Appendix 3

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Local History and Genealogy Collection Development Policy

Departmental Background

The Sargeant Memorial Collection (SMC) is the archives and special collections department of the Norfolk Public Library. The SMC is housed within Slover Library and recently celebrated its 90th year of service. The SMC is named in honor of William Henry Sargeant, the first librarian for the Norfolk Public Library who served from 1894 until his death in 1917. Sargeant began the collection by gathering local newspapers and city directories along with a small collection of rare books from a former 19th century subscription library in Norfolk. The collection grew and was renamed the Sargeant Memorial Room in 1927 by his successor, Mary D. Pretlow.

The staff of the Norfolk Public Library (NPL) continues to collect and maintain a historical collection of local history and genealogical research materials, growing from a small local history room into a 20,000-square foot regional archives and special collections of more than 24,000 books, 175 periodicals, 11,000 microforms, 150,000 photographs, 6,000 maps and architectural drawings, and 3,000 linear feet of archives and manuscript collections. Much of the collection is made up of donations from local individuals, families, organizations, and businesses as well as materials from the City of Norfolk.

Statement of Purpose

The purpose of the collection is to provide primary and secondary resource materials for individuals conducting local history or genealogical research of Norfolk and the region. The collection fulfills the Norfolk Public Library’s strategic direction of enhancing available local history and genealogy resources for the library’s community.


The mission of the Sargeant Memorial Collection is to collect, preserve, and provide access to a collection of local historical and genealogical resources in support of the research and information needs of the Norfolk Public Library’s regional, national, and international patrons.


The SMC contains a wealth of historical and genealogical research information that focuses on the City of Norfolk, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and surrounding states of Maryland, Tennessee, Kentucky, North and South Carolina, the District of Columbia, and West Virginia.

The collection includes current publications such as books and periodicals, rare books and out-of-print periodicals, manuscripts, archives, maps, architectural drawings, artworks, photographs, negatives, artifacts, audio/visual materials, newspapers, microforms, and government records. When materials are processed, they are accessible to the public and stored in a secure climate-controlled location within the library.

General Selection Criteria

The Sargeant Memorial Collection acquires materials through solicited and unsolicited donations, purchases, and transfers from City of Norfolk departments. The SMC accepts donations of materials that relate to the history of Norfolk, the greater Hampton Roads region, specific subjects related to Virginia history, and papers of notable persons, organizations, and businesses with ties to Norfolk or Hampton Roads. Materials are collected under the expectation that they are to be made accessible to the public notwithstanding any donor-imposed restrictions or privacy protections. All gifted materials are acknowledged and books are gift-plated when appropriate. Patron requests are considered when ordering new materials.

Responsible Collecting

A responsible level of collecting should be maintained by remaining within the constraints of available storage space, ability to process materials within a timely manner, and ability to provide for the care, preservation of, and access to the material received. Consideration must also be given to the best placement of materials; dispersal or fragmentation of a research collection is inconvenient to researchers and does little to enhance the reputation of the institution. The SMC reserves the right to refuse any donation that does not fit within the parameters of this policy.

Subject Areas We’d Like to Develop

The SMC strives to accurately and equitably represent the history of Norfolk and surrounding communities by showcasing its culture, community, and diversity. Thus, the SMC invites donations of materials representative of its diverse populations to include women’s groups, minorities, social and political groups, cultural groups, religious organizations, and LGBTQ communities of Norfolk.


Nature of Ownership

Material will be accepted into the collection by deed of gift, bequest, city ordinance, or other form of documentation by which full and absolute title is transferred to Sargeant Memorial Collection, Norfolk Public Library. The NPL Director or their designee is the final approving authority for donations to the SMC. The SMC reserves the right to determine retention, location, cataloging treatment, and other considerations relating to the use or disposition of the material. Any limitation on use must be approved by the SMC Manager at the time of accession into the collection. Donated material accepted into the collection will be housed in appropriate containers and stored in secure, climate-controlled areas. When copyright owning donors convey materials, the copyright therein must also transfer to the Sargeant Memorial Collection, Norfolk Public Library and its successors. It is understood that all gifts to the Sargeant Memorial Collection are outright and unconditional unless otherwise noted upon the deed of gift.

