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America's Heritage: Mission and Goals for a Digital Library Federation

May 1, 1995

We, the undersigned, agree to collaborate towards the establishment of a Digital Library Federation. The Federation's mission is to bring together -- from across the nation and beyond -- digitized materials that will be made accessible to students, scholars, and citizens everywhere, and that document the building and dynamics of America's heritage and cultures.

We have as our goals:

  • The implementation of a distributed, open digital library conforming to the overall theme and accessible across the global Internet. This library shall consist of collections -- expanding over time in number and scope -- to be created from the conversion to digital form of documents contained in our and other libraries and archives, and from the incorporation of holdings already in electronic form.
  • The establishment of a collaborative management structure to coordinate and guide the implementation and ongoing maintenance of the digital library; to set policy regarding participation, funding, development and access; to encourage and facilitate broad involvement; and to address issues of policy and practice that may inhibit full citizen access.
  • The development of a coordinated funding strategy that addresses the need for support from both public and private sources to provide the means to launch initiatives at our and other institutions.
  • The formation of selection guidelines that will ensure conformance to the general theme, while remaining sufficiently flexible and open-ended to accommodate local initiatives and projects; and to ensure that the digital library comprises a significant and large corpus of materials.
  • The adoption of common standards and best practices to ensure full informational capture; to guarantee universal accessibility and interchangeability; to simplify retrieval and navigation; and to facilitate archivability and enduring access.
  • The involvement of leaders in government, education, and the private sector to address issues of network policy and practice that may inhibit full citizen access.
  • The establishment of an ongoing and comprehensive evaluation program to study:
    • how scholars and other researchers, students of all levels, and citizens everywhere make use of the digital library for research, learning, discovery, and collaboration;
    • how such usage compares with that of traditional libraries and other sources of information;
    • how digital libraries affect the mission, economics, staffing, and organization of libraries and other institutions; and
    • how to design systems to encourage access by individuals representing a broad spectrum of interests.

To these ends, we agree to establish a task force, to be coordinated by the Commission on Preservation and Access, composed of senior members of the staffs of the undersigned founding institutions. The task force will over the next 3 months develop a draft of a phased plan to accomplish these goals, and report back to the undersigned. A final plan will be produced in 6 months. This plan will also address involvement of institutions that are not initial members of the Federation.

We recognize and acknowledge the important leadership role that the Library of Congress has played in raising as a national issue the need for such a national digital library; and in recognizing the need for a broadly collaborative undertaking that brings together the expertise, collections, and capabilities of many institutions.

We understand that the accomplishment of the above goals raises significant issues of policy, funding, organization, scholarship, technology, and law, and will require the participation of many institutions of government, business, and education if the project is to be successful. We pledge that we and our staffs will work together to address these issues and to nurture such participation.

This statement is made in recognition of our common belief that problems and issues inhibiting the formation of digital libraries are best resolved through collaborative practical activity rather than through further theoretical discussion. The time is now ripe to establish a national digital library of sufficient size, scope, and complexity to support a meaningful test of the effect of distributed digital libraries on equitable access, on learning and scholarship, and on the economics and organization of libraries. Signed, May 1, 1995:

Scott Bennett
University Librarian,
Yale University
James H. Billington
Librarian of Congress,
The Library of Congress
Nancy Cline
Dean of University Libraries,
Pennsylvania State University
Richard De Gennaro
Roy E. Larsen
Librarian of Harvard College,
Harvard University
Paula Kaufman
Dean of Libraries,
University of Tennessee
Michael A. Keller
University Librarian and Director of Academic
Information Resources, Stanford University
Nancy S. Klath
Acting University Librarian,
Princeton University
Peter Lyman
University Librarian,
University of California, Berkeley
Donald E. Riggs
Dean of the University Library,
University of Michigan
Alain Seznec
University Librarian,
Cornell University
Lynn F. Sipe
Acting Director of the University Libraries,
University of Southern California
Elaine Sloan
Vice President for Information Services
and University Librarian
Columbia University
Deanna B. Marcum
Commission on Preservation and Access
Joan I. Gotwals
Vice Provost and Director of Libraries,
Emory University
Paul LeClerc
The New York Public Library
Trudy Huskamp Peterson
Acting Archivist of the United States,
National Archives and Records Administration


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