Advancing the National Digital Platform: New Report Available

Kendra Morgan and Merrilee Proffitt /

The new report from OCLC Research, Advancing the National Digital Platform: The State of Digitization in US Public and State Libraries, summarizes the results of a needs assessment and gap analysis of digitization activities in US public libraries and state library agencies. The report provides the findings from national surveys that explored areas including how many libraries are participating in digitization activities, what training would help them to be more successful, what types of collections they are digitizing and how digitization efforts are staffed. The overall data provides a picture into the extent to which US public libraries are positioned to support the growth of the national digital platform (NDP), primarily through the digitization of their unique collections.

For the assessment OCLC partnered with the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA), and two divisions of the American Library Association—the Public Library Association (PLA) and the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS). The project was funded by a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Here are a few highlights from the report:

  • Ninety-two percent of public libraries have locally significant, unique physical collections
  • More than 37.6% of libraries have engaged in digitization activities in the last three years
  • In addition to the common barriers of time and ongoing funding, 61.4% of libraries identified insufficient staff training/expertise as a major barrier to their digitization efforts
  • All state library agencies reported that digitizing and providing online access to local and unique digitized material aligns with their mission either explicitly (12.8%), or broadly (87.2%)
  • Public libraries identified training in imaging best practices (55.6%), copyright risk assessment (47.5%) and metadata best practices (47.0%) as the most potentially helpful to their efforts

Society benefits when more people have increased access to content and services that advances their knowledge and improves their lives. As more public libraries add their digital collections to the NDP, this increases the number of knowledge resources that are accessible to people anytime and from anywhere. Public library participation in the NDP to the fullest degree possible will help advance the societal benefits of access to information, connecting more people to more knowledge and content. Recognizing that there is great work to be done in areas such as general awareness of the value of digitization, staff training, technical resources and funding support, this survey focused on collecting data that could be of value to the following target audiences:

  • public libraries of all sizes and locations across the US;
  • state library agencies, for their perspective on statewide strategy and public library needs, as well as their position to form regional/national partnerships and support local initiatives; and
  • service providers, government agencies, associations, funders and other institutions who share the vision and support the development of the NDP.

The report also provides observations and recommendations for future exploration in the area of supporting digitization efforts in public libraries. The full report and survey data are available for download.

Kendra Morgan from OCLC and Emily Gore of DPLA will be speaking about the report findings at DPLAfest 2017 on April 20, if you're planning to attend, stop by and hear all about it!