Library Policies

Special Collections

Definition & Purpose

Adopted and Implemented January 27, 2006 (minor revision 14 December 2015)


“Special Collections” as used in this document refers to books, periodicals, scores, recordings, and other physical media typically collected by the library that are (a) recorded in the library catalog and classified according to the Library of Congress system, and (b) housed in a non-open-access area designed to afford special security, handling, and environmental protections.  “Special Collections” is distinct from “Archives,” which refers to original documents or loose publications that may be catalogued as collections but typically not as individual items and are not classified according to the Library of Congress system.  Memorabilia, to the extent they are collected, are also subsumed under Archives, not Special Collections.  Audiovisual or digital media produced by Whitworth (e.g., recordings produced by the Music Dep’t., recruitment videos used by Admission, etc.) are generally collected in Archives at this time and not in Special Collections, though this is subject to future revision.



The purposes of Special Collections, broadly stated, are:

  1. to secure, protect, and preserve books and other resources that warrant being added to or retained in the library’s holdings but that should not be housed in open-access areas for one or several of these reasons:
    • rarity
    • unusually high monetary value
    • fragile or deteriorating physical condition
    • unusual vulnerability to theft or mutilation.
  2. to assemble resources in specified areas, defined by subject or other parameters, intended to comprise unique or exceptional research collections for use by the campus community, visiting scholars, or special constituencies, and to assure the long-term preservation and integrity of such collections.


General versus Defined Special Collections

Special Collections that answer to the second purpose described above (B) are designated below as “Defined Special Collections.”  Special Collections materials that are not part of Defined Special Collections are considered to comprise General Special Collections. (Development of General Special Collections overseen by Amanda Clark).


Policies Regarding Duplication and Collection Placement Priorities

Since Special Collections status forecloses opportunities both for circulation and for open-access browsing, materials judged to be in significant demand – particularly if relatively current – may and sometimes should be duplicated in the regular collections (circulating or reference, as apropos) when financially feasible.

When an item (especially a current or recent publication) fits the criteria for one or more Special Collections but is in high demand and cannot be duplicated for reasons of cost or availability, it may be placed in regular collections until such time as the demand drops off, then transferred to the appropriate Special Collection.  This calls for case-by-case judgments in which the needs for current usage (and the attendant risks) must be weighed carefully against those for long-term preservation and development of the pertinent Special Collection.

In instances when an item fits appropriately in more than one Special Collection, the following order of precedence shall prevail as a general rule with regard to its placement:

  • Defined Special Collections take precedence over General Special Collections
  • Whitworth Collection takes precedence over all other categories
  • Pacific Northwest Protestantism takes precedence over Presbyterianism

The issue of precedence does not generally arise for the Daniel Photography Collection, which is defined by its donor source.

When multiple copies are available, they should be distributed among the several Special Collections in line with the above order of precedence.  Normally, multiple copies for this purpose will not be purchased (barring some exceptionally strong rationale), but will be accepted as gifts when opportunities arise.

General Collections

Purpose and Scope:   General Special Collections encompass materials in any and all subject areas (other than those designated for Defined Special Collections) when they meet the criteria defined under (A) above.  Materials withdrawn from regular collections due to age or wear are not routinely transferred to Special Collections, but only for specific reasons that cannot be served better by replacement copies, new editions, or alternate materials in regular collections.  Such reasons may include:

  • historical value
  • art-historical interest (e.g., significant examples of book arts such as fine binding, exceptional illustrations or typography, etc.)
  • interest or value specific to the individual copy (e.g., an autographed copy by a significant author, previous owner, or donor)

More specific guidelines governing the transfer of materials from regular collections may be formulated from time to time as an appendix to this document.

Although the aim for General Special Collections is not to assemble comprehensive collections in specific subjects for in-depth research (as is the case for Defined Special Collections), they do include the following areas of special interest:

  • local and regional history materials
  • materials related to Hans Moldenhauer or the Moldenhauer Archives
  • the Mary Ann Waters collection of poetry books.

Activity Level:  While in the past the library did not actively seek to build this collection, in response to a special collections consultant, who visited in 2014, the library anticipates upcoming curative growth in this area.  Additions are principally by way of gifts and transfers from regular collections.  

Defined Collections

Defined Special Collections are governed by somewhat different criteria than General Special Collections.  Materials added to these collections need not, though they may and often do, fit the criteria listed under (A) above for extending the special protections of Special Collections status.  For example, they may include new or recent books that fall in the defined subject area but are neither rare nor exceptionally valuable nor particularly fragile.  The purpose in this case, consistent with (B) above, is to assure their preservation far into the future as part of a coherent, focused research collection.

Five Defined Special Collections are presently constituted in the Whitworth Library:

  1. the Daniel Photography Collection
  2. the Pacific Northwest Protestantism Collection
  3. the Presbyterianism Collection
  4. the Whitworth Collection
  5. the William Fix Mountaineering Collection

Goals and policies for each of these collections are detailed below.

