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 Your convention, union, or body will want to use the historical records; and you want that body to use the records or it will soon lose interest in funding the archives. But providing service to users takes time away from the work of preserving the records. Finding a balance is necessary.

A. Adopting a Users Policy

From the beginning, determine what services the archives will provide for users and state these in a users policy that may or may not be part of the program statement adopted by your governing board.

Here are some questions to consider before writing the policy.

Who will the archives serve? anyone who requests service? any member of a church connected with the convention, union, or body? leaders of the convention, union, or body? Will leaders' requests have priority over others' requests?

What services will the archives provide? information about archival holdings? information from the archival holdings? copies of items? loan of items? preparation of exhibits? Will the archives have an area for researchers? Will there be limits to any of these services? Will there be charges for any of them?

How much time can the archives staff give to user services? How can limits be placed on the time spent serving users?

B. Serving Users

Once the users policy is adopted, make it known and abide by it. Do not make exceptions.


Most requests for service will be for information. You will want to provide information about the holdings of your archives to all who might wonder where information is available about your convention, union, or body. Such information could be no more than a general statement that ______archives has the historical records of ________ Baptist Union from _______(date of earliest record in the holdings) through _________(date of last record in the holdings). But it should include separate mention of any items, record series, collections that people might not expect to find with the records of ___________ Baptist Union.

Requests for information from your holdings take more time. Someone must receive the request whether it is made by phone or mail or in person and must make certain exactly what information is required. Someone must look in the historical records for the information, research that may take a few minutes but can take several weeks. Someone must phone or write and mail the information to the requester.

Many requests are for copies: copies of reports, sermons, photographs, programs, publications. If you have a photocopy machine, copies are easy to make. But duplicating material has dangers. Making copies may harm a very fragile piece of paper. Giving copies of records removes those records from the control of your convention, union, or body. Giving copies of some items in your archives may violate copyright laws. For example, the person who preached the sermon probably possesses the copyright to it. Find out what the laws of your country require before making copies.

The United States copyright laws treat archives as libraries and allow them to duplicate some copyrighted material provided certain rules are followed. Archives cannot make complete copies of published works, must keep a record of what has been duplicated for whom, and must inform the person who receives the copy that he or she cannot make copies of the copy. The duplication form in Appendix A is used to inform the receiver and as a record for the archives. A blank form is in Appendix B.


Some requests are for loans. As a general rule, archives do not loan, for most of their holdings are one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable items. Archives could loan second copies of publications. They may be required to loan to certain leaders of their convention, union, or body.


The archives may want to provide an area where persons wanting information from the archival holdings can do their own research. This area should not be in the room where the records are stored. No one except authorized staff should ever enter the storage room. Otherwise, the archives could not assure the convention, union, or body that its records were secure.

To insure security, the research area should be located so that a member of the archives staff can see the researchers and watch that they do not remove any materials from the archives. The research area can be small but needs a desk or table and chairs.

Persons who come to do research in an archives register and are interviewed by a member of the staff in order that they can be directed to the correct sources of information. They are told the rules. (A sample of rules for an archives research area is in Appendix A.) They seat themselves and a member of the staff brings them the records, one box at a time.


The archives may be asked to prepare exhibits for permanent display in a headquarters building or for temporary display at meeting place, Exhibits draw attention to the history of the convention, union, or body, and to the archives.

Once you have been told or have decided the theme of the exhibit or what story the exhibit should tell, choose the items that best tell that story. Use different kinds of items: letter, program, minutes, photograph, newspaper clipping, artifact. To get color, place the items on colored mats and/or drape the exhibit table or case with colored textiles.

Discover what security there will be for the exhibit. You can not allow irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind items to be displayed unless they are in a locked case or under constant guard. If such security is not possible, make copies of the original items and display them. You may prefer to display copies even if the exhibit will be protected.