People wonder whether an archival institution is another form of library; it is not. In emphasizing differences we have to make clear the essential nature of the archival profession.
Archives are produced or accumulated in direct connection with the functional activities of each government agency, and much of their significance depends upon their organic relation to the agency and to each other. That is why the noted archivist P. Basu pointed out that the archives of a given creator should in no circumstances be intermingled with those of another creator and that archives must remain in the custody of the creator or his legitimate successor in order to be acceptable as valid evidence of a transaction.
The cultural values of archives are incidental.Library material are collected; they usually consist of discrete items whose significance is totally independent of their relationship to other items. This distinction between archival and library materials prevails regardless of their physical form. For example, when newspapers are received by a government in consequence of official activity, they may have or acquire an archival character. It is the case also when the government documents themselves appear in printed form.
Some people cannot differentiate the manuscript holdings of libraries from archives on the basis of their form and value. Herein, on the basis of the way the manuscripts come into being, a distinction can be made. Historical manuscripts are usually the product of a spontaneous expression of thought or feeling. They are ordinarily created rather in a haphazard way, but not in a systematic manner, while archives grow out of a regular functional activity. However, whenever historical manuscripts become part of the documentation of an organized activity, they may be considered to be archives.
An archival institution is receiving agency, where as a library is collecting agency. Therefore Archives Department is established for the purpose of preserving materials produced by the government; as a rule, it does not rely to an important degree on acquiring material by purchase or gift. On the other hand, library may obtain materials from anywhere in the world. Thus we can see the differences in the materials that are the concern of the archival institution and library in the way they came into being and in the way they came into the custody of such institutions.
The fundamental differences of method in an archival institution and a library, as given by American Archivist T.R. Schellenberg, is noteworthy. In the case of the government archivist, the materials are the textual records produced by the government; in the case of the librarian the materials are the publications of various kinds. The first of the differences of techniques relates to appraisal and selection.
In evaluating materials produced by a governmental agency, the archivist judges the value of an individual item in relation to other items, that is, in relation to the entire documentation of the activity that resulted in its production. He, therefore, normally selects records for preservation in the aggregate, not as single items; and he selects them in relation to function and organization rather than subject. His effort is to preserve evidence how organic bodies functioned. His judgements are final and irrevocable. The librarian, in contrast, evaluates the materials to be acquired by his institution as single items. His judgements involve a knowledge of library science, of the bibliography of the subject field concerned.
The second difference relates to classification. Classification in Archive science, means the arrangement of archives according to their provenance and in relation to the organization and functions of the creating agency. In library science, its means grouping single items of materials in accordance with a predetermined logical scheme of agreement.
Finally, we shall mention about the difference between the archival and library professions in their method of description. The term ‘cataloguing’ has different meanings in the two. Library descriptive cataloguing usually means itself with indivisible items. It relates to individual and separate items. In archival institution, materials are catalogued, by units that are aggregates of items. Such as fonds, groups or series.