Revisiting NISO’s “A Framework for Building Good Digital Collections”

Today’s guest post is by Carlos Martinez III, a Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities intern in the Library of Congress’s Office of Strategic Initiatives.

Times are tough

“Times are Tough but Not Just for Humans” by Richard J. Bailey

The National Information Standards Organization provides standards to help libraries, developers and publishers work together. Their report, A Framework Guidance for Building Good Digital Collections, is still as helpful to organizations today as when it was published in 2007.

The report identifies, organizes and applies knowledge of resources that support the development of sound local practices and focuses on creation and management of good digital collections. If you haven’t read it, you should. And if you have, it’s worth a second look.

Although Library and Information Science professionals must address many different elements associated with digital collection development, the framework guidance identifies four core elements: collections, objects, metadata and initiatives.

The first core element, collections, is the point at which collection development policies and procedures are established and adjustments made. The information in this section suggests that collection-policy creation remains an iterative process, allowing for rules to be amended according to the needs of the user community but also initially sound enough to provide a good structure for the collection to be built upon.

The second core element addresses the organization of digital information – or objects –within a collection. The framework guidance report looks at how to address these challenges and notes that digital-collection developers must be aware of the increasing number of objects that are “born-digital.” The report offers guidance on handling not only born-digital items but also digitized items.

Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of digital collection development is making the collection searchable, sustainable and usable. The metadata section of the report provides insightful suggestions for LIS professionals looking for a schema that is flexible, interoperable and extensible enough to meet the needs of the collection and the user, and be of use by other institutions.

While it was common for digital-collection developers in the past to focus efforts on meeting the needs of a specific user community, the framework recommends that LIS professionals create collections that can be repurposed and reused by other institutions in order to be part of a larger digital collection development effort.

Finally, LIS professionals need to consider the framework guidance as a valuable resource for developing management initiatives, allowing for people, policies and tools to work to together to ensure the overall value of the digital collection. For this reason, NISO states that digital-collection building efforts have become a core part of many organization’s missions and thus are the key component for ensuring overall success of their digital collections.

In light of previous discussions on this blog concerning digital preservation initiatives, the framework guidance is still a significant resource for information professionals to consider. The identification of the four core elements associated with building a digital collection proves that the NISO framework guidance is as relevant and helpful today as when it was first published.

3 Comments

  1. Sharad Shah
    October 22, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Thanks for posting. When creating digital collections, I adhered to similar guidelines/principles, but physically archiving the collection was emphasized, and digitizing the collection became the second step. It was all very new (particularly because we just switched over to CONTENTdm), and creating a structured system for the process was…fluid–a work in progress. Consequently, this framework is very helpful–particularly the section focusing on the principles for initiatives.

  2. Carlos Martinez III
    October 22, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Thank you for commenting! It is great to hear how professionals have put these guidelines into practice.

  3. leo
    March 10, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Are any other frameworks/ quidelines in order to make a comparison?

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