1. Daniel Photography Collection

Purpose and Scope: This is a collection of materials that either focus on photography as an art form and communication medium, or that exemplify photographic excellence or historically significant applications of photography.  The collection was established in 1995 as a donation, and expanded by subsequent additional gifts by Floyd and Shirley Daniel of Seattle.  The collection is defined by its donor source, though select books are added to this collection to complement the offerings. 

Activity Level: While previously the library did not actively seek to build this collection, the Library Director currently curates this collection with several new editions each year. (Collection overseen by Amanda Clark).

2. Pacific Northwest Protestantism Collection

Purpose: This collection supplements and supports the missions of the Archives of Pacific Northwest Protestantism and the Institute for Protestant Studies in the Northwest under the Weyerhaeuser Center for Faith and Learning.  The collection comprises books, theses, periodicals, and other materials pertinent to recording and understanding the history, from its beginnings to the present, of Protestantism in the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska.

Scope: “Protestantism” for purposes of this collection encompasses all Christian denominations and movements normally classified as falling within this branch of Christianity by the majority of religious scholars.  This range encompasses, for example, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Baptists, Anabaptists, Free Church and Pietist traditions, Pentecostals, and Holiness churches and movements, among others, as well as independent churches and movements.  It chiefly excludes, among other branches of Christianity, Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.  Mormonism, while controversial in terms of its classification as Protestant or even Christian, is not considered to fall within the scope of this collection, as much for practical as for debatable theological reasons.  Materials on these and other religious movements in the Northwest (e.g., native religions, Judaism, eastern religions), while often important to understanding the larger context for Northwest Protestantism, should be placed in other collections, including General Special Collections when appropriate.

Materials in the PNW Protestantism Collection include the following insofar as they pertain to, or provide a record of, the history of Northwest Protestantism:

  • Histories of individual churches
  • Regional histories of specific denominations or theological traditions
  • Biographies and studies of significant individuals
  • General histories of religion in the Northwest or in individual states or sub-regions
  • Sociological or analytical studies of Protestantism, Christianity, or religion in the Northwest
  • Published editions of pertinent primary sources (diaries, journals, church records, etc.)
  • Histories, studies, or published records of Protestant-sponsored educational endeavors
  • Histories, studies, or published records of Protestant-sponsored or Protestant-inspired social and political institutions or movements
  • Newspapers and magazines that document or reflect Protestant activity in the region

Within these broad parameters, some priority is accorded to collection of materials pertaining to:

  • the history in the Pacific Northwest of Whitworth’s sponsoring denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
  • the history of Protestantism in the surrounding region of Eastern Washington and North Idaho, and particularly the greater Spokane area

Activity Level: Within the overall purpose and specific parameters described above, the collection aims to be as complete and exhaustive as possible within any financial constraints.  The library actively seeks to acquire, by gift or purchase, materials fitting the criteria for this collection. Please note that the Archives likewise holds a similarly titled collection of documents.

3. Presbyterianism Collection

Purpose: The Presbyterianism Collection is intended to be a resource for constituents of Whitworth’s sponsoring denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), in the Northwest, and for students, faculty, staff, and outside researchers with special interest in, or needs for information about, Presbyterianism.  Though not a comprehensive research collection on all aspects and phases of Presbyterianism, it aspires to be the most significant resource in the Pacific Northwest on Presbyterianism.

Scope: This collection includes:

  • Agenda and Minutes of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), including the most recent issues
  • Other official publications of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and its predecessors, such as Books of Order, Books of Confessions, ministerial directories, hymnals, etc..
  • General studies of the denomination or of Presbyterianism generally, including for example its Scottish background.
  • Histories and studies of specific aspects of Presbyterianism such as missions, evangelism, educational endeavors, etc.
  • Histories of individual Presbyterian congregations
  • Presbyterian periodicals

The following, though often pertinent to the understanding of Presbyterianism and its history, are generally not included within the collection’s scope at this time, unless they also fit one or more of the criteria defined above:

  • Books by Presbyterian authors, including pastors, theologians, etc., unless they embody a distinctly and explicitly Presbyterian perspective or shed exceptional light on the history of Presbyterianism
  • Books issued by Presbyterian-affiliated publishing houses such as Westminster-John Knox.

Activity Level: Within the overall purpose and specific parameters described above, the collection aims to be as comprehensive as possible within financial and space constraints, but not to be an exhaustive resource on Presbyterianism.  The library actively seeks to acquire materials fitting the criteria for this collection, whenever possible by donations, but also by purchase as limited budgets allow.  Priority in purchasing will be accorded to materials of greatest importance or interest to Presbyterians in the Pacific Northwest. 

Current or potentially high-use materials on Presbyterianism should normally be placed in regular collections, then transferred to the Presbyterianism Collection once use and currency have diminished.  Duplications between regular collections and this special collection are welcomed and encouraged by way of donations, but should occur by way of purchase only in exceptional cases.

4. Whitworth Collection

Purpose: The Whitworth Collection has an institutional focus and is intended to represent the history of Whitworth in published form and to record aspects of institutional life, particularly the academic component, as reflected in faculty, staff, and student publications.

