Over the past two years, my colleagues and I in the Digital Content Management section have been working with experts from across many divisions of the Library of Congress to collate and assemble guidance and policy that guide or reflect the practices that the Library uses to manage digital collections. I am excited to share that today the results of that work have launched as the Digital Collections Management Compendium (DCMC).
The Library’s digital holdings, which encompass all sorts of digital content and about 16 Petabytes of storage, have grown selectively, but dramatically, over the last three decades. While the number of digital collections, file formats, and both digitized as well as born-digital content has proliferated, so have collection management strategies developed and evolved. In the last few years, with the establishment of the Digital Strategy, Digital Collecting Plan, and the staffing of the Digital Content Management section, along with ongoing digital preservation and collection management activities, many of us across the Library have been working to refine and systematize practices for how we manage all types of digital content in the collections. The most recent outcome of this work is a new DCMC section of the website that presents general policies and practices for digital content management. This resource is primarily a policy resource for staff at the Library of Congress, but we are also sharing it openly and publicly as a resource for colleagues at other institutions. As suggested in the Digital Strategy, we aim to model openness in our practices, to share expertise, and to “drive momentum in our [digital library] communities.”
The DCMC is a product of the Library’s Digital Collections and Management Services Division (DCMS), with the purpose of promoting enduring access to the Library’s vast digital collections. A core team in DCMS works with experts from across the Library’s collecting and policy units and departments that manage digital collections. The team behind this effort works with these stakeholders to identify, collocate, document, and coordinate guidance. In some cases we worked from existing guidance or policy from separate offices; in other cases, the work surfaced practices that were implicit within existing systems but not already documented; and in yet others, the guidance represents a summary or overview of common practices across Library units. Given the variety of collections and work processes, many elements of practice are specific to individual areas. But to the extent possible, the DCMC aims to draw together or summarize relevant, high-level guidance and policy that forms the Library’s digital collection management practices as they are shared across the Library.
From a policy perspective, our approach to shaping and evaluating the DCMC was guided by community best practices for digital preservation. Following the trustworthy digital repository standard (ISO 16363), we surveyed the Library’s practices, workflows, and systems for handling digital objects, and we noted that some key policy statements were missing. The development and implementation of the DCMC has filled many of the identified gaps. Referencing the NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation, we analyzed whether each of the thirty-six points in the matrix have been addressed in policy and then, whether or not they have been addressed in procedure. With the inflow of digital content to the Library’s collections only increasing, the DCMC helps to solidify our policy and guidance for digital content management, but the work to update and keep the project current will be ongoing.
The DCMC also serves as a key resource for defining IT roles. It discusses the responsibility of collection managers, clarifies key IT business needs for systems that manage collections, and enables secure and enduring access to digital content in the Library’s permanent collection. It also facilitates the communication of necessary functional requirements between these groups.
Although guidance elements affect actions throughout the digital content lifecycle, we organized the elements of the DCMC into three main areas: Digital Formats, Inventory and Custody, and Access. The section for Digital Formats includes a summary of how the Library’s Recommended Formats Statement can be applied, as well as overarching statements about how we manage various digital preservation issues for digital formats, including the preservation of content “as received” over time, the creation of digital surrogates, and inventorying of format types. This section also underscores the key role that the Sustainability of Formats online resource plays in supporting digital preservation planning. The Inventory and Custody section contains some of the Library-specific guidance that explains more about how the Library inventories and tracks digital content, monitors data integrity, aligns with the PREMIS standard the Library maintains, packages and stores most content according to the Library-developed BagIt standard, and maintains collections security. Finally, the Access portion describes the Library’s principles for providing access to digital content, as well as the metadata that is created to manage and preserve the collections when fully processed.
We have developed the DCMC as a living document, which will be iteratively and intentionally updated as collections change, and more types of content are collected in digital form. We are also interested in hearing your thoughts and questions! These may be submitted by using the form on the DCMC Contact Us page.