Access Policy and Service Delivery Charter

 1. Aims and objectives

This policy defines the principles that ensure that access to the Centre’s resources and facilities is consistent and fair for all users and in line with professional best practices and relevant legislation. It balances our professional duty to preserve our holdings for future use with the need to give our users the best possible access to resources in our custody. This policy also defines our service delivery principles and the charter standards our communities and ‘stakeholders’ should expect us to meet.

This policy has been compiled in line with the Public Services Quality Group’s Standard for Access to Archives (2008).

This policy is subordinate to the Churchill Archives Centre Mission Statement. See also our Preservation and Conservation Policy and our Collections Policy.

2. Principles

The Centre is committed to providing its users with the widest possible access to its resources and facilities, subject to available resources and any legal constraints.

Our communities

The Centre serves a number of overlapping communities and ‘stakeholders’. Based within Churchill College, we have traditionally served as a resource for the College’s own staff and Fellows, as well as researchers and students within the College, Cambridge University and from around the world. We have also been used as a resource for professional biographers and writers, individuals interested in significant historical figures or those connected with them, media companies and other specialist interest groups, including those providing executive education. We have also identified the depositors of records to the Centre and their heirs as one of our stakeholder groups.

Other stakeholders include the Churchill College Archives Committee (a group of College Fellows and expert external advisers who provide specific oversight of the Centre), the charitable trusts which control funds for the benefit of the Centre or have clear interests in specific collections, and the Patrons, Friends and Supporters of the Centre, who provide financial resources to help underpin the work of the Centre (see our policy on Governance and Staffing).

We are aware that not all of our stakeholders are able to visit us in Cambridge and have worked for some time on developing online services for existing users and to attract possible new communities. We are aware of the need to engage with school and educational audiences, and have developed an Education and Schools Policy. We are also considering how best to reach international audiences (see section 8 for further details).


We are committed to providing access to all, regardless of age*, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, nationality, ethnic or cultural origin, religious belief (or non belief), social background or politics. [* NB: minors under age of 16 may need to be accompanied]

We aim to treat all users equally, recognising that first-time users of our services may need more assistance initially and that depositors of records have certain rights regarding those collections. We recognise the value of the many differing types of user activity and research, regardless of the nature of the research conducted.

We are committed to examining bars to access to our facilities and whether any of our potential stakeholders are not benefitting fully from our services.

The services we can offer

We are committed to providing a public reading room at Churchill College where our collections can be consulted by appointment. All collections accessed in our reading room are produced free of charge for all researchers, though in some cases it may be as digital access copies. We aim to provide on-site visitors with a reading room space that is both pleasant and comfortable to work in, with all necessary resources and equipment readily at hand (see section 4 for further details).

We aim to provide the widest possible access to our catalogue data and have a Cataloguing and collection processing Policy in place that covers uncatalogued collections (see section 3 for further details).

We are committed to operating fair and transparent enquiry and reprographics services and undertake to publish details of our charges and terms and conditions (see sections 4 and 5 for further details).

We are committed to providing online resources. Generally, our online catalogues are available free of charge, although access to certain content online may be on a subscription basis (see section 5 for further details).

We regularly work with external partners to make sure that information about the Centre and its holdings is disseminated through collaborative websites, exhibitions and conferences (see section 6 for further details).

Communication and feedback

As far as possible, we will give all stakeholders advance notice of any service reductions or difficulties. Where services are not available to users, it is anticipated that we would seek to provide an agreed and suitable alternative form of provision.

We aim to treat all our communities and stakeholders effectively and with due professional courtesy. We have customer feedback and transparent procedures for handling complaints when our service may have dipped below the levels anticipated.

Legal compliance

We are committed to operating responsibly within the law, and undertake to maintain clear policies on compliance with relevant legislation (e.g. copyright, data protection and freedom of information). All researchers who consult materials, or are supplied with materials, are expected to abide by relevant legislation relating to the use of these materials.

User responsibilities

The Centre expects its visitors and those using our services to treat our staff and other users with courtesy and respect. Our parent body, Churchill College, reserves the right to refuse admission in the event of serious or repeated inappropriate or offensive behaviour.

On-site visitors are expected to abide by our published rules and regulations and the terms and conditions agreed for access in our reader application form, especially with regard to the handling and treatment of documents.

3. Access to information about our collections

The Centre has supervised reading rooms and can accommodate up to nine visitors each day (currently between Monday-Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM). Visitors have to reserve a place each day on a “first-come, first- served” basis by contacting the Archives Centre. New researchers have to register for a reader ticket by completing an application form agreeing to our standard terms and conditions.

