The Harold B. Lee Library maintains and supports a world-class Special Collections in order to enhance the educational mission of Brigham Young University. The L. Tom Perry Special Collections department, which is part of the Harold B. Lee Library’s Special Collections Division, houses and maintains the university’s Special Collections.

Statement of Purpose

Aligned with the mission of the Lee Library and the university, the L. Tom Perry Special Collections acquires, preserves, and makes available rare, unique, and historical collections of enduring value for use by students, faculty, and other interested patrons—both locally and globally—to promote critical thinking and lifelong learning.

Defining Special Collections

The Harold B. Lee Library subscribes to the Association of Research Libraries’ statement on The Unique Role of Special Collections. This document states that the defining characteristic of Special Collections is that they are unique. This uniqueness can be an attribute of a single item (e.g. its rarity, monetary value, or association with important events or individuals) or the attribute of a collection of items, either archival or published materials (e.g. focused assemblages of materials so comprehensive as to constitute unparalleled research opportunities). The presence of a Special Collections is a critical identifier of serious research universities.


The L. Tom Perry Special Collections department accomplishes its mission by engaging in the following activities related to its values (listed alphabetically) of access, collaboration, collection development, ethical behavior, outreach, preservation, and staff development.


The L. Tom Perry Special Collections department is committed to providing patrons with timely access to materials needed for research and other purposes (see the Harold B. Lee Library’s Service Philosophy. Staff members develop and maintain a number of different tools to enable patrons to discover the materials in the department’s collections. The department operates a Central Processing Unit (CPU) to prepare manuscript and archival materials for research use. Staff in the CPU create finding aids to assist patrons in identifying components of collections they would like to access. All Special Collections materials are cataloged through the Cataloging and Metadata Department in order to enable patron discovery. The department also maintains a reading room with generous hours which is staffed with trained students and full-time professionals who work to meet the needs of patrons. The L. Tom Perry Special Collections and Digital Initiatives departments engage in an active program of digitization aimed at providing wider access to Special Collections materials and to facilitate lifelong learning.


Staff members work collaboratively with other units in the library and the wider campus to accomplish the mission of the department. They partner with subject selectors in outreach to teaching faculty and with adjunct curators from multiple areas in the library in the development of selected collecting areas. Examples of these collaborations include cooperatively managing access tools with Library Information Technology, collaborating with the Material Acquisitions Department to acquire materials and appropriately track them, working with the Cataloging and Metadata Department for the creation of appropriate metadata and description for Special Collections materials, and partnering with the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies to promote research in Special Collections on the American West.

Collection development

The L. Tom Perry Special Collections department has been authorized to collect in limited areas that enable it to facilitate educational research and lifelong learning by campus and other patrons. The department collects materials for the long-term and only considers deaccessioning materials under rare circumstance and in accordance with national best practices.

Staff with curatorial responsibilities actively develop the collecting areas for which they have stewardship. The Special Collections Coordinating Committee vets and approves collection development policies that guide this work. Collection development policies utilize the levels of collecting outlined in the Harold B. Lee Library’s Collection Development Philosophy.


The L. Tom Perry Special Collections department abides by the codes of ethics of both the rare book and archival professions.


The L. Tom Perry Special Collections department’s collecting areas are uniquely suited to meeting the curricular and research needs of programs such as art, social sciences, performing arts, religion, and humanities. The department works collaboratively with these programs in consultation with appropriate subject selectors to enable the utilization of Special Collections holdings. The department also engages in an active program of outreach to inform campus community members and others of the resources available in the department. These outreach activities include instruction sessions introducing students to Special Collections, group presentations enabling community members and others to engage with Special Collections materials, an annual conference that gives attendees the opportunity to interact with curators and materials, lectures and exhibits highlighting the materials in Special Collections, an internship program which prepares future professionals, and an undergraduate fellowship program that provides students with the opportunity to do primary source research under the guidance of a teaching faculty member and a curator. The department also actively looks for additional ways to provide students and others with experiential learning opportunities. Departmental activities are designed to provide undergraduates and other patrons with dynamic educational opportunities that enable them to develop critical thinking skills while facilitating lifelong learning and spiritual development.


The L. Tom Perry Special Collections department and the other units in the Special Collections Division take seriously the responsibility to appropriately care for materials so that they will be available well into the future. Trained Collections Management staff have primary responsibility for managing the care and housing of materials in the department. The department uses appropriate temperature and humidity controlled spaces to house materials. It also takes care to ensure that materials are appropriately housed in archival boxes and other enclosures when necessary. Staff members identify materials needing conservation and work closely with the Conservation Unit to ensure that these materials receive appropriate care. The Digital Initiatives Unit provides assistance in the care and maintenance of digital records. The department also engages in digitization activities to reduce the number of times materials need to be handled. The department also manages a robust security program. This program includes providing vaults for the library’s most valuable materials, maintaining a secure reading room, installing security cameras in the reading room and throughout the department, interacting with trained security personnel, conducting regular audits, and training all staff regarding security measures and procedures.

Staff development

The L. Tom Perry Special Collections department is heavily dependent on highly qualified staff and students. The Harold B. Lee Library invests significant resources in providing opportunities for staff and students to develop and maintain the skills that they need to successfully accomplish their stewardship responsibilities.