Maureen Rekrut (HL) will be working with library directors and controllers to update funds that should have the new codes prior to 7/1/14. We will have a process to add the object code(s) to other funds should not all the funds needing them be captured in this initial update, and we will communicate that process by 7/1.

How do I capture donated collections?

This change only affects special collections that are purchased. The ad hoc special collections financial data working group is now turning its attention to developing a methodology to begin to capture the value of donated materials.