Digitizing Special Formats – DLF Wiki


This list of resources is curated by the Digital Library Federation for the benefit of cultural heritage professionals planning projects involving the digitization of rare and unique materials. Applicants to the Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives [1] program of the Council on Library and Information Resources [2] may find these helpful in planning project proposals.

Rather than providing comprehensive coverage, this list includes introductory and reference materials that are good places to begin an exploration of issues of broad import to digitizing cultural heritage materials.

Content for this wiki page is currently being curated by the following team: Nicholas Graham, Project Coordinator, North Carolina Digital Heritage Center [3], Lisa Gregory, Digital Projects Librarian, North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, and Tamsyn Rose-Steel, CLIR/DLF Postdoctoral Fellow for Data Curation in Medieval Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

If you would like to suggest a resource for inclusion on this page, send your suggestion to DigiWiki@clir.org. The DLF is currently seeking professionals from DLF member institutions who would like to participate in a curatorial group to develop and maintain the content of this page. Prospective volunteers for this group should also send expressions of interest to DigiWiki@clir.org.


This section curated by Nicholas Graham and Lisa Gregory of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center.

General Resources

The Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative (or FADGI) [4] is a collaboratively maintained clearinghouse of information related to digitization, from project planning [5], to digital file formats [6], to technical specifications [7]. FADGI was launched in 2007 under the auspices of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP). Two groups of professionals from federal agencies develop FADGI outcomes:
(1) the Still Image Working Group [8] produces guidelines for creating digital images of cultural heritage materials; and
(2) the Audio-Visual Working Group [9] covers the digitization of analog audio and audiovisual recordings as well as the digital reformatting of born-digital audio or audiovisual content.

The Society of American Archivists (SAA) [10] provides a useful list of links to sources of information about digitization standards on its website.

The UCLA Libraries Special Collections Digital Project Toolkit [11] includes many template documents suitable for planning digitization projects, such as a Digitization Cost Estimate Worksheet [12], a Fair Use Statement [13], a Vendor Decision Matrix 14, Digitization Workflow Guidelines [15], Quality Control Guidelines [16], and more.

A number of cultural heritage institutions and professionals have created videos about their digitization work for YouTube [17].

Several professional organizations regularly offer webinars on digitization. Lyrasis [18] includes introductory training as well as more in-depth topics. OCLC often focuses on their own products, but their live and recorded webinars can include helpful information. [19]

Cost Estimation and Planning Resources

The Digital Library Federation [20] Assessment Grouphas developed the Library Digitization Cost Calculator [21] (beta) using data collected by Duke University, the University of Alabama, and the Triangle Research Libraries Network. The tool can help professionals create rough estimates for standard flatbed digitization of archival collections. The calculator is currently undergoing revision and the Assessment Group is now calling for institutions to contribute data to the effort [22].

Prior to creating the Cost Calculator, the DLF Assessment Group also put together a Cost Assessment Bibliography with readings and resources on the topic. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1yFWNWonZXHEFagI0A4ujeCl6U7SriJbfmqAgFGLA-Os/edit

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) [23] developed the Principles to Guide Vendor/Publisher Relations in Large-Scale Digitization Projects of Special Collections Materials [24] in 2010 to help institutions build strong working relationships with commercial partners while creating broad access to their collections.

The Mountain West Digital Library [25] (a DPLA Service Hub) organized a Digital Services Pricing Task Force, which conducted an environmental scan of prices offered by a number of vendors and DPLA Service Hubs, and instituted a process for establishing common charges across the digitization centers maintained at MWDL partner institutions. The resulting Digital Services Price List provides predictability for costs for basic digitization, hosting, and metadata services offered to libraries, museums, and archives in the MWDL network. http://mwdl.org/docs/MWDL_Digital_Services_Price_List_2015.pdf

Format-Specific Resources


The EU-based IMPACT Project (IMProving ACcess to Text) [26] provides useful documentation and case studies related to mass digitization of text, optical character recognition (OCR), and estimating digitization costs and storage.

Best Practices for TEI in Libraries [27] provides a recent (2011) overview of possible approaches to incorporating encoded text into large-scale digitization projects.


The Guidelines and Resources [28] page on the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) website [29] provides information about best practices for digitizing newspapers and making newspaper content broadly accessible and discoverable. The NDNP is a partnership of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Library of Congress. The NEH operates the National Digital Newspaper funding initiative [30], which offers grants specifically for newspaper digitization.

