Expanding Digital Collecting at the Library

This is a guest post from Joe Puccio, Collection Development Officer in the Collection Development Office, that describes the progress toward the goals of the five year plan described in Collecting Digital Content at the Library of Congress.  

In January 2017, the Library of Congress adopted a set of strategic steps related to its acquisition of digital content. Expansion of the digital collecting program was seen as an essential part of the institution’s strategic goal to: Acquire, preserve, and provide access to a universal collection of knowledge and the record of America’s creativity. This five-year plan, which was approved by Dr. Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress, is described in Collecting Digital Content at the Library of Congress.

Implementation began immediately, following a framework categorized into six objectives:

  • Maximize receipt and addition to the Library’s collections of selected digital content submitted for copyright purposes
  • Expand digital collecting via routine modes of acquisitions (primarily purchase, exchange and gift)
  • Focus on subscription and purchased electronic resources
  • Expand use of web archiving to acquire digital content
  • Develop and implement an acquisitions program for openly available content
  • Expand collecting of appropriate datasets and other large units of content

With the program implementation well into its third year, staff in the Library’s Collection Development Office conducted a formal status check this past August. There are over 70 targets (actions) supporting the objectives listed above. Thirty have been completed thus far. The remaining work is either awaiting start-up, is already in process or is being adjusted to meet the ever changing landscape of digital collecting.

There have been many notable accomplishments among the completed targets and actions, including the following:

  • Registration of newspaper e-prints was established by the Copyright Office, and system development was completed to make the content available onsite to the Library’s users.
Screenshot of details for registering newspaper e-prints featuring the Los Angeles Times.

Screenshot of details for accessing newspaper e-prints onsite, featuring the Los Angeles Times

  • The number of publishers participating in the Cataloging in Publication e-books program has grown to over one thousand.
  • A first-ever formal assessment of the Library’s purchased and leased electronic resources collection was conducted.
  • The Library developed a model electronic resources license agreement, which it has used with several vendors.
  • Web archiving was piloted as a method to acquire state government documents that were formerly received by the Library in print.
  • Multiple pilots to acquire open access monographs were successfully completed. (See posts earlier this year on April 29 and July 8.)
Screenshot of the webpage for an open access monograph acquired in the Digital Collecting process: Who Takes the Train.

Example of an open access monograph acquired in the Digital Collecting process: Who Takes the Train.

  • As a pilot, the Library acquired the entire English language Wikipedia.
  • Initial collecting guidance on datasets was issued in 2017 and subsequently was updated and expanded in a 2019 revision.

Staff from all areas of the Library – acquisitions, collection development, reference, cataloging, information technology and the Copyright Office – are working to make this happen. I am thrilled by the progress that has been made and look forward to a point within the next couple of years when digital collecting at scale of selected content is business as usual at the nation’s library.

More Information

Please share your questions or comments about this plan’s implementation or any aspect of the Library’s collection building program below.

Sprinting toward a Lab: defining, connecting and writing a book in five days

A lab is where experimental and research-focused tools, methods, and services are incubated. The starting premise for a lab is often wanting to spur change and make space for new practice and new people. Yet calling something a lab can also signal separation between traditional services and new approaches. Labs, and innovation in general, can seem like a passing fad that promotes shallow thinking about the application of digital technologies. Considering the limited resources and lack of cutting-edge technologies available at most galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAMs), should GLAMs consider opening labs? 

Open a GLAM Lab book cover.To begin to answer this question, the British Library Lab, which opened in 2013, held a meeting in September of 2018 called “Building Library Labs” to start a conversation among practitioners who were currently running a lab or thinking of opening one. There was a lively enough discussion to warrant another meeting in March of 2019 in Copenhagen. The buzz from these events created a community of “labbers” and the lab-interested that has grown to 250 participants from 20 countries. 

Even with this momentum and interest, participants identified a need to articulate lab values, share relevant experience and case studies, and suggest some best practices for those starting up cultural heritage innovation labs. One year after the first gathering in late September 2019, a group of 16 librarians, developers, archivists, curators and academics from around the world (including myself) landed in Doha, Qatar, to embark on a BookSprint, a collaborative and rapid publishing methodology to write a book in five days

At the end of that five days, the authors strongly argue, yes, “Open a GLAM Lab”.

Labs can be directly tied to achieving the missions of GLAMs and they can be inclusive change-makers. GLAM Labs build on the work of their institutions to create, preserve and provide access to collections. They can work with and share new technologies and methods for creating and disseminating expertise embedded in and adjacent to cultural and memory organizations. By explicitly inviting new users into GLAMs and designing new partnerships with communities, labs can address contemporary challenges around reaching new audiences, collaborating with communities, and sharing the value of collections broadly.

Tools and services created in a GLAM Lab are not devised as permanent. Therefore, space emerges where researchers, artists, educators and the interested public can collaborate with a group of partners with the time and remit to explore questions that help create new collections, tools, and services. These outcomes help transform the future ways in which knowledge and culture are disseminated. The exchange, experimentation and data created in a Lab are open, iterative and shared widely, which can feel risky to authoritative organizations. But GLAMs are full of people who are passionate about connecting collections to communities; Labs provide opportunities to combine new ideas with the deep expertise of existing staff and a mechanism to imagine and test future possibilities.

All this positive thinking about the future of digital transformation in GLAMS can be contagious, and we (the authors) hope that it is. But, there is very hard work involved and a resilient mindset is required. Bureaucracy-hacking, risk-taking and reacting to criticism are all everyday activities in a Lab.  It is challenging to  navigate ingrained processes, anxieties, user expectations, and technical limitations while generating momentum toward future progress. Not all experiments or partnerships end with the hoped for results. Labs can help articulate criteria and provide evidence for hard choices that GLAMs make everyday.

As exciting as the new methods and technical possibilities are, people are the center of a GLAM Lab. Only through engaging with people can you change the culture and direction of an organization. A GLAM Lab helps to translate expertise and generosity from across the organization to make collections and technologies approachable and usable. Establishing values for a GLAM Lab provides guiding principles for how to engage with partners and communities. Nurturing staff and taking an inclusive and transparent approach to engaging with collaborators and user communities help to ensure all groups feel welcome and supported in lab environments.

GLAM Lab Booksprint in Action

GLAM Lab Booksprint in Action

People were also at the center of the experience of writing the book. Capturing the collective experience and perspective from 16 people was a unique experience. As we reflected in the Introduction: Making this book was hard but is was also very special. The themes you see reflected in this book: being open to experimentation, risk-taking, iteration, and transformation also capture the methodology of the BookSprint. The process of extracting ideas from sixteen heads and making a coherent narrative under extremely tight deadlines sometimes got messy. There were highs and lows, moments of brilliance, feelings that we’d never finish, and very late nights. We had to push each other to keep going, be uncomfortable, debate, disagree, come to a decision, and move forward to finish. Sometimes we didn’t do this well, but we were always able to come together again. The five days of intense work resulted in a book, but it also resulted in a very bonded group that is galvanized to make positive change. The process allowed diverse experiences and perspectives to meld together into a unified book that we hope you find useful in answering questions about why time, space and resources for experimentation are important to create.

You can download the open access e-book from http://glamlabs.io and sign up for the GLAM Lab listserv for updates. The book is a collective product with contributions from Mahendra Mahey, Abigail Potter, Aisha Al-Abdulla, Armin Straube, Caleb Derven, Ditte Laursen, Gustavo Candela, Katrine Gasser, Kristy Kokegei, Lotte Wilms, Milena Dobreva-McPherson, Paula Bray, Sally Chambers, Sarah Ames, Sophie-Carolin Wagner and Stefan Karner who are from the following institutions. 

  • Austrian National Library, Austria
  • The British Library, UK
  • Fundación Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes, Spain
  • Ghent Centre for Digital Humanities, Ghent University, Belgium
  • History Trust of South Australia, Australia
  • Library of Congress, USA
  • KB National Library of the Netherlands, The Netherlands
  • National Library of Scotland, UK
  • Qatar University Library, Qatar
  • The Royal Danish Library, Denmark
  • State Library of New South Wales, Australia
  • UCL Qatar, Qatar
  • University of Alicante, Spain
  • University of Limerick, Ireland

The University College London, Qatar, Qatar University, the British Library and the Library of Congress provided funding to hold the BookSprint.  Read more »

Resilience in the Commons: Acquiring and Preserving Open Access Latin American Monographs

Today’s guest post is from Charlotte Kostelic, a Digital Collections Specialist within the Digital Content Management Section of the Library of Congress. The move toward publishing research through open publishing models is growing internationally, but in Latin America, Open Access (OA) publishing is growing at a faster rate than elsewhere. Recent studies suggest 51-95% of […]

Science Blogs Web Archive

This guest post is an interview with Lisa Massengale, Head of the Science Reference Section, with contributions by the Web Archive’s creator Jennifer Harbster, a Science Reference and Research Specialist for the Science, Technology and Business Division from Oct. 2001- Dec. 2015.  Along with her reference duties for the Library’s Science Reference Service, she created […]

Inside, Inside Baseball: A Look at the Construction of the Dataset Featuring the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Library of Congress Digital Collections

This is a guest blog post by visiting scholar archivist Julia Hickey who is on a professional development assignment from the Defense Media Activity to the Library of Congress Labs team. Julia has been helping us prepare for and build out a visualization of collection data for our Inside Baseball event. This post was also […]

User Experience (UX) Design in Libraries: An Interview with Natalie Buda Smith

  Natalie Buda Smith is the User Experience (UX) Team supervisor at the Library of Congress, and most recently worked with NDI to design the beautiful graphic for our Collections as Data conference. Her team has been busy redesigning Loc.gov, and the new homepage is set to debut Tuesday, Nov.1st. We caught up over coffee […]

Co-Hosting a Datathon at the Library of Congress

On June 14 and 15, the Library of Congress hosted Archives Unleashed 2.0, a web archive “datathon” (otherwise known as a “hackathon,” but apparently any term with the word “hack” in it might sound a bit menacing) in which teams of researchers used a variety of analytical tools to query web-archive data sets in the hopes of discovering some intriguing insights before their 48-hour deadline […]

Keeping Our Tools Sharp: Approaching the Annual Review of the Library of Congress Recommended Formats Statement

The following post is by Ted Westervelt, head of acquisitions and cataloging for U.S. Serials in the Arts, Humanities & Sciences section at the Library of Congress. Since first launching its Recommended Formats Statement (then called Recommended Format Specifications in 2014), the Library of Congress has committed to treating it as an important part of […]

ODF: The Open Document Format

The following is a guest post by Carl Fleischhauer, a Digital Initiatives Project Manager at the Library of Congress. During December 2015, the Library’s Format Sustainability website added descriptions of eleven members of the Open Document Format family, aka OpenDocument and ODF. These eleven join a number of other format descriptions mounted in 2015, many […]