This policy is used by Center of Southwest Studies staff staff in responding to any member of the public's objection to some aspect of the display or accessibility of an item in the Center's holdings.
Definitions and Purpose
Challenged materials can be anything in the collection to which a member of the public objects. The challenge can be to the digitization or exhibition of the item(s) or even to simply holding the item(s) in the collection and allowing access. Challenged materials are not item(s) already covered by legal or policy restrictions such as the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), privacy or confidentiality laws, or the Center of Southwest Studies General Restrictions Policy Statement. However, we recognize that to the person making the challenge the item is offensive or sensitive and the challenger believes access should be restricted or barred. The Center takes every complaint seriously and wishes to treat each patron fairly and respectfully. The Center must also also ensure that the Center’s goals and the staff’s professional training are respected and considered.
Statement of Policy
The mission of the Fort Lewis College Special Collections is to identify, acquire, organize, preserve and make available materials pertaining to the College and pertaining to the Southwest and Native Americans of the Southwest that have sufficient historical, archaeological, ethnographic, administrative, legal, fiscal or informational significance to warrant their long term preservation. Special Collections is, in part, the corporate memory of the College and of our community; it serves as an information resource for all persons interested in the history and development of the Southwest and especially of Fort Lewis College and the Four Corners region.
The Center’s Collection Development Policy sets forth the uses of the special collections to include: research and administrative reference, exhibits, outreach, publications, records management, and preservation. The Center of Southwest Studies is committed to making research materials available to users on equal terms of access. This is in accordance with the standard professional policy on access adopted jointly by the Society of American Archivists and the American Library Association. Equal access does not mean that all materials are open to research use. It is the responsibility of the Center of Southwest Studies to balance the user's need for access with the needs for confidentiality of persons, institutions, and groups whose activities are reflected in the material. Consequently, the use of some materials at the Center of Southwest Studies, especially those of recent date, is subject to restrictions as stated in the General Restrictions Policy Statement.
Despite the quality of the collection materials selection process, and despite the care with which the Center implements its Collection Development Policy and its General Restrictions Policy Statement, it is anticipated that the Center may receive occasional objections to materials, the uses of the Special Collections, and/or the interpretation of their meaning. The following procedures for the review of special collections materials will establish the process for registering a complaint and provide a framework for a hearing with appropriate action while defending the principles of freedom of information, the public’s right to access materials, individuals' right to privacy, the preservation needs of the collection, and the professional responsibility and integrity of the Center’s staff.
Request for Informal Review of Special Collections Materials
The Center, upon receiving a request to review Special Collections materials, the uses of the materials, and/or the interpretation of their meaning shall try to resolve the issue informally.
- The Director or other appropriate staff shall explain to the questioner the Center’s Special Collections procedures, criteria, and qualifications of those persons selecting the materials.
- The Director or other appropriate staff shall explain the particular place the questioned materials occupies in the Center’s educational and research program, or refer the party to someone who can identify and explain the usefulness of the material.
- If the questioner wishes to file a formal challenge, a copy of the Center’s Collection Development Policy and the General Restrictions Policy Statement shall be provided to the party concerned by the Director.
Request for Formal Review of Special Collections Materials
- Preliminary Procedures: The Center will keep on hand and make available Request for Review of Special Collections Materials forms. All formal requests must be made on these forms, signed by the questioner, and filed with the Director of the Center of Southwest Studies. The request for review shall be referred to a review committee for reevaluation of the materials, their uses, and/or the interpretation of their meaning.
- The Review Committee: The Director shall appoint a review committee to include the Center’s Director, Archives Manager, Librarian, Curator, the Chair or appointed representative from the Southwest Advisory Board, and a representative from the College. The committee will meet within ten (10) working days after the request is received. The committee shall review the challenged material and judge whether it conforms to the principles and policies outlined in the Center’s Collection Development Policy. The committee may choose to discuss the challenged material with the individual questioner, if appropriate. The committee’s decision will be reported in a final report, filed with the Office of Academic Affairs. The report is confidential and available for examination by appropriate officials only, although the report may be discussed with the individual questioner, if requested. The questioner will have the right to appeal to the Vice President for Academic Affairs.
- Guiding Principles: The Center of Southwest Studies is committed to making research materials available to users on equal terms of access. Equal access does not mean that all materials are open to research use. It is the responsibility of the Center of Southwest Studies to balance the user's need for access with the needs for confidentiality of persons, institutions and people groups whose activities are reflected in the material. The major criterion for the final decision is the appropriateness of the material for the intended uses described in the Center’s Special Collections policy. Recognizing the difficulty of ethical decisions, an administrative decision to sustain a challenge shall not necessarily be interpreted as a judgment of irresponsibility by the professionals involved in the original selection, use, and/or interpretation of the material.
Example A: The Center owns a local dignitary’s diary from WWI. It was donated without restrictions to the Center thirty years ago by the author, who has since died. The diary has been available for research in the Center since that time. During a family reunion, several children and grandchildren visit the Center to look at the diary. They discover that the author wrote frankly and in detail about his sexual experiences in the war. The family is concerned that college students will read the diary for prurient interest rather than research. Further, they do not want any members of the local community to know about the diary, as they believe such knowledge will tarnish their father’s memory and reputation. They want the diary restricted only to professors of military history and the direct publication of any portion of the diary forbidden.
Example B: The Center receives a grant to restore and digitize the complete photograph collection of a well-known nineteenth century photographic artist. Most of the photographs are landscapes of early Colorado, images of dancers in motion, and experimental developing processes that are decidedly abstract. However, there are also several nude studies. An online visitor writes from Indiana requesting that such obscene material be removed from the website.