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I am tasked with finding a solution for a few hundred documents all belonging to the same department that are distinctly different types. They will likely not be used often, but need to be readily available. I am debating over whether to create different libraries for five different types of documents, or put them all in the same library with different content types, and then organize with the use of subfolders.

The different types of documents will need to have different metadata fields, some of which I want to make required, but for only that document type.

Users do not want to deal with too many different libraries and get confused about where to find documents, so I am leaning towards the content-type option, but feel it is more rigid.

Another caveat is that I need to be able to query all documents from a relational database where additional records about them are stored (SharePoint is just not powerful enough to do what we need). This is easy to do with different libraries because I just make a connection to the site, and link to each library as a separate table. I can then build a UNION query to see all files in a master list.

If the documents are in subfolders the queried list will return documents in the subfolders, but not identify which folder they are in nor the content-type. So, I would have to add another field to identify document type.

Does anyone have advice for which direction I should move in?

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Given your requirements, it seems like multiple document libraries might be a better fit, here's a comparison so you can see which is a better for your situation.  

Multiple Document Libraries:

  • You can set unique security at a library level.
  • Having a separate library for each content type will mitigate the issue of reaching the total number of documents limit in a library.
  • As you mentioned, it’s easier to query documents from different libraries as separate tables.

Multiple Content Types with Subfolders:

  • Users won’t have to deal with too many different libraries, which can be confusing.
  • If you have multiple libraries all nicely tagged with content types and metadata, you will not be able to filter across.
  • When you have a single document library with folders, you can put the same file into multiple folders, with no problem.
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  • Thank you for the response, and the breakdown of the pros and cons. I assessed the situation and am going to use a combination of methods. Two libraries already existed with specific content types so they will stay. One new one will be created as there are a lot of documents with necessary metadata. Five other types of documents will share a library with several folders as they are not needed as often and need to be retrievable, but indexing is not as important. Jan 10 at 17:55

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