CPA/CLR Inventory–Digital Collections Inventory
Council on Library Resources
Commission on Preservation and Access
Digital Collections Inventory ReportBy Patricia A. McClung
In July 1995 the Commission on Preservation and Access and the Council
on Library Resources undertook a joint project to determine how much digitizing
of library collections was planned, underway, or completed. The object
of the survey was to show which collections/subjects were available for
on line use, as well as to highlight where there was little or no conversion
activity. In addition, the project was intended to gather sufficient data
to ascertain whether an on line index or guide to digital conversion projects
would be either useful or practical.
Because the time frame for the study was quite limited, it was impossible
to be comprehensive. But time was not the only restriction. Given the rate
at which projects are announced, launched (and sometimes tabled), a complete
study would be seriously out of date before it left the desktop printer.
In fact, a significant percentage of the projects cited in previous studies
have yet to materialize.1 Similarly,
some that were successfully launched and held great promise (like the JANUS
project at the Columbia University Law Libraries) were unsuccessful due
to technical or financial problems. In addition, many of the digital collections
that do exist are not widely available (via the Internet), either because
of local technical limitations or copyright issues.
As for the survey’s methodology, it evolved as the exercise took shape
along the way. It started with a brief questionnaire which was circulated
via several listservs, as well as to a number of individuals who were known
to be involved in various digital conversion activities. The questions
were brief and to the point:
- Which of your [library or archive] collections have been scanned [or
- Did the project include the entire collection, or simply a portion
of it? (If a portion, how much?)
- Under what subject would you classify each of the scanned collections
(or, perhaps more appropriately: can you categorize each of the scanned
collections by subject)?
The questionnaire yielded approximately 40 responses.
The questionnaire was a useful instrument, but as it turned out, the most
productive data gathering resulted from following leads from one knowledgeable
person to another, interspersed with World Wide Web expeditions on the
Internet. As is frequently the case with most investigations in and of
cyberspace, serendipity played a major role.