commercial partners. When it comes to rare and unique materials, libraries and
archives should be able to negotiate from a position of strength, which will be
enhanced if we approach this collectively. Simply put, can we resist the
temptation to enter into special deals
for special collections digitization that
may offer short-term gains but
ultimately be of disservice to our
institutions and our users?
At the May 2009 ARL Membership
Meeting, approximately 100 member
directors participated in a real-time
survey that involved the use of clickers
and a set of questions focusing on
Among questions posed was one in
which they were asked whether they
would be “willing to commit my
institution to forego one-on-one
arrangements with commercial entities
around digitization of special
collections materials in favor of
collective arrangements involving
multiple research libraries.” Their
responses were encouraging: 89% of
audience members either strongly
agreed (56%) or agreed (33%) with this
statement. Only 11% disagreed and
only 1% strongly disagreed.
What might be considered critical
in collective arrangements governing
contracts for the mass digitization of
special collections? Following the May
ARL meeting, a number of us started a
list of principles and came up with nine. I want to acknowledge especially the
work of Peter Hirtle (Cornell) who drafted these statements and Madelyn
Wessel (University of Virginia) who provided invaluable comments. Thanks
The Collaborative Imperative: Special Collections in the Digital Age
C O N T I N U E D
DECEMBER 2009 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
Principles to Guide Large-Scale
Digitization of Special Collections
Principle 1: Distinct collections demand extra
vigilance in digitization.
Principle 2: Libraries must respect any donor-imposed
restrictions on the digitization and use of materials.
Principle 3: Libraries should seek the broadest possible user
access to digitized content. This includes patrons of other
libraries and unaffiliated researchers.
Principle 4: Libraries should receive copies of all digital files
generated from their collections, with the option for complete
local access to the files (to the extent that copyright law allows).
Principle 5: Any enhancements or improvements to the
digitized content should be shared on a regular basis with
the supplying library.
Principle 6: Restrictions on external access to copies of works
digitized from a library’s holding should be of limited duration.
Principle 7: Libraries should refrain from signing nondisclosure
agreements (NDAs) as part of digitization negotiations.
Principle 8: Libraries should ensure that the confidentiality of
users is protected in the vendor’s products.
Principle 9: Libraries should refrain from charging fees or
royalties for access to or non-commercial use of public domain
materials held in their collections.
The author wishes to acknowledge the work of Peter B. Hirtle,
Senior Policy Advisor, Cornell University Library, in developing
this set of principles.