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Archives Material Use Policy

Archives of the A.A. General Service Office

The materials in the Alcoholics Anonymous General Service Office Archives are available to all A.A. members and other serious researchers who have an interest in the legacy of A.A.  However, access is controlled.  Controls are necessary to ensure the anonymity of all persons mentioned in archival materials, in accordance with A.A. traditions.  Access also must be controlled in order to protect the materials themselves from loss or physical damage.
The following policies and rules have been established by the trustees' Archives Committee of the General Service Board of A.A. in cooperation with the G.S.O. Archivist.  These policies attempt to balance the needs of users, the exclusive rights of copyright holders, and the Archives’ own responsibilities toward its collections.

Visitors and all interested parties are invited to make requests for information about any aspect of A.A. history.  Normally the Archives staff will conduct the research, find the answers you seek, and deliver them via mail or email.  We get thousands of requests from members and friends of A.A. each year. 
Typical requests involve:
  • Information about the events that led to the founding of A.A.;
  • Biographical information of A.A.’s co-founders and early pioneers;
  • Statements and opinions of Bill W. and Dr. Bob;
  • The origins and growth of the A.A. steps, traditions, and guiding principles;
  • Information about various editions and/or statements in the Big Book and other works;
  • The uses of A.A. prayers, slogans and logos, as well as chips, tokens, and medallions;
  • Historical group practices and meeting formats;
  • Group and area histories, including international;
  • Information about the history of A.A. among special populations, minorities, and women;
  • Old issues of newsletters;
  • Old versions of A.A. pamphlets and literature;
  • Published photographs of A.A. founders, pioneers, and events;
  • The growth of the service structure;
  • Actions of Boards, recorded in meeting minutes;
  • Various actions of the General Service Conference since 1951.
We always welcome your questions! Please contact the archives anytime you are curious about an element of A.A.’s legacy. 

All visitors are welcomed to the Archives center.  There they can see selected materials and speak with the Archivist about our holdings, about archival activities in their areas and about how they might be able to take advantage of the G.S.O. Archives. 
If a researcher would like to physically handle, read, and review a large quantity of archival material, he or she should contact the Archives staff ahead of time to make arrangements.  In most cases the Archives staff can provide access to published information, such as books, newsletters, magazines, pamphlets, service pieces, and reports, in some cases dating to the earliest days of A.A.
However, if a researcher wishes to use any unpublished materials in the Archives (correspondence, meeting minutes, financial information, manuscripts, etc.), a written request for access must be made to the trustees' Archives Committee.  The user must give full information about the subject, scope, and purpose of the research being undertaken.  Each request will be considered on a case-by-case basis.  As the committee meets three times each year, on the last weekends in January, July and October, research requests are considered three times a year.  In special cases, consideration can be obtained at other times.

Because of the special nature of the materials in our collection, all researchers must learn and respect all A.A. traditions that may bear on their research; in particular, the preservation of anonymity of all A.A. members.
The permission to conduct research is granted conditional on your agreement to strictly maintain the anonymity of all A.A. members, alive and deceased, including A.A.’s co-founders.  You are respectfully asked, if citing these materials, to quote only the first name and last initial, thus preserving A.A.’s Eleventh Tradition: the anonymity of its members at the level of the public media.  No researcher is ever given permission to publish full names of individuals.  Anyone who does so will be denied further access to the A.A. Archives.

Photocopies or scans of published materials, such as pamphlets, articles, and newsletters, will be made available if the physical condition of the materials will allow for duplication.  Original correspondence, unpublished manuscripts, and some other confidential materials will not be duplicated. 
All photoduplication will be done by Archives staff.  On-site researchers will not be permitted to use scanners, cameras, photocopiers, or other devices to make copies.  Researchers may designate a limited number of pages (of published items only) to be photocopied or scanned by the archives staff.  Depending on the quantity requested and the workload of the archives staff, the copies may have to be mailed or emailed to the researcher at a later date.

The A.A. Archives have a large variety of materials, which may or may not be in the public domain.  In some cases A.A.W.S. does not hold copyright for the materials in its collections.  The permission to access and research does not include or imply permission for the use of intellectual property or any right to intellectual property in the Archives’ holdings.  It is solely the responsibility of the researcher to obtain the permission of the copyright owner before publishing, reprinting, or making extensive use of any copyrighted material.  Any agreement as to intellectual property – such as publishing, reprinting, or quoting from any archives material – must be separately requested in writing.

As stated above, permission to access our materials and have copies made does not signify that a researcher has been given permission to publish, distribute, or further copy the material.  Researchers who wish to use the Archives’ materials in a publication, performance, or broadcast must complete and submit a separate application.
Researchers who plan eventual publication of their work are urged to make early inquiries concerning publication rights as they begin their research. 
We request that two free copies of all publications which rely on the Archives’ holdings be donated to the Archives as soon as the work is published.  In giving permission to publish a manuscript, the Archives does not surrender its own right thereafter to publish the manuscript or to grant permission to others to publish it; nor does the Archives assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or of publication rights in the manuscript held by others.



The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be used for any purpose than private study, scholarship or research. If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use", that user may be liable for copyright infringement and/or subject to criminal prosecution.

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