If you have looked up an e-book in the Library of Congress catalog in the past year, you might have noticed that a range of catalog records for e-books now include links to something called Stacks. And even if you haven’t had the occasion to, I’ve provided a screenshot of one below – the catalog record for The 12 attributes of extraordinary media professionals. At the bottom of the screenshot in the links section there is a line of text that includes this information link “Available onsite via Stacks //hdl.loc.gov/loc.gdc/cip.2021014404”
At this point, you might be wondering what Stacks is and what it has to do with getting access to The 12 attributes of extraordinary media professionals? Briefly, Stacks is a software platform developed at the Library of Congress to render and enable access to materials that can only be made accessible on dedicated reading room terminals.
If you are onsite at one of the Library of Congress’s reading rooms and using one of the Stacks terminals and you click that link, you will be directed to the page in the Stacks application where you can read and search through the full text of the book. The image below shows what the EPUB file for The 12 attributes of extraordinary media professionals looks like in Stacks.
The Importance of Onsite Access
We have previously highlighted some of the new digital content that has been made openly available online on The Signal, but most of the digital material acquired by the Library of Congress is only accessible onsite. A key part of the Library of Congress Digital Collections Strategy is “providing the broadest possible access to rights-restricted content,” and the Stacks platform is an important contributor to that strategy.
Over the last three years, staff in the Digital Content Management Section have been working closely with colleagues in the Office of the Chief Information Officer to develop efficient workflows and processes that will allow Stacks to support increasingly large sets of onsite-only digital content. In this post, I will share a bit about the growth of the Library of Congress’s e-Book collections, why the Stacks platform is important, and how you can access these materials onsite in reading rooms at the Library of Congress.
Acquiring, Preserving, and Providing Access to CIP e-Books
The Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Program (CIP) is a critical service to publishers and libraries that also plays a key role in building the Library’s collections. The program provides pre-publication cataloging of books which results in the production of catalog records that are shared with libraries around the world and the CIP data that is added to the copyright page of a given book.
In 2012, the Cataloging in Publication Program launched the CIP E-books Program, which provides the same kind of service but for e-Books and quickly developed from receiving hundreds, to thousands, to tens of thousands of books. At the start of the program, we could receive and preserve the books, but we had no way to provide access to them. While the Library of Congress has long been able to provide access to e-Books through e-Resource platforms and open access to digitized books from the collection, we did not have systems in place to support onsite access to rights restricted e-Books. This all changed in 2019 when support for e-Books was added to the Stacks platform.
Since originally launching with just a few individual e-Books in 2019, we have been able to rapidly scale up our workflows and processes. Readers now have access to over 130,000 e-Books in Stacks. Most of those books have been acquired through the CIP program, but fortunately the platform was developed to support books acquired through purchase, gift, transfer, or exchange as well. Unlike the print versions of the CIP books that the Library acquires, all of these e-Books are full-text searchable and directly accessible to readers from the dedicated Stacks terminals in the reading rooms.
Wow, that is absolutely wonderful. When I first accessed LOC 24 years ago, it was not so user friendly. But I truly do dig it, and I’ll be coming around to the Stacks to see what’s up.
When I started computer programming in 1978, I never would have imagined the things available today.
Thanks again to all who made this possible.