Guiding Documents: Policies vs. Plans

Policies and plans serve as the basis for all activities surrounding proper management of your institution’s collections. Without these documents, collections can often grow without restraint, or an institution might find itself with objects that have no relation to its mission. Yet policies and plans, while often grouped together, are distinct documents. Those differences should be explored before the creation or revision of a collections policy or plan.

In this module, you will learn the main differences between a policy and a plan, as well as how these documents relate to day to day procedures adopted by your institution.


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Discussion Questions
During the webinar presentation, the main differences between a policy, a plan, and a procedure were explained. Once you identify the quality traits of your current institution, consider: 

  • Who has the ability at your institution to approve each of these three documents?
  • Is it the same person for all three, or do different staff members or board members have authority to approve the three different types of documents? 
  • Why would approval be different for each document?
  • What are the differences between a policy and a plan?
  • What are the differences between a policy and a procedure?

Utilizing the game spinner have each participant take a turn at the spinner.  Read the question or topic to the group and discuss among the group. Use examples from your policy or institution. 

Online Resources
Alaska State Museums - Policies, Plans and Procedural Documents (.pdf)

Things Great and Small: Collections Management Policies by John E. Simmons - Policy or Procedure? (.pdf)

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