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Digitized Special Collections

ARL member institutions have made tremendous investments in digitizing their rare and unique special collections materials both for preservation and to promote wider access and exposure to the materials. In 2010, the ARL Board endorsed a set of nine principles to guide vendor/publisher relations in large-scale digitization projects of special collections materials; and in 2012, ARL published a set of articles in Research Library Issues on legal issues in digitizing special collections.

ARL currently has two collaborative research projects with Ithaka S+R on sustainability of digitized special collections: 1) A survey of the ARL membership and 2) An IMLS-funded cooperative agreement to publish case studies of sustainable special collections in the library, museum and cultural heritage community more broadly.

ARL-Ithaka S+R Survey of Sustaining Digitized Special Collections

Appraising our Digital Investment: Sustainability of Digitized Special Collections in ARL Libraries, the results of an ARL-Ithaka S+R survey, was released in February 2013.

ARL and Ithaka S+R surveyed the ARL membership on sustainability of libraries' digitized special collections in June 2012. The survey was designed to:

  • identify the full range of activities and costs that libraries and cultural institutions currently undertake to create, manage, enhance, and preserve digitized rare and unique content on an ongoing basis;
  • expose how effective these practices and activities are in supporting digitized special collections that are accessible to, and meet the needs of, users, identifying trends that will be important to those in the academic and cultural heritage communities who manage digitized collections, as well as to those who fund them. 

ARL-Ithaka S+R Report and Case Studies on Sustainable Digitized Special Collections

The Association of Research Libraries, in collaboration with Ithaka S+R, was awarded a grant by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) National Leadership Grants Program to study how libraries, archives, and museums are sustaining digitized special collections.

Searching for Sustainability: Strategies from Eight Digitized Special Collections was released in November 2013. The report and eight case studies, by Nancy L. Maron, Sarah Pickle, and Deanna Marcum, aims to address one of the biggest challenges facing libraries and cultural heritage organizations: how to move their special collections into the 21st century through digitization while developing successful strategies to make sure those collections remain accessible and relevant over time.



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