Making parts of a collection “Library Use Only,” or LUO as it’s commonly referred to in the acronym and initialism saturated field of Library and Information Science (LIS!), is an activity that may put access-oriented librarians and preservation-minded archivists at odds. In grossly generalized and over-simplified terms, the former prefer items be available for check out and circulation. The latter prefer items to be preserved for long-term, and less convenient use.

I’m in the process of writing up LUO criteria for the audio/video/film collections at UW Seattle. Here are the criteria I’m thinking of so far in terms of an item qualifying for LUO status:

  • Uniqueness/Rarity: According toWorldCat, UW owns one of three or fewer available copies.
  • No Replacement: A commercially available replacement copy that is both reasonably priced and of acceptable quality is unavailable.

An additional criterion that perhaps regardless of the items unique/rarity or commercial available, should deem a particular media type as LUO:

  • Playback Obsolescence: The equipment required to playback the titles is no longer being manufactured.

I’m interested in hearing about other possible LUO criterion, so please let me know in the comments. And beyond the LUO status, I’m thinking that for analog media (e.g., VHS, audio cassettes) we should first create digital access copies before allowing users to access unique or rare LUO titles. Convenient? No. But should that be our primary mission?


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