The Center for Research Libraries (CRL) [31] maintains the International Coalition on Newspapers (ICON) [32] database, which contains issue and holdings data for nearly 170,000 publications [33] dating from the seventeenth century through the present. The ICON project also includes a directory of digitization efforts around the globe [34]. CRL is actively seeking new contributors to the ICON database; they invite feedback about the project through the database website [35].

The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) [36] maintains a list of links to best practices for digitizing newspapers and serials.

Rare Books & Manuscripts

The International Federation of Library Associations [37] (IFLA) Rare Book and Special Collections Section [38] published its Guidelines for Planning the Digitization of Rare Book and Manuscript Collections [39] in 2014, covering project design, metadata creation, dissemination, and project assessment.


The International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC) Core Standard Specification [40] is a widely used metadata standard for describing photographs and includes details about embedding metadata into digital image files.

The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) is a community of research libraries and image repositories collaboratively developing applications and application programming interfaces that can produce an interoperable technology and community framework for image delivery.

Audio and Audiovisual Recordings

The State of Recorded Sound Preservation in the United States: A National Legacy at Risk in the Digital Age [41] is a report commissioned by the National Recording Preservation Board [42] of the Library of Congress that gives an overview of the complex legal and technical issues facing the preservation of recorded sound. The Board itself also maintains an Audio Preservation Bibliography [43].

The ARSC Guide to Audio Preservation [44] is a practical introduction to caring for and preserving audio collections. It is aimed at individuals and institutions that have recorded sound collections but lack the expertise in one or more areas to preserve them. https://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub164

New York consulting company AVPreserve [45] maintains a useful list of publications and presentations on tools and techniques for the preservation of audiovisual media [46].

A San Francisco nonprofit, the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) [47] has developed a set of Quality Control Tools for Video Preservation [48].

NYU Libraries Preservation Department’s 2013 Digitizing Video for Long-Term Preservation: An RFP Guide and Template 49 is intended to take an institution step-by-step through the process of drafting a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the transfer of analog video formats to digital carriers for preservation.


A list of National Geospatial Program Standards and Specifications [50] appears on the United States Geological Survey (USGS) [51] National Map Project website [52].


The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) [53] aggregates the metadata of digital collections held in educational and cultural heritage institutions across the United States. Institutions with large digital collections may contribute data as Content Hubs [54], while smaller organizations may contribute through local or regional Service Hubs [55]. Contributors must abide by the DPLA’s data policies [56] in order to participate. See also: An Introduction to the DPLA Metadata Model (pdf) 57; The DPLA Metadata Application Profile [58]; DPLA Metadata Aggregation Webinar Recording, 1/22/15 [59].

Many DPLA Service Hubs and their partners provide useful documentation and links to tools for metadata normalization, quality control, and aggregation through their project websites.

Digitization Guidelines, North Carolina Digital Heritage Center [60]: http://www.digitalnc.org/about/policies/digitization-guidelines/

–DPLA aggregation tools on GitHub, North Carolina Digital Heritage Center: https://github.com/ncdhc

Setting Up a Repository for Harvest, Mountain West Digital Library [61]: http://mwdl.org/getinvolved/repository_setup.php

Portal Partners Page, The Portal to Texas History [62]: http://www.library.unt.edu/digital-projects-unit/our-partners

The Print Archives Preservation Registry (PAPR) [63] collects information about serial titles, print holdings, and archiving terms and conditions. It is a valuable resource for assessing the uniqueness of serial collections and determining the degree of need for digitization of those collections.

Getting Found: the SEO Cookbook [64] provides a step-by-step video guide to help libraries measure and monitor the search engine optimization (SEO) performance of their digital repositories. The Cookbook includes everything necessary to implement a preconfigured Google Analytics dashboard that continuously monitors SEO performance metrics relevant to digital repositories.

The Wikipedia Library [65] offers resources to help cultural heritage institutions expose their collections through Wikipedia. As a common starting point for research, Wikipedia can be used to direct researchers to libraries where the resources can be accessed directly. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:The_Wikipedia_Library/Research_libraries#Library_discovery | http://specialcollectionssocialmedia.pbworks.com/w/page/82745872/Wikipedia


This section curated by Tamsyn Rose-Steel, CLIR/DLF Postdoctoral Fellow for Data Curation in Medieval Studies.

The Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR) [66] is an international directory of academic open access repositories, useful for those seeking options for depositing digital collections or models for developing new digital repositories.

The Trustworthy Repositories Audit & Certification: Criteria and Checklist (TRAC) [67] describes the characteristics of secure and sustainable digital repository management.

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) Web Accessibility Toolkit [68] explains the principles of accessibility, universal design, and digital inclusion, and offers tips about best practices and checklists for digital repository creators that can help them ensure digitized content is as broadly accessible as possible.


This section curated by Tamsyn Rose-Steel, CLIR/DLF Postdoctoral Fellow for Data Curation in Medieval Studies.

Thanks to the WikiProject Digital Preservation [69], the information about digital preservation on Wikipedia [70] is substantial and current.

The National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA) [71] has published the 2015 NDSA National Agenda for Digital Stewardship [72], which provides a broad overview of current “challenges, opportunities, gaps, and trends” related to building and maintaining digital collections in the United States. See also: The NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation [73].

The Sustainability of Digital Formats page [74] provides detailed descriptions and notes on sustainability issues for hundreds of digital file formats [75].

The Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) [76] has compiled a Digital Preservation Reading List [77] that provides a thorough introduction to the challenges of digital preservation as they relate to cultural heritage collections. Additional links to resources related to digital preservation are provided on NEDCC’s website [78].

From Theory to Action: “Good Enough” Digital Preservation Solutions for Under-Resourced Cultural Heritage Institutions (2014) is a white paper compiling the results of a three-year study of affordable, scalable digital preservation solutions suitable for under-resourced organizations.

Digital Preservation Management: Short-Term Strategies for Long-Term Problems is a tutorial created by Cornell University Libraries with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. It is now hosted by the MIT Libraries:

The Guidelines for Digital Newspaper Preservation Readiness 79 address a specific set of preservation challenges faced by libraries, archives, historical societies, and other organizations that curate substantial collections of digital newspaper content. Guidelines was written by Katherine Skinner and Mat Schultz and was published by the Educopia Institute [80] in 2014.


This section curated by Nicholas Graham and Lisa Gregory of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center.

Introducing Copyright and Cultural Heritage Institutions

Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for Digitization for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums [81] by Peter Hirtle, Emily Hudson, and Andrew Kenyon (2009) provides comprehensive coverage of all major copyright issues relevant to digitization in cultural heritage institutions. This work is also available in print from the Society of American Archivists 82.

The Association of Research Libraries, in particular its initiatives on Transforming Special Collections in the Digital Age 83 and on Copyright and Intellectual Property [84], has published a variety of documents relevant to the digitization of special collections and archives, including a 2012 special issue of Research Library Issues that covers legal concerns related to digitizing rare and unique materials.

Determining Copyright Status

The ALA Copyright Slider http://librarycopyright.net/resources/digitalslider/ is a simple, user-friendly guide to determining copyright status of works. http://librarycopyright.net/resources/digitalslider/

Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States [85] contains a helpful and very thorough chart for determining the copyright status of works created and/or published in the United States. https://copyright.cornell.edu/resources/publicdomain.cfm

Copyright and Related Issues Relevant to Digital Preservation and Dissemination of Unpublished Pre-1972 Sound Recordings by Libraries and Archives describes what libraries and archives can legally do to preserve and make accessible holdings of unpublished sound recordings.

Recommendations for Standardized International Rights Statements[86] is a white paper summarizing the conclusions of a working group convened by the Digital Public Library of America and Europeana.

Orphan Works

The Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use of Collections Containing Orphan Works for Libraries, Archives, and Other Memory Institutions, [87] developed by the Center for Media & Social Impact at American University and the UC Berkeley School of Law, includes clear guiding principles for us in determining when to apply fair use in the digitization and online publication of orphan works. The statement was produced after talking with librarians and archivists around the country. http://www.cmsimpact.org/fair-use/best-practices/statement-best-practices-fair-use-orphan-works-libraries-archives

In 2009, the Society of American Archivists [88] issued Orphan Works: Statement of Best Practices to guide decision-making in conducting research into the copyright status of unpublished collections. The document includes a variety of useful links and appendices.


The Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums [89] maintains a list of resources relevant to the care of cultural materials of indigenous peoples.

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