Collection Development for Digital Libraries
Collection development is the process of evaluating what is published and making purchasing recommendations based on these evaluations. Librarians identify the best resources for their constituencies based on the mission of their organization and the needs of their users. Originally based on printed items, this process has evolved to include audio, video, and now digital items.
The basic concepts of collection development remain the same regardless of resource format. However, there are special considerations when applying these principles to digital library collections1. In digital library collection development, librarians are making digitization recommendations instead of purchasing recommendations. They are not evaluating what has been published, but rather what within their collection is most valuable and unique to users. In doing so, librarians must be aware of the digital resources produced by other organizations. With the implementation of the Open Archival Initiative's Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH), resources in digital libraries are easily shared between organizations. Librarians should ensure their proposed collection will contribute not only to their own organization's needs but to the collective resources available to all.
In response to the many disparate digital collections libraries produced in the 1990's as experimental test-beds, the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) supported development of The Framework of Guidance for Building Good Collections 2. It was designed to encourage organizations to strategically plan their digitization projects and digital library collections in hopes that organizations would create collections that are useful for the long-term and can be integrated with existing digital collections. The Framework includes principles to guide development of four aspects of digital projects: collections, objects, metadata, and projects. The section on collections is particularly useful to librarians responsible for making digital library collection development decisions.
The following checklist is based on The Framework and is intended to address the main aspects of concern when making collection development decisions for a digital library collection. If you can answer "yes" to most of the questions then you are building what most organizations consider a "good" collection. There are resources throughout the checklist that will help if you are weak in certain areas and need guidance in improving your collection.
1 Digital library is a term of confusion. For some a digital library includes only materials that are the fruits of digitization projects. For others a digital library includes vendor-licensed databases, e-books, and other electronic materials. For the purpose of this discussion I will limit the definition of digital library to the materials created by organizational digitization projects.
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