Scope The following categories of materials fall within the scope of this collection:

  • Books and other catalogued publications issued by Whitworth, including the Natsihi yearbooks (but excluding publications traditionally incorporated in the institutional Archives, such as college catalogs, Whitworthian newspapers, alumni magazines, etc.)
  • Graduate or undergraduate theses or thesis-like documents, such as “Action Research Projects,” written by Whitworth students in satisfaction of specific degree requirements (at least one copy; second copy can be in circulating collection)
  • Books, theses, etc., about Whitworth (institutional histories, etc.)
  • Books authored or edited by Whitworth faculty, staff, or administrators during their time at Whitworth (not publications pre or post-Whitworth employment)
  • Books authored or edited by emeriti faculty
  • Published scores of musical works composed or arranged by faculty or emeriti faculty

The following, though sometimes pertinent to the understanding and appreciation of Whitworth or its history, are generally not included within the collection’s scope at this time, unless they also fit one or more of the categories defined above:

  • Books or other publications authored by faculty before or after their careers at Whitworth, except in the case of emeriti faculty
  • Books authored or edited by alumni
  • Books authored or edited by trustees.

Exceptions may be made for unusual cases.

Recordings and other audiovisual or digital media produced by Whitworth, including those produced by faculty or staff as part of their responsibilities or by students as part of their studies or campus duties, are generally collected by the Archives and not placed in this Special Collection.

Activity Level: The library actively seeks to build complete collections in the categories defined above.  While additions in some categories (such as theses) come without direct cost to the library, in other categories gifts are to be actively encouraged and solicited.  Materials shall be purchased when necessary and financially feasible.  Yearbooks, because supported directly by sales, have traditionally been purchased. 

Faculty publications that fit within the library’s broader collection goals shall be duplicated, with copies in regular collections and the Whitworth Collection, if feasible.  Where such duplication is not possible or is financially prohibitive, the general “Policies Regarding Duplication and Collection Placement Priorities” (see below) are to be heeded.

In the case of faculty-authored or edited books issued in multiple editions (typically textbooks or reference books), collection efforts will normally be limited to acquiring several representative editions (usually no more than every other edition), though complete series may be acquired via donation if they do not entail excessive consumption of space. (Collection overseen by Amanda Clark).

5. Faculty Author Shelf

Purpose: Whereas the Whitworth Collection is intended to represent the history of Whitworth as an institution, the Faculty Author Shelf focuses on the individual author to showcase and celebrate their scholarship.

Scope The following categories of materials fall within the scope of this collection:

  • Current faculty publications
  • Publications of current faculty even when those publications occurred prior to employment at Whitworth.
  • May include publications by staff members and lecturers.
  • Items are added to the collection based on the Faculty Scholarship Report published each spring. 
  • Faculty authored peer-reviewed articles are also a part of this collection; those too are selected from articles mentioned in the annual Faculty Scholarship Report and are on a one-year display rotation. 

N.B. When faculty retire, authored publications currently located on the Faculty Author Shelf will be transferred to the Main Collection with an emeriti and retired faculty bookplate. For those persons who may have departed from Whitworth prior to tenure, those books will transfer to Main sans bookplate and for those persons who may have departed after tenure, those books will be transferred tot he Whitworth Collection. (Collection overseen by Amanda Clark).

Updated 6 June 2018 ACRC


Cataloging and processing of Special Collections materials, including preservation measures, are the responsibility of the library’s Technical Services department under the direction of the Coordinator of Technical Services.  Acquisitions that involve ordering (as distinct from donations) are also handled by Technical Services.

The Library Director will designate a staff member (who may be him- or herself in some instances) to serve as curator for each distinct collection described above (the General Special Collection as well as each Defined Special Collection).  The curator assumes primary responsibility for collection development and for general oversight of the collection in accord with its purpose, scope, and activity level as defined above.  The curator will coordinate with Technical Services on ordering, processing, and preservation, and with the Library Director on such matters as location and space issues, acquisitions budgets (if applicable), and policy refinements or revisions.  Primary responsibility for the integrity and long-term welfare of each collection is shared by the curator and the Library Director.


Care should be taken at all times not to compromise the special provisions for security, climate control, and ultra-violet light protection incorporated in the Archives and Special Collections facility.

For books and periodicals in Special Collections, a minimalist approach is to be taken with regard to repair or reconditioning, since many measures that extend the useful life of volumes short-term are known to be harmful to their preservation long-term.  Where their condition calls for it, volumes are to be given extra protection by encasing in acid-free boxes, card-stock, or mylar envelopes, wrapping in acid-free paper, or tying with fabric tape approved for archival use.  Where repair is essential – e.g., of torn pages – only certified archival products are to be used.  Labeling, rubber-stamping, or other marking of Special Collections books are to be avoided, but existing labels and stamps should be left undisturbed or discreetly marked through.

Dust jackets, when present, are to be retained on volumes placed in Special Collections.

More specific guidelines for preservation may be formulated and implemented from time to time by Technical Services staff, subject to consultation with the various collection curators and the Library Director.

Retrospective preservation projects shall be designed and scheduled in consultation with applicable curators and with the approval of the Library Director, and should be identified in the library’s annual Preservation Plan if possible.