Principles on the disposal of unique collections |

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Principles on the disposal of unique collections


Library Association of Ireland


Principles on the disposal of unique and distinctive collections


As memory institutions, libraries have a responsibility to consider the well-being of any of their collections under consideration for disposal. Disposal of such materials by sale is particularly sensitive and may be the subject of public scrutiny or comment.  The following principles, adopted by the Library Association of Ireland, may be relevant and helpful in such circumstances.


  1. Disposal within a collection management policy


  1. The establishment of an institutional collection management policy, including disposal, is an important context for the consideration of sale
  2. The policy should identify particular parts of the Library’s collections which have special significance, such as those relating to the institution itself; where provenance is related to the institution or local environment,;whose acquisition came with specific conditions, or are formally linked to complementary collections in sister institutions
  3. Sale of any such collections would not normally be considered


  1. Authority to sell


  1. It must be established that the Library, or parent  institution, has the necessary authority to sell or otherwise dispose of a collection
  2. Legal advice should be sought if there is any uncertainty around this authority
  3. In accepting donations of material or funding,  the conditions for possible future disposal or otherwise should be made clear


  1. Advice


  1. Independent valuation of a collection should be obtained
  2. Consultation with local institutions, those with complementary collections or with national curatorial roles, should be undertaken prior to sale to clarify particular interest in the material and the implications of disposal
  3. Consultation with the relevant user community should be undertaken prior to sale, to establish the impact of the disposal and consider any alternative access arrangements
  4. Public information on the disposal should be managed by way of a press release or position statement, in line with the parent institution’s Communications Policy and Procedures.


  1. Security


  1. All processes and provenance should be fully documented
  2. De-accessioned material should be clearly marked prior to disposal




Other relevant guidance can be found at:



R Adams

S Fitzpatrick

K Kelly




Note: If Rare Books Group members wish to discuss any related issues please contact the Rare Books Group committee.