The SMC avoids accepting items or collections on “deposit” or “loan” or by any other means whereby Norfolk Public Library does not become the owner of the items. Rare exceptions may be made for items placed on permanent deposit or loan. Such deposits or loans must further the mission of the Sargeant Memorial Collection in a considerable fashion and must be approved by the SMC Manager.

Gifts may be tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. Donors must obtain their own tax valuations by qualified appraisers. SMC staff do not participate in the appraisal of donations. Donors wishing to have a signed IRS gift documentation form must provide the SMC with a signed copy of the appraisal as well as the appropriate IRS forms. The SMC Manager will sign on behalf of the Sargeant Memorial Collection, and Norfolk Public Library.

Collection Maintenance

Special collections and archives are kept in environmentally balanced, secure, closed stack storage areas. Nitrate and acetate negatives are kept in frozen storage. Staff members retrieve materials for research use in a supervised reading room. Additional security measures such as patron registration and supervised access are also taken. A policy of not circulating the materials in the Sargeant Memorial Collection is essential to ensure the longevity and preservation of materials.

Many items in the SMC are deteriorating due to age and poor paper quality. Thus, a long-range preservation plan is in effect to preserve and safeguard materials before they are lost forever. As part of its preservation plan, the SMC applies the following archival standardized practices to preserve collections:

  • Binding materials as is appropriate for certain media
  • Digitizing materials that are too fragile for public use
  • Encapsulating maps and other paper documents in polyester sleeves
  • Storing scrapbooks, manuscripts, ephemera, and records in document boxes
  • Storing negatives in boxes, envelopes, and interleaves
  • Storing rare and unique materials in the SMC vault for added security
  • Scanning or digitizing paper items such as negatives, photographs, telephone and city directories, and fragile books no longer in print for preservation
  • Purchasing replacement copies and reprints, when available
  • Applying climate controls and monitoring storage environments to comply with proper preservation standards

Deselection and Deaccessioning

Items in the collection may be deaccessioned when:

  • They duplicate other material in the collections which are in equally good or better condition.
  • They are of marginal use to the SMC, are outside the scope of our collecting policy, or would be more appropriately housed at another institution.
  • They are in such poor condition as to be virtually unusable or threaten other collections or staff.
  • They are missing, and there is little hope of their being found or recovered.

Items selected for deaccessioning undergo standard procedures. The Director of Libraries has final authority over deaccessioning decisions, delegated to the SMC Manager unless otherwise exercised. Before proposing items for deaccessioning, the SMC Manager will make every effort to resolve issues of uncertain ownership and comply with the intentions of donors and restrictions on collections.

Items will be deaccessioned and disposed of by means of return to donor, sale, disposal (if condition warrants), transfer, or exchange. Generally, no donated item will be deaccessioned within five years of its acquisition, unless its condition poses a threat to other collections or staff. All sales of deaccessioned items will be held by a public and competitive method such as a NPL book sale or public auction. Alternatively, the SMC may exchange or transfer items to other historical repositories. SMC staff and members of the Norfolk Public Library may not acquire deaccessioned items directly from the SMC. All profits from the sale of deaccessioned SMC items will be used for the benefit of the Norfolk Public Library.

In the event of long term, unmitigable water-related climate impacts, such as inundation, which significantly compromise access to the collection, or the continuation of city services may result in the collection being transferred to another location or depository. This transfer may be temporary or permanent, as the situation demands.

Non-archival housings acquired with donations, such as emptied frames, boxes, bags, plastic tubs, and other non-archival containers, will be discarded or recycled unless otherwise specified by the donor.


