Preface–Digital Collections Inventory
Council on Library Resources
Commission on Preservation and Access
Digital Collections Inventory ReportBy Patricia A. McClung
The digital age creates new delivery and access alternatives for libraries,
as well as new preservation challenges. In turn the expectations of library
users are changing. As people discover information resources online at
their computer workstations, they also want access to the contents of libraries
in that same online environment.
Digital conversion projects help provide the content for an online digital
library; in some cases, projects conducted according to sound preservation
guidelines also serve to reformat deteriorating paper-based resources.
The Council on Library Resources and the Commission on Preservation and
Access undertook this project to learn more about the types of digital
conversion efforts underway (or completed) in libraries and archives. The
idea was to take a first cut at sketching the nature and extent of efforts
to make traditional, retrospective collections available in digital form,
rather than to produce a comprehensive inventory.
While there is much talk of virtual libraries, it is not easy to discern
how much progress is really being made from exploratory projects to new
modes of access. Furthermore, creating online collections involves more
than conversion of resources from paper or film to digital format. For
example, it is helpful to know what subjects and media have been converted
in order to focus on complementary materials or fill in major gaps in the
digital canon. Quality issues that affect the preservation of and long-term
access to digitized resources, as well as efficacy of their use, also can
be best addressed when institutions share information and project results.
This preliminary investigation, and its appendices, exemplify the paradoxical
nature of the transition to a digital world. The findings argue strongly
that the online tools now at our disposal–particularly the World Wide
Web – can do a much better job than this printed report of providing information
and multi-dimensional access to these kinds of resources. This report is
intended to move us closer to that goal.