Report Describes Risk-Assessment Model for Managing Cultural Assets

CLIR Press Release


For Immediate Release April 7, 2000

Contact: Abby Smith 202-939-4758

Report Describes Risk-Assessment Model
for Managing Cultural Assets

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR),
in cooperation with the Library of Congress (LC), has published
Managing Cultural Assets from a Business Perspective,
by Laura Price, of KPMG LLP, and Abby Smith, of CLIR. The
report describes how LC developed and implemented a plan for greater accountability over
its collections.

Libraries acquire their collections to meet the needs of their present and future users.
The collections, and the services that make them accessible, are essential to fulfilling the
library’s mission. Most libraries have focused more on the costs of acquiring and
maintaining collections than on their potential as assets that are vital to institutional productivity.

This report presents a model for the management of library and archival collections
that defines collections as core assets and seeks to make them maximally productive
while controlling risks to their integrity. The model is not based on the monetary value of
library holdings. Instead, it focuses on business risk and proposes a framework of controls
to minimize the risks that threaten the viability of those assets. It is not always evident
which investments in collection development, preservation, and security will best serve
the collections at a given time. With this model, managers can identify priorities for
institutional investments in collections and make more compelling budget justifications for
necessary resources, because the relationship between the library’s assets and its mission work is
made explicit to financial decision makers.

The fact that the language of this model comes from business, and accounting in particular, is indicative of
the new environment in which all cultural institutions find themselvesone in which business increasingly
sets standards for operations and accountability. To obtain the necessary resources for mission work, library
managers must be able to express and justify their needs in terms familiar to financial officers and funding
organizationsin terms of business risk.

The risk-assessment methodology described in the report has its origins in the efforts of the Library of
Congress to better manage its finances and strengthen its core business. Developed to be used in a working national
library, the methodology is now an integral part of LC’s annual audit. However, the fundamental problems that
Library staff faced as they developed the first-ever model to “account” for the well-being of heritage assets are the
same as those facing any librarypublic, private, multimedia, or single-format.

The report was developed with the cooperation of the Library of Congress through a partnership between
the Council on Library and Information Resources and KPMG LLP, an international audit and business advisory
firm. The Public Services–Assurance Practice of KPMG LLP developed the business risk model for the Library
of Congress and co-wrote the report with CLIR.

Managing Cultural Assets from a Business Perspective
is available from the Council on Library and
Information Resources for $15 prepaid, including postage and handling. Checks should be made payable to CLIR and
mailed to CLIR Publication Orders, 1755 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 500, Washington, D.C., 20036-2124.
Credit card orders may be placed by calling CLIR at 202-939-4750, sending a fax to 202-939-4765, or sending e-mail
to The full text is also available on CLIR’s Web site,

The Council on Library and Information Resources works in partnership with libraries, archives, and
other information providers to advocate collaborative approaches to preserving the nation’s intellectual heritage
and strengthening the many components of its information system. It works to support institutions as they
integrate audiovisual and digital resources and services into their well-established, print-based environments.