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Yale Archival Management Systems Committee: ArchivesSpace Software Development Policy

ArchivesSpace Software Development Policy

(last updated: October 2016)

Document Overview and Scope of the Policy:

This policy guides Yale University Library (YUL) development of ArchivesSpace, and the current and future systems and data integration points within the YUL Special Collections ecosystem. Development may include work commissioned by YUL from external developers or vendors, but the policy refers to the governing principles, decision criteria, logistical process, and employed standards surrounding the development, implementation, and possible adoption by the national ArchivesSpace community. 


ArchivesSpace Overview: 

ArchivesSpace is an open source, integrated software platform that supports a wide spectrum of functions, tasks, and workflows within an archival repository. These include (but aren't limited to) container and location management; recording accession data; recording and managing descriptive data; creation and management of name and subject authorities; digital object management; tracking and management of archival processing tasks; and output of encoded finding aids and catalog records. At the Yale University Library, ArchivesSpace is the system of record for archival resource description, accessioning, collection control, and the description of people, families and corporate bodies. 


ArchivesSpace is currently developed as an end-user application for library staff, and has been customized through the development and implementation of several plug-ins. ArchivesSpace functionality is integrated with Atlas Systems Aeon, a patron request management application used by several YUL special collection repositories. Work is also underway to integrate ArchivesSpace functionality with Preservica, a digital preservation system recently adopted by YUL. Lastly, the public interface of ArchivesSpace is currently being developed, and is expected to be adopted as the primary searchable database for special collections at Yale in the near future


Parties Involved: 

  • Yale Archival Management Systems Committee (YAMS) 
  • Yale University Library IT Department 
  • Yale University Library ArchivesSpace Users and Stakeholders
  • Lyrasis 
  • ArchivesSpace User Community 
  • Hudson Molonglo, or other external software development vendors contracted by YUL
  • YUL Special Collections Steering Committee

Reference to Supplemental Agreements and Policies:

Any development work performed must be in compliance with existing agreements between YUL and parties involved with the development and support of ArchivesSpace at YUL. These include:

  • Lyrasis hosting contract
  • LIT service overview
  • ArchivesSpace membership agreement


Governing principles:

  • The development of ArchivesSpace must contribute to access and discovery of special collections materials that support teaching, learning, and scholarship at Yale.
  • Development work in ArchivesSpace should be guided by open source software development principles.
  • Any development of ArchivesSpace must abide by Yale University standards and guidelines for usability, including Web Accessibility Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 ( for both staff and public interfaces.
  • When possible, development projects should aim toward enhancing the core code of ArchivesSpace rather than developing custom plug-ins for the application.
  • The purpose of any development work should be to advance the effectiveness, usability, and efficiency of archival management software as well as the work of the of the archival profession more generally.
  • Development decisions should benefit all YUL repositories or fulfill a critical need at a particular repository. 
  • Development work should be aimed at benefiting the entire ArchivesSpace community when possible and/or appropriate.
  • Development work should be guided by established archival standards for arrangement, description, collection management, and user access. 


Decision criteria:

  • Will development work benefit the wider archival community? Would peer institutions benefit?
  • Is the development solution sustainable for the long term? 
  • Does the development work help accomplish any library-wide goals?
  • Does the development work enhance current ArchivesSpace features, or introduce a new feature in the software?
  • Does the development work enhance systems integration or benefit other special collections systems?
  • Will the development work help staff perform work more efficiently?
  • Does the development work leverage technology to increase staff efficiency or productivity? Does it free staff from routine tasks that could be automated?
  • Does the development work enhance user access to collections?
  • Does the development work enhance overall user experience for researchers or staff who use the application?


Logistical process:

  • Development priorities and projects should be identified, planned and budgeted for each fiscal year. YAMS should hold an annual planning meeting to draft a tentative development schedule for the fiscal year and do its best to stick to it.
  • A YAMS member, repository manager, or other ArchivesSpace user would identify a development need, document the workflow that would benefit from the development work, and propose the development project to YAMS.
  • YAMS would work with the person who made the proposal to flesh out the need for development and draft a scope of work document.
  • YAMS would determine if the development is something that could be expected in upcoming core code updates or if it is something that requires custom development.
  • YAMS would determine whether the development work could be performed by staff internally, or if it would require the work of an external vendor.
  • YAMS would prioritize the development project and find a place for it within the development calendar.
  • YAMS would determine funding sources for the development project and submit a proposal to the Special Collections Steering Committee for approval.
  • YAMS would reach out to Library IT about sustainability in terms of systems design.
  • If the development project involves multiple YUL departments, approval for the project must be sought through the Library Project Review Committee process.
  • When development is complete, testing is performed - YAMS, LIT, and local stakeholders participate in the testing. Testing is performed on development server, then in test, then put into production.
  • If a plug-in is developed instead of a core code enhancement, YAMS must consult with Lyrasis to determine the costs associated with upkeep of the plug-in.


Employed standards:

  • Archival descriptive standards - ex. DACS
  • Web accessibility standards
  • Responsive Web design standards
  • Open source standards for software design
  • Established metadata/encoding standards - ex. EAD
  • Any Yale University guidelines or standards on data security