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DLF Endorsement for Framework of Guidance for Building Good Digital Collections

In spring/summer 2002, the Institute of Museum and Library Service (IMLS) convened a digital library forum to discuss issues relating to the implementation and management of networked digital libraries. Members of the forum quickly identified collection quality as a critical aspect of digital library management and interoperability, and proceeded to develop a framework for evaluating collection quality and the various mechanisms, standards, and best practices that promise to promote it.

After review, the Framework (available from http://www.imls.gov/pubs/forumframework.htm) has been endorsed by the Digital Library Federation (DLF) and is recommended by the DLF to the broader community.

Where other such guidelines promote specific standards and good practices - mechanisms whose utility is likely to diminish with time and changing technology - the IMLS Framework provides a set of high-level principles by which specific standards and good practices may be judged. In particular, it defines the qualities of "good" digital collections, good objects (that is, the items comprising collections), good metadata (that is, the information that describes items and collections), and good project management. In each case, "good" is defined with reference to two key attributes, notably interoperability and persistence.

The Framework points to a number of specific standards and good practices and as such serves as a valuable resource guide in its own right. These pointers are not intended to provide comprehensive coverage, or even evidence of standards and practices that will stand the test of time. Rather, they supply illustrative examples, and anticipate the emergence of initiatives mandated comprehensively to document digital library standards and practices as they are established and revised. Consequently, it is the Framework, its guiding principles and organizing structure, that receives the DLF endorsement - not the specific standards and good practices that it references.

The DLF finally encourages the IMLS to consider one modest amendment to the Framework. The Framework emphasizes digital collections. This is right and proper given a target audience comprising those developing or investing in the construction of such collections. The DLF envisages circumstances, however, where data producers will produce items rather than collections. For example, an institution might digitize an issue (even an article) of a nineteenth-century periodical in order to contribute that issue (or article) to a collection already developed and made available online by some third party. Indeed, we look forward to a time when whole "virtual collections" will be assembled and completed from the hundreds of disparate items held at numerous institutions. With some slight modification, the Framework can at once inform and encourage this critically important work as well.

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