Collection Policy for Special Collections & University Archives

Statement of purpose of the institution and/or collection 

The Rutgers University Libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives collects rare, unique, and specialized materials in a wide range of fields and formats that support the research and informational needs of Rutgers University and the people of New Jersey, as well as those of the broader communities of international scholars and researchers. Our overall collection policy is contoured by the University’s vision, as expressed in its strategic plan, to become one of the foremost research and teaching universities in the nation, and shaped to the goals and aspirations of the University Libraries. The responsibility for acquiring materials rests with the curators, special collections librarians, and archivists charged with the stewardship of discrete subject collections within the unit. Working interdependently with Special Collections, University Archives comprehensively collects records that document the history of Rutgers University, its programs, services and members of its community and is the final repository of University Records.  

Types of programs supported by the collection 

  • Curriculum 
  • Research 
  • Exhibits 
  • Community outreach 

Clientele served by the collection 

University community, including students, administrators, faculty, staff, alumni, and their families; scholars in disciplines including History, Political Science, English, and the subjects taught at Rutgers; and members of the general public with a research need for the our holdings.    

Priorities and limitations of the collection 

Collecting interests and activities have evolved in response to the mission and evolving research programs at the University, the changing informational needs of the people and institutions of New Jersey, and the availability of scholarly materials. Collecting priorities also reflect the traditional strengths of Special Collections, most notably its exhaustive collections of historical and primary source material about New Jersey. Acquisitions are made in all formats, digital and analog, through purchase, transfer, and donation.   

Present identified strengths  


The Manuscripts Collection consists of over 2,200 distinct collections containing more than eight million items, with particular strengths in New Jersey history from the eighteenth century to the present. Other strengths include business, labor, medicine, technology, women’s history, social welfare and social policy, family history, the consumer movement and leadership in politics and other areas. 

Sinclair New Jersey Collection 

The Sinclair New Jersey Collection is the largest, most comprehensive collection of New Jersey materials in the state and one of the finest collections of state and local history in the country. The approximately 70,000 monographs, pamphlets, periodicals and serials in the collection cover broad subject areas. A vast number of topics are represented, including state, county and municipal history, genealogy, religion, business and industry, labor, education, architecture, literature, medicine, agriculture, science and technology, political science, ethnic studies, gender studies, art, music, and bibliography. Due to its breadth and depth, the collection is an indispensable resource for research on any aspect of New Jersey, past or present. 

University Archives 

The Rutgers University Archives serves as the final repository for the historical records of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Its primary purpose is to document and preserve the history of the University. 

Rare Books 

The Rare Book Collection of the Rutgers University Libraries contains over 53,000 books, pamphlets and broadsides covering subjects as diverse as fifteenth century cooking, nineteenth century broadsides announcing escaped slaves and twenty-first century artists' books. The collection supports advanced research in the humanities and social sciences, with notable depth in American and British literature, art and history. Particular strengths include seventeenth and eighteenth century, Early Modern, and twentieth Century Literature and Art, History of Printing and the Book, Incunabula, and sixteenth and seventeenth Century Festival Books and Herbals.  

Present identified weaknesses 

There are several collections that have no curator or are no longer being collected, such as the Consumer’s Union and the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine & Furniture Workers, AFL-CIO. There is a limited amount of material that is born-digital. We are working towards more fully documenting NJ's diverse populations and communities across our collecting areas. 

Desired level of collection to meet program needs and collecting guidelines 

  • New Jersey - Comprehensive  
  • Other collections, variable. 
  • Geographic areas collected 
  • Primarily New Jersey 

Subject areas collected  

Social, political and cultural history, political science, literature, philology, economics, religion. 

Chronological Focus 

1600-present, with focus on 1800 to the present.  

English language materials extensively.  Other languages are collected selectively. 

Forms of materials collected  

Primary and secondary sources in a variety of formats, including but not limited to: records, reports, correspondence, maps, audiovisual materials, periodicals, photographs, blueprints, manuscripts, books, and realia. 
Electronic records have become a particular interest with the increasing number of born-digital records.  

Excluded Formats 

The following types of records do not typically merit permanent retention in the manuscript collections:  

  • routine bills (i.e., utility bills), 

  • employee timesheets, 

  • payroll records, 

  • duplicate material beyond our standard maximums, 

  • blank forms and unused printed materials such as letterhead, 

  • student records subject to FERPA, and patient records subject to HIPAA. 


Special Collections and University Archives will not accept materials without legal transfer of title through a deed of gift, transfer of records form, or other official acknowledgement.  

We do not accept gifts that pose major preservation hazards (e.g., mold, insect infestation, dampness, etc.); that come with special conditions and constraints it cannot honor; or require extensive processing or treatment. 

Special Collections and University Archives will not accept materials that are closed to the public in perpetuity. All restricted material will be designated with an opening date prior to the donation/transfer acceptance. 

Special Collections and University Archives does not collect individual letters and photographs unless of special interest. In general, we do not collect fine art, although works on paper included in manuscript collections will be retained. An exception is that artwork that is related to a collection or promotes the book arts may be selectively accepted for display in administrative and public areas of the libraries. We do not accept materials or collections that substantively duplicate current holdings or whose maintenance or conservation costs are beyond our means. 


The Rutgers University Libraries are committed to providing open access to its holdings in accordance with guidelines set forth by the American Libraries Association and the Society of American Archivists.  Parts of collections may be restricted for reasons of confidentiality. Unprocessed collections may be inaccessible.  

Resource Sharing 

SC/UA does not lend archival materials. The curators will consider requests to photocopy, or scan materials needed by other institutions subject to the condition of the materials, and the photoduplication policy of SC/UA. 

Deaccessioning Policy 

Materials that do not reflect the Special Collections and University Archives' collecting scope or do not possess sufficient archival value may be deaccessioned, subject to the documented terms of acquisition, university regulations and state and federal laws. 

Procedures for Reviewing the Policy and its Implementation 

This policy will be reviewed, evaluated, and changed as necessary to meet the goals of the university and the New Brunswick Libraries. The Libraries annual report will be used as a source of information for this review, with additional information taken from user surveys, faculty interviews, departmental committee meetings, and other similar data compiled by the curator.