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Collection Development in Digital Library Settings

heritage“Libraries are reassessing their collection practices and strategies and developing a more
holistic approach to collections, particularly in light of emerging diversification of the
scholarly record (e.g., learning materials/objects, open access materials, freely available
digital resources, etc.)" (ACRL, 2015, 3)

The skills in developing physical library collections easily transfer to the digital library environment.

However, digital libraries also have some distinct differences.

Collection Development

The identification, selection, and acquisition of content is an important role for today's librarians.

"Digital libraries are libraries without walls. But they do need boundaries. The very notion of collection implies a boundary: the fact that some things are in the collection means that others must lie outside it. And collections need a kind of presence, a conceptual integrity, that gives them cohesion and identity... Every collection should have a well-articulated purpose, which states the objectives it intended to achieve, and a set of principles, which are the directives that will guide decisions on what should be included and - equally important - what should be excluded. These decisions are difficult" (Witten, Bainbridge, and Nicholas, 2010, 9).

Massive digital libraries have unique collection development approaches and issues.

Read Weiss, Andrew (2014). Collection Development - Or, How Did I Get This? In, Using Massive Digital Libraries : A LITA Guide. Chicago, IL, USA: American Library Association. Also, available as an ebook through IUPUI.

Both small and large collections are faced with the question of whether they are addressing content diversity issues.

Read TWO of the following four articles focusing on issues related to collection development in digital library environments.

Dempsey, Lorcan, Malpas, Constance, & Lovoie, Brian (July 2014). Collection directions: the evolution of library collections and collecting. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 14(3), 393-423.

Erwin, Tracey, Sweetkind-Singer, Julie & Larsgaard, Mary Lynette (Winter 2009). The National Geospatial Digital Archives - collection development: lessons learned. Library Trends, 57(3), 490-515.

Martens, Betsy Van der Veer (Spring 2011). Approaching the anti-collection. Library Trends, 59(4), 568-587.

Weiss, Andrew (2014). Content Diversity - Or, Why Is This Missing? In, Using Massive Digital Libraries : A LITA Guide. Chicago, IL, USA: American Library Association. Also, available as an ebook through IUPUI.

caliscopeDigital Collection Spotlight

provides a gateway to digital collections across the state of California from libraries, universities, and museums.

Contents: Designed with educators in mind, it accesses over 400,000 images, texts, and recordings. Users can explore the collections or exhibitions. Or, use the search tool to conduct a keyword search.

Connections: The project includes a page specifically for educators with teaching resources. Many of the collections are geared to the K-12 curriculum such as Gold Rush Life.

Featured Digital Objects:
Dr. Suess Artwork - https://goo.gl/BtLok3
Gold Rush Life - https://goo.gl/RfuloU
San Francisco Earthquake and Fire - https://goo.gl/j8n0cd
To visit the collection at https://calisphere.org/.
To explore the educator section, go to https://calisphere.org/for-educators

Existing Collections vs Original Collections

Digital libraries provide access to a wide range of information sources to meet the content needs of users. Fox and others (2011) define content as

"the data and information that the Digital Library handles and makes available to its users. It is composed of a set of information objects organized in collections. Content is an umbrella concept used to aggregate all forms of information objects that a Digital Library collects, manages and delivers. It encompasses the diverse range of information objects, including such resources as objects, annotations and metadata. For example, metadata have a central role in the handling and use of information objects, as they provide information critical to its syntactical, semantic and contextual interpretation."

shopWhen building digital library collections, librarians may make use of existing collections (e.g., database subscriptions, ebook collections, music services) or build new collections (e.g., institutional repositories, heritage collections, local science data sets) to meet the needs of library users. Librarians often think of building historical photo collections or scanning local newspapers. However, there are many more potential projects across disciplines that can bring useful content to public users.

Those users interested in business may make use of online databases to access industry information or the latest business journals. However, local business people might also be interested in local regulations and topics related to state taxes. A librarian may build a pathfinder to help users access locally relevant information. Working with area merchants, a librarian may even build a digital collection to share information about how area residents can "buy local" rather than traveling to another city or buying online.

farmer girlLibrary users interested in areas related to humanities, social science, and history can make use of the many digital archives, ebook collections, and government websites already available in these areas. However working with the local historical society, the library may build a local history collection where organizations can share their digital objects. Or, work with the local art museum digitizing and sharing their works of art. Get local bands together for an online, heritage music project that digitizes local music across generations.

