Task Force on Digitization Policy

Task Force Charge

The Task Force on Digitization Policy is to: 

  • revise and develop the “Principles for Digitized Content” based on comments from stakeholders among ALA units;

  • promote adoption of the Principles as official policy by the ALA Council;

  • initiate a review of existing ALA policies through appropriate ALA units in order to identify:

    • policies requiring revision, and 
    • areas in which policy on digitized content is lacking; and

  • identify and collaborate with ALA units responsible for policy revision and formulation.


Digitization Policy Workshop Chicago, April, 2006

Promotion of Principles for Digitized Content

The Principles for Digitized Content will be presented to ALA Council for discussion and adoption in 2007.

Coordination of revision of ALA policy manual to include digitized content where appropriate

A gap analysis of the policy issues associated with Digital Content prepared by the OITP ad hoc committee. This analysis showed that many of the policy concerns that were surfaced at the April, 2006 workshop are not reflected in ALA policy. The OITP working group working with ALA committees and divisions will coordinate the revision, enhancement and creation of new policies regarding creation, access, use and preservation of digital content.

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Chair: Thomas Wilson (2007-2009)
Associate Dean for Library Technology
University of Alabama Libraries

Sherrie Schmidt (2007-2009)
University Librarian and Dean
Arizona State University

Michelle Newberry (2007-2009)
Assistant Director
Florida Center for Library Automation

Jim Neal (2007-2009)
Vice President for Information Services and University Libraries
Columbia University

Julia Blixrud (2007-2009)
Assistant Executive Director, External Relations
Association of Research Libraries

Bowie Kotrla (2007-2009)
College of Information
Florida State University

M. Claire Stewart (2007-2009)
Acting Head, Marjorie I. Mitchell Multimedia Center Coordinator of Digitization Projects
Northwestern University Library


Liz Bishoff
Head, Sponsored Programs
University of Colorado, Boulder

Karen Coyle
Digital Library Consultant

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Developed at the Digitization Policy Workshop Chicago, April, 2006

The Internet has brought the world of information to classrooms, homes and offices of people worldwide. For over a decade now, libraries and other cultural heritage institutions have been opening their rare and fragile collections to scholars and grade school children alike by digitizing these collections and making them available via the internet. In the last year, libraries have been moving from smaller digitization projects to mass digitization projects that will eventually make available whole collections, including millions of books. Funding agencies are supporting research and demonstration projects that aid libraries and cultural heritage institutions in better understanding digitization processes, web harvesting, tool development, and assessment and evaluation. All of this has taken place without a coherent body of policy to guide decision-making.

The American Library Association's Office of Information Technology Policy (OITP) Advisory Committee hosted the Digitization Policy Workshop attended by representatives from a wide variety organizations from the library and cultural heritage community on April 5-7, 2006. Attendees at the Digitization Policy workshop, representing a wide range of professional associations in the library and cultural heritage arena, have developed a statement of priorities for policy development. The areas most in need of policy include:

  • Funding models that support long term sustainable efforts
  • Control of digital resources through licensing and law
  • Rights management for digitization, preservation and access
  • Preservation capabilities and rights
  • Standards and best practices

Within these areas the following policy and activity areas need to be addressed:

  • Commitment to the cultural commons, including the promotion of open access to all materials and support for the public domain
  • Need to promote broad collaboration, including international collaboration for both projects and funding.
  • Commitment to sustainable efforts for the digital materials, with ongoing funding and strong institutional support.
  • Need to affirm legal mandates for preservation and digital curation, and to create indemnifications for cultural institutions undertaking digitization and digital preservation.
  • Development of community standards for all areas of digital curation, and a broad sharing of best practices for both technology solutions and business models.
  • Support for licenses and partnership agreements that are non-exclusive and that include no restrictions on use.
  • Recognition of the global reach of digital assets and the changing role of libraries in serving that broader public.
  • Increased and specific education for information professionals in all areas of digital resources, including technology, funding, and public service, and education for the public that is served.
  • Creation and promulgation of a shared vocabulary that is not specific to libraries or to other cultural institution; that can communicate to members of the wider technology community, to funding organizations and to legislators.

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Principles for Digitized Content (DRAFT)

The accelerating mass digitization of collections in libraries and cultural heritage institutions demands a framework of principles and a body of policy to guide decision making and to enable values-driven choices. The principles for the digitization of content will provoke a review of American Library Association policies that address the creation, access, use and perservation of digital materials and that require revision, enhancement and creation. This is critical to the advancement of ALA's leadership role in the information society and to the support provided to members. This will also sustain the relevance and impact of libraries and librarians in their communities.


  1. Digital libraries ARE libraries. The policies of the Association apