Launching the Digital Collections Management Compendium

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).

Screenshot of the Digital Content Management Compendium's About page.

Screenshot of the Digital Content Management Compendium’s About page.

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.

Data and Humanism Shape Library of Congress Conference

The presentations at the Library of Congress’ Collections As Data conference coalesced into two main themes: 1) digital collections are composed of data that can be acquired,  processed and displayed in countless scientific and creative ways and 2) we should always be aware and respectful that data is manipulated by — and derived from — people. […]

Digital Collections and Data Science

Researchers, of varying technical abilities, are increasingly applying data science tools and methods to digital collections. As a result, new ways are emerging for processing and analyzing the digital collections’ raw material — the data. For example, instead of pondering one single digital item at a time – such as a news story, photo or […]

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 […]

Insights Interview: Josh Sternfeld on Funding Digital Stewardship Research and Development

The 2015 iteration of the National Agenda for Digital Stewardship identifies high-level recommendations, directed at funders, researchers, and organizational leaders that will advance the community’s capacity for digital preservation. As part of our Insights Interview series we’re pleased to talk with Josh Sternfeld, a Senior Program Officer in the Division of Preservation and Access at […]

What’s a Nice English Professor Like You Doing in a Place Like This: An Interview With Matthew Kirschenbaum

I’ve talked about Matthew Kirschenbaum’s work in a range of posts on digital objects here on The Signal. It seemed like it would be valuable to delve deeper into some of those discussions here in an interview. If you are unfamiliar, Matthew G. Kirschenbaum is Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University […]

Digital Humanities and Digital Preservation

This past April 8 was the 2013 “Day of Digital Humanities.”  Started in 2010, this is an annual event of blogging and tweeting about the experience of digital humanities by graduate students, professors, alt-academics, librarians and other participants who identify with the field.  And “the field” of Digital Humanities can be whatever you define it […]

Digital Technology Expands the Scope and Reach of the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collections

I am happy to have had the chance to interview Jan Ziolkowski, Director, and Yota Batsaki, Executive Director, of Dumbarton Oaks, about some recent developments involving use of technology to enhance the institution’s collections. Bill: The Dumbarton Oaks collections are as fascinating as they are diverse, relating as they do to Byzantine, Pre-Columbian and Garden […]