The reading rooms are equipped to provide appropriate access for visitors to look at original material in various formats, as well as surrogate copies of audio-visual and digital materials. A member of staff is on duty at all times to produce documents and invigilate the reading rooms. That staff member can offer advice on available sources and any issues arising, as well as guidance on handling documents, subject to other pressures. We aim to produce all material ordered in our reading rooms as quickly as possible (see section 9 for further details).

We offer a choice of reprographics services for on-site users, although this can be limited depending on the number of images required and the condition of individual documents.

Copies can usually be ordered in a variety of formats (digital copies, photographic prints etc.) The costs of these services and the time taken for copying may vary and should be explained by staff at the time of ordering. In most cases, we also allow self-service digital photography by on-site users (a nominal daily charge is levied).

It takes time to copy archival material because of the care needed to protect the documents and their context. Our pricing structure reflects this. All material is copied in a way that ensures the safety of the items and copies are supplied under the terms of copyright legislation.  In some cases these restrictions may mean that some materials may not be copied. For further details of the principles and practices behind our reprographics policy, see  our Preservation and Conservation Policy.

We have programmes in place to offer a variety of talks, exhibitions and tours for stakeholders able to visit the Centre in person. We help maintain a dedicated display space within College that is open to all, and also organise conferences and seminars within Churchill College and beyond on subjects related to the collections we hold.

5. Access to services for remote users

We recognise that not all of our current or potential stakeholders are able to visit us in person and that many might not want to. We are committed to provide suitable services for our remote users. To deliver these services, we have a regularly updated website, and are able to answer basic enquiries and requests for information by post, e-mail and telephone. Our standard enquiry service is free to all users and we envisage spending up to 30 minutes of work on each external enquiry.

Where individual researchers have more detailed or repeat enquiries we offer a limited paid enquiry service. Professional and media enquiries might also be directed to this paid service. We suggest that those with more complicated enquiries use private record researchers.

We also offer a choice of reprographics service for external users, although this may again be limited depending on the number of images required and the condition of individual documents.

6. Other online resources and the exhibition of materials

To enable anyone with a potential interest in our collections and services to find out about them, we aim to provide relevant guides, leaflets and catalogues on our website free of charge. We also contribute information and catalogue data to relevant gateways of information, e.g. providing links to our catalogues through Discovery, the online catalogue of UK’s National Archives.

The Centre is committed to providing the widest possible access to documents in its custody and to explore the exhibition of materials on and off-site and the development of web-based delivery of documents with partners and in our own right. We would envisage that at least some of the content provided would be free to users but recognise that some content may require subscription or other payment. We are also exploring the promotion of our services and collections through social media and other resources.

7. Restrictions on access

There may be constraints on using particular collections or documents in our custody. Many of the records we hold are very modern and access restrictions may apply in line with exemptions specified in the Freedom of Information Act, 2000 (see also Freedom of Information Policy). Certain records may be also unavailable until fully catalogued (see section 3 for further details) and the Centre’s staff should be able to explain any restrictions in place.

Certain items that are too fragile to be safely handled may not be available. In certain cases, a surrogate may be produced in place of the original. Where any restrictions are imposed, an explanation will be provided in our catalogues or from staff members. Certain of our collections also have poor or little archival packaging. These materials may be produced in smaller sub-sections to make them less vulnerable to theft or being misplaced after use.

8. Access and audience development

We are committed to working with current and potential partners and contacts (regionally, nationally and internationally) to maximise the accessibility of our collections and open up their content to a wider range of users. We aim to be proactive in developing audiences for our resources and to employ new and developing technologies as access, delivery and educational tools.

9. Our proposed Service Delivery Charter

In recent years we have investigated how we identify, monitor, improve and report our key performance targets for our stakeholders. The following are the service charter benchmarks we work to:

  • Production of documents

within 15 minutes [except at lunchtimes]

  • Responses to basic enquiries

within 3 working days

  • Responses to detailed enquiries

within 5 working days

  • Standard image supply

within 5 working days

  • Advanced image supply

within 20 working days

  • Supply of copies of audiovisual material

within 15 working days for work done in-house (longer for external work)

  • Summary information on new accessions

online within 20 working days

  • Cataloguing backlog review

2 x annually

  • User surveys

1 x every 3 years

  • Service delivery procedural review

1 x annually

  • Service delivery performance review

1 x annually


Updated January 2017.

Further Information

Allen Packwood
Churchill Archives Centre
Telephone (01223) 336175