Reducing Barriers to Access in Archival and Special Collections Public Services

Rachael Dreyer, Cinda Nofziger


Archives and special collections libraries are not intuitive spaces for users. Barriers, both real and perceived[i], exist whenever accessing an archive or special collections library. Access to archives and rare books should be within reasonable reach of all who have an interest in historical topics. This paper examines barriers to access in archival and special collections environments, discusses the importance of recognizing barriers, and addresses steps to dismantle them at your institution. Specific examples from our experience help illustrate where barriers exist and how to increase access, inclusivity, and transparency in archival and special collections public services.

[i] However, perceived barriers are very real to the individuals affected by them. At the same time, as researchers become more experienced with the procedures used to access archives and special collections, the impact of perceived barriers may be mitigated.

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