Removing/Deaccessioning Materials

Purpose and Scope

The purpose of this policy is to provide guidance regarding when the Kenneth Spencer Research Library director and curators may choose to deaccession, or permanently remove, materials from the Library’s holdings. This policy only refers to materials that have been accessioned or officially accepted into Spencer’s holdings. Spencer Library performs this action in accordance with professional guidelines such as the Society of American Archivists’ Guidelines for Reappraisal and Deaccessioning, ethical principles, and legal requirements.

This policy is intended to ensure that Spencer Research Library follows a transparent and systematic process that is documented for staff, donors, and researchers to understand what has happened to collection materials. Spencer staff will only deaccession when this course appears to be in the best interests of the public for which it holds the collections in trust, the interests of the communities involved, and the University of Kansas Libraries’ mission.

Criteria for Deaccessioning

Spencer Library may deaccession materials under circumstances such as:

  • they duplicate materials already in the collections;
  • they have deteriorated physically to the point that they are no longer usable or have become a hazard to humans and/or the other collections in the Library;
  • a retention schedule has changed that affects University records;
  • the materials were collected before realizing they were out of collecting scope, for example medical and routine financial information about individuals and organizations;
  • retaining the materials may not be consistent with applicable law;
  • or it is desired to reunite collection materials that have been separated across collecting institutions, within the University of Kansas and beyond.

Decision-Making Process

The Dean of KU Libraries delegates authority to the Director of Spencer Library to make all final decisions about individual deaccessioning actions in consultation with Spencer curators and conservators, except for routine removal related to physical condition, records retention, or duplication. Consultation with the Dean of Libraries will be part of the process if collection materials are being considered for sale, or if previously cataloged materials are being deaccessioned for other, non-routine, reasons. All deaccessioning actions are recorded by Spencer staff in appropriate documentation, which will be kept permanently as part of the Library’s official record about collections.

Spencer Research Library may deaccession materials for which the University of Kansas has clear ownership, whether through a certificate of gift from a donor; a bill of sale for a purchased item or collection; or, if need be, through following the state of Kansas’ abandoned property law (K.S.A. 58-4001 et al, the Museum Property Act), in consultation with the University of Kansas’ legal counsel and policies regarding disposition of state property. Material will not be deaccessioned if this action is contrary to any written agreement between the donor and the University of Kansas. Reasonable attempts will be made to consult donors when materials are considered for deaccessioning. Material will also not be deaccessioned if it would trigger IRS documentation of sale, exchange, or disposal within three years.

Disposition of Materials

When deaccessioning materials, Spencer staff may

  • return items to the original donors or their heirs;
  • transfer to another institution whose collecting scope is a better fit or who otherwise can make better use of the material, either within the University of Kansas or beyond;
  • sell materials;
  • or securely destroy materials.

Spencer Research Library does not sell manuscripts or archival material from its collections. On the rare occasions when selling other materials, such as duplicates, Spencer Research Library does not sell collection materials in order to make up budgetary shortfalls.

In the event collection materials are deaccessioned through a commercial entity, proceeds will be solely used to benefit the collections, either through purchasing more relevant collection materials or for the preservation and processing of remaining collections. Deaccessioned materials sold through a commercial entity may not be purchased by Libraries’ employees or family members.

Deaccession Contact

Spencer Research Library Public Services


Additional Information

Unfamiliar with some of the library and archives terms on this page? See our glossary for definitions and examples.