Beyond the many subscription-based and free online resources related to science and technology, there are many local opportunities to build digital collections. Librarians might collaborate with university faculty on building a digital collection that identifies and maps local invasive species. Or, work with the local 4-H project on building a digital collection of local laying hens and their eggs as part of a "eat local" project. A database might contain information from the library's seed bank.

Content and Digital Curation

“Digital curation involves managing, preserving and adding value to digital assets over their entire lifecycle. The active management of digital assets maximises their reuse potential, mitigates the risk of obsolescence and reduces the likelihood that their long-term value will diminish" (4C Project Roadmap, 2015)

Content curation is the process of identifying, selecting, organizing, managing, and providing access to information sources. Digital content curation focuses specifically on digital assets.

Read 4C Project (2015). Investing in Curation: A Shared Path to Sustainability. Available online.


Read Walters, Tyler & Skinner, Katherine (March 2011). New Roles for New Times: Digital Curation for Preservation. Association of Research Libraries.

According to Joan Reitz (2014), digital curation is

"the active management, enhancement, and preservation of trustworthy digital research data for the duration of its lifecycle. Digital curation entails verification of the integrity of digital data, selection of authoritative digital data for its long-term value, creation of digital objects and associated metadata, transfer of digital objects to reliable digital repositories for secure storage, provision of access to designated users, and periodic re-evaluation of digital formats to avoid obsolescence."

Stephen Abrams (2015) provides a similar definition but places a focus on "meaningful consumer engagement". He states

digital curation is a complex of actors, policies, practices, and technologies that enables meaningful consumer engagement with content of interest across space and time. A given unit of digital content is of interest if it can be readily distinguished from the larger universe of potential alternative content on the basis of consumer criteria, and authentic if it is what it purports to be. A consumer's engagement is successful if the content can be exploited or is beneficial for some desired purpose, ideally at a time and place and in a manner of the consumer’s choosing…

The ultimate goal of digital curation is to facilitate the effective “delivery” of content to human consumers across barriers imposed by space and time.”

Read Abrams, Stephen (2015). A Foundation Framework for Digital Curation: The Sept Domain Model. Presented at iPRES 2015, The 12th International Conference on Preservation of Digital Objects, Chapel Hill, November 2-6, 2015.

archivesThe Digital Curation Centre assists research institutions in digital curation. They have identified the following approach to digital curation.

try itTry It!
Explore the Digital Curation Centre (DCC). It contains lots of resources for those interested in digital curation.

bhoDigital Collection Spotlight

includes important primary and secondary sources focusing on the history of Britain and Ireland from 1300 through 1800.

Contents: The resource includes maps, dataset, texts, and primary sources. Users can browse the collections, use subject guides, or try a keyword search.

Connections: Use this collection to learn more about life during this time period. Ask users to explore topics of interest and report on everyday activities such as the cost of items or the role of religion in people’s lives.

Featured Digital Objects:
Maps - https://goo.gl/4MCAOa
Economic - https://goo.gl/7CSHVd
Urban - https://goo.gl/QdSRSk
To visit the collection, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/.

Building a Digital Library

Before you begin the development of a digital library, it's important to consider the purpose of the library and its potential users. It's also necessary to think about the digital objects and the technology required. Witten, Bainbridge, and Nicholas (2010, 39) developed a set of "pertinent questions" related to users, materials, and technology. Click the image below to read the questions.


Read Younglove, April (July/August 2013). Rethinking the digital media library for RIT’s The Wallace Center. D-Lib Magazine, 19(7/8). Available online.

Some libraries have developed long-term plans for digital libraries and collections. For instance, Oregon developed a Digital Collections Plan.

Read Northwest Digital Collections. This report is the result of a summit in 2015. It will provide insights into the challenges of digital collection planning.

Digital Library Policies

thinkingFrom collection development policies that define the scope of the library's collections to policies related to acceptable use, most of the library's general policies should apply to the digital environment. However, it's likely that new policies will also need to be created to meet the specific needs of this distinct setting.

Fox and others (2011) define policy as

"the set or sets of conditions, rules, terms and regulations governing interaction between the Digital Library and users, whether virtual or real. Examples of policies include acceptable user behavior, digital rights management, privacy and confidentiality, charges to users, and collection delivery. Policies belong to different classes; for instance, not all policies are defined within the DL or the organization managing it. The policy supports the distinction between extrinsic and intrinsic policies. The definition of new policies and re-definition of older policies will be a feature of digital libraries."

Below are a few examples of policies specifically focusing on digital collection development.

To review general information about this library collection development, go to Collection Planning and Policies.