Types of Materials We Collect

  • Books – Titles that emphasize genealogical and historical research are accepted or purchased. The collection includes books on local history topics, Virginia history, biographies of Virginians, family histories, local cookbooks, published archives, and introductory genealogy books. Fiction and literature are no longer accepted or purchased, though a collection is maintained in storage and retrieved upon request. The SMC also attempts to obtain one copy of each Norfolk high school yearbook annually.
  • Periodicals – Periodicals include magazines, journals, and newsletters that focus primarily on genealogical subject areas and those published by local historical societies. Selected periodicals published by historical societies in other states are included in the collection as well as local out-of-print historical and societal publications.
  • Microforms – Microfilm of local newspapers are purchased regularly. Microfilm of Virginia and North Carolina court records are purchased selectively. Federal Census films are purchased for Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Maryland and the District of Columbia. Print indexes to early census records are available and Soundex indexes to the microfilm collection are purchased as space and budgets permit. Interment cards for some of Norfolk’s local cemeteries are also available on microfilm.
  • Audiovisual materials – Audio, slide, film, and video materials relating to Norfolk and Norfolk history are acquired when possible and maintained as archival, non-circulating items. Materials range from reel-to-reel film and LPs to DVDs and born-digital files. The SMC does not maintain all the necessary equipment to playback its audiovisual material, and thus is systematically digitizing its legacy technologies to facilitate access.
  • Personal Papers, Organizational Records, and Manuscripts – SMC collects correspondence, ledgers, diaries, albums, scrapbooks, post cards, and other ephemera representing individuals, families, clubs and organizations, or businesses of Norfolk and the greater Hampton Roads region.
  • Maps and Architectural Drawings – SMC holds over 3,000 maps ranging from the 17th century to the 21st century; these maps encompass Norfolk, Hampton Roads, Virginia, and the eastern United States. The collection also includes over 3,000 architectural drawings which include blueprints, plats, and other documents outlining buildings and properties in the area.
  • Photographs - The SMC’s photograph collections are some of its most valuable assets. The collection consists of photographs and negatives of buildings, neighborhoods, places, people, and events in Norfolk from the late 19th century to the present. The collection includes the works of Harry C. Mann, John Emmerson, James Murdaugh, Charles Borjes, H.D. Vollmer, Jim Mays, and Carroll Walker. Negatives include glass-plate, nitrate, acetate, and polyester film and are stored respectively in accordance with current archival industry standards.
  • City of Norfolk Records – Municipal department records are collected on a case-by-case basis as no current City of Norfolk municipal archives is in existence. This includes archives of the various City of Norfolk departments such as City Clerk, City Treasurer, Communications, Planning, Public Works, and more. Records not designated for Library of Virginia or City of Norfolk Records Management are accepted.
  • Vertical Files – A vertical file of local newspapers and newspaper clippings was collected from the establishment of SMC until 1990 when the papers began publishing digitally. The clippings are filed by subject and pertain to Norfolk, Virginia, and some surrounding areas. Selected copies of post and pre-Civil War newspapers are also part of the collection. Although the collection is maintained, clippings are no longer collected.
  • Online Databases – Genealogical subscription databases and free websites are available for use in the SMC. As public records become available in online format, SMC will select appropriate databases that meet local history and genealogical research needs. The SMC also supports an archival information system, Archon, which provides public access to the SMC’s finding aids, and a digital asset management system, CONTENTdm, which provides online access to the SMC’s digitized materials. Database subscriptions are assessed and purchased in-house, budget permitting, with consideration given to patron requests.
  • Artwork – Original works of art relating to the history of Norfolk and the greater Hampton Roads region are accepted dependent upon their size, subject matter, condition, and medium. SMC does not collect works of art that may be better suited for a local museum.

Types of Materials We Do Not Collect

  • Materials unrelated to the SMC’s collecting scope
  • Digital copies of materials when the original materials are not donated with the digital files
  • Three-dimensional objects or artifacts which generally have little research value and which cannot be adequately housed within the SMC’s storage spaces
  • Large collections that cannot be adequately preserved or housed within the SMC’s current facilities
  • Legacy technologies which cannot be digitized or migrated to an accessible format
  • Photocopies of materials held in other repositories
  • Photocopies, scans, or other reproductions of original material, unless the originals are no longer in existence or are donated along with the reproductions
  • Copies or images of museum objects or other copyrighted materials
  • Duplicates of material already held by the SMC, unless the duplicate is in better condition than the SMC’s copy
  • Research notes, unless included as a sub-unit of a collection of related primary materials or largely focused on local genealogy
  • Collections that are primarily in foreign languages

Other Materials Not Accepted

  • Anonymous donations other than books that are not accompanied by a deed of gift or other correspondence documenting the transfer of materials, signed by the donor and acknowledged by a Sargeant Memorial Collection representative
  • Donations in which a donor will not donate materials unless all gifted materials are accepted by the Sargeant Memorial Collection
  • Materials which meet the SMC’s collecting policy but are accompanied by donor-imposed restrictions that render most or all of the materials inaccessible

Access to Collections

The Sargeant Memorial Collection provides access to its collections within the framework of our library policies and procedures. Please see our Reading Room Rules for more information.

Policy approved May 2020 by the Director of Libraries