Controlling Access

Kristin R. Eschenfelder, Controlling Access to and Use of Online Cultural Collections: A Survey of U.S. Archives, Libraries and Museums for IMLS DRAFT VERSION 4/7/2009, a preprint, self-archived April 9, 2009.

Abstract: This report describes the results of an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) funded study to investigate the use of technological or policy tools to control patron access to or use of digital collections of cultural materials created by U.S. archives, libraries and museums. The technological and policy tools serve primarily to control copying or other reuses of digital materials. The study had the following goals: 1. Assess what technical and policy tools cultural institutions are employing to control access to and use of online digital collections. 2. Investigate motivations for controlling access to or use of collections (e.g., copyright, privacy, protecting traditional restrictions, income generation etc.). 3. Investigate discouragers to the implementation of access and use control systems (e.g., preference for open collections, lack of resources, institutional mission, etc.). 4. Gauge interest in implementing technical systems to control access to and use of collections. 5. Determine what types of assistance IMLS could provide. 6. Identify institutions with innovative controlled online collections for follow up case studies on policy, technical and managerial details.


This is the most nuanced study I’ve seen of institutional motives for adopting or rejecting access restrictions. Instead of merely asking institutions whether or not they provided OA, Eschenfelder asked what reasons they might have for providing OA, and what reasons they might have for creating a non-OA „controlled online collection“ (COC) instead. These reasons can coexist. A COC uses some access restrictions, even if they are not financial. From table 40 at p. 56: The leading reason why surveyed archives would not be inclined to create COCs was „Belief that open collections have greater impact“. The same was true for museums (table 48 at pp. 62-63). For libraries (table 44 at p. 59) the leading reason was „Belief that open collections have greater access.“ In all three cases, the case for OA was direct, resting on the advantages of OA, rather than indirect and resting on disadvantages of alternatives such as fear of legal complexity, fear of technological complexity, and fear of alienating users.
BTW, among the leading reasons why archives would be inclined to create COCs (table 39 at p. 55) were „proper object description and repository identification“, „avoid misuse/misrepresentation“, and „avoid legal risk“. The same was true for museums (table 47 at p. 61). Libraries (table 43 at p. 58) drop the first of these and add „donor or owner requirement“.
Note from p. 24: „the sample purposefully excluded certain types of organizations including those whose primary purpose was to provide open access to public records or government publications.“
This study focuses on archives, libraries, and museums. I’d like to see a similar study of publishers.

Autor: Klaus Graf

Historiker und Archivar, Blogger

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