Developing a New Digital Collections Strategy at the Nation’s Library

Today’s guest post is from Joe Puccio, Collection Development Officer at the Library of Congress.


Tremendous progress has been made by the Library of Congress in acquiring born-digital content as part of a coordinated strategy presented in its 2017 Digital Collecting Plan and previously reported in the Signal. With that plan now in its fifth year of implementation and with a majority of its objectives achieved, it is time to develop a successor.

The Library has now launched a project to develop a digital collections strategy for the next five fiscal years, with an intention to have it approved and ready for implementation by October of this year, the start of FY 2022. The new plan will cover the entire lifecycle of born digital content from acquisition through processing, preservation and access. The 2017 plan covered only the acquisition part of the lifecycle.

Organizational stakeholders from across the Library are now involved in this planning, including among others Library Services, the Law Library, the United States Copyright Office and the Office of the Chief Information Officer, the Library’s centralized IT organization.  Since the strategy is intended to  cover only born-digital materials, the Library’s program to digitize existing physical collections will not be included in this planning effort.

The acquired e-Books pictured above include the graphic novel Belinda the Unbeatable, the biography Robert Johnson: Lost and Found, and the monograph Event-Space: Theatre Architecture and the Historical Avant-Garde

Trevor Owens, head of the Digital Content Management Section in the Digital Collections Management and Services Division, and I are co-leading this work.

The new strategy will have four pillars, mirroring the Library’s Strategic Plan, and its associated objectives and goals as follows.

Expand Access. To expand access to collections, the strategy will focus on open content; provide the broadest possible access to rights-restricted content; and simplify and unify access and discovery.

Enhance Services. To enhance user services, the strategy will expand copyright e-deposit; transition to e-preferred, in which digital formats are the preference instead of traditional physical formats, as appropriate across major collecting streams; modernize documentary collecting to digitally document diverse perspectives on everyday life; and determine a unified approach to support collections use for digital scholarship.

Optimize Resources. To help modernize operations, the strategy will reorganize and realign processes and structures to support an increasingly digital collection; train staff to manage a primarily digital acquisition program; and review all digital collections policy and governance groups.

Measure Impact. To measure the impact of efforts, the strategy will engage in user research to best enable access to the collections; establish data tracking and analysis for collections to inform further collection development; and provide tools and data to staff to support continuous improvement of digital collections activities.

“It’s exciting to collaborate with expert colleagues from across the organization to envision what we can accomplish in the next five years,” Owens said. “From our initial planning activities, it is already clear that digital collections work is becoming a core part of nearly all areas the Library collects. This strategy can help us map out how we all get there together.”

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