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Strategies for Building
Digitized Collections

by Abby Smith

September 2001


Digital Library Federation
Council on Library and Information Resources
Washington, D.C.

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In this report, Abby Smith synthesizes the nearly 10 years' experience that libraries have had digitizing items from their rare, special, and general collections, and making them available online. The learning she uncovers is distilled in and extended by several case studies conducted in leading digital libraries with very different digitization programs. Smith demonstrates that digitization programs work best where their role within a library's collection development strategy is clearly understood, and she identifies several roles that such programs can play. Smith also asks a number of searching questions. She muses about the extent to which digitally reformatted special and rare collections can actually support scholarly research. Probing further, she wonders whether leading research libraries in particular might more usefully focus on digitizing general as opposed to special and rare collections. In this way, they would make important holdings available in new ways while taking a first step in avoiding costs associated with their redundant management. The report is consequently much more than a strategic guide for individual institutions; it is a route map that points important directions for the library community as a whole.

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