Read Johnson, Sharon (August 2012). Key Issues for E-Resource Collection Development: A Guide for Libraries. International Federation of Library Association and Institutions.

try itTry It!
Compare the digital collection policies above to traditional collection development policies. What do you think are important items that should be included in collection development policies for digital libraries?

Explore digital library websites. Seek out their collection development policies. They are often found on the ABOUT page of the website. Have these policies been updated to reflect the digital library environment? If so, how? If not, how do they need to be updated.


4C Project (2015). Investing in Curation: A Shared Path to Sustainability. Available online.

Abbey, Heidi N. (2013). Preserving Digital Content. In, J. Monson, LITA Guide: Jump-Start Your Career as a Digital Librarian, 127-144. American Library Association. Available as an ebook through IUPUI.

Abrams, Stephen (2015). A Foundation Framework for Digital Curation: The Sept Domain Model. Presented at iPRES 2015, The 12th International Conference on Preservation of Digital Objects, Chapel Hill, November 2-6, 2015.

ACRL (March 2015). Environmental Scan 2015. Available online.

ALA (April 2015). The State of America’s Libraries: A Report from the American Library Association 2015. American Libraries. Special Issue.

Babeu, Alison (August 2011). ‘Rome Wasn’t Digitized in a Day’: Building a Cyberinfrastructure for Digital Classics. Council on Library and Information Resources. Available online.

Cataldo, Tara Tobin & Leonard, Michelle (Spring 2015). E-STEM: Comparing aggregator and publisher e-book platforms. Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship. Available online.

CCSDS (2012). Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS).

Combs, Michele, Matienzo, Mark A., Proffitt, Merrilee, & Spiro, Lisa (2015). Over, under, around, and through: getting around barriers to EAD implementation. In OCLC Research, Making Archival and Special Collections More Accessible, 39-62. Available online.

Conway, Martha O’Hara & Proffitt, Merrilee (2015). Taking stock and making hay: archival collections assessment. In OCLC Research, Making Archival and Special Collections More Accessible, 17-38. Available online.

DeCesare, Julie A. (2014). Streaming Video Resources for Teaching, Learning, and Research. ALA TechSource.

Dempsey, Lorcan (2015). A new information management landscape: from outside-in to inside-out. In N. Allen (ed.), New Roles for the Road Ahead: Essays Commissioned for ARCL’s 75th Anniversary. ACRL.

Digital Library of Georgia (2004). Digital Library of Georgia Digitization Guide.

Digital Preservation Coalition (2008). Preservation Management of Digital Materials: The Handbook. Available: http://www.dpconline.org/advice/preservationhandbook

Downey, Kay, Zhang, Yin, Urbano, Cristóbal, & Klingler, Tom (January 1, 2014). KSUL: An evaluation of patron-driven acquisitions for ebooks. Computers in Libraries, 34(1), 10-14.

Fox, Edward A., Yang, Seungwon, Ewers, John, Wildemuth, Barbara, Pomerantz, Jeffrey P., Oh, Sanghee (2011). 1-a (10-c): Digital Library Curriculum Development Module. Collaborative Research: Curriculum Development: Digital Libraries. Available: http://curric.dlib.vt.edu/modDev/modules/DL_1-a_2011-05-11.pdf

Havenwood, Clare, Matthews, Graham, Muir, Adrienne (2012). Selection of digital material for preservation in libraries. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 45(4), 294-308.

Hooper, Lisa & Force, Donald C. (2014). Keeping Time: An Introduction to Archival Best Practices for Music Librarians. MLA Basic Manual Series, Volume BM9. Available through IUPUI.

Huwe, Terence (May/June 2015). Data administration: an opportunities to collaborate. Computers in Libraries, 35(5), 15-17.

Huwe, Terence K. (November 1, 2014). The value of data-driven special collections. Computers in Libraries, 34(9), 23-25.

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Kaplan, Richard (ed.) (2012). Building and Managing E-Book Collections: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians. ALA Neal-Schuman.

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Marquis, Kathy & Waggener (July 29, 2015). What to collect? Building a local history reference collection at your library. American Libraries Magazine. Available online.

Marquis, Kathy & Waggener, Leslie (2015). Local History Reference Collections for Public Libraries. ALA Editions.

Miller, Brenda & Rhodes, Sarah (2012). From the Digital Dark Ages to a Digital Renaissance: The Art of Selecting Digital Content to Preserve. Library of Congress Presentation. Available online.

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Osterhout, Laura & Rhodes, Erin (2012). From the Digital Dark Ages to a Digital Renaissance: The Role of Long Term Storage in Digital Curation. An ALCTS Webinar. Library of Congress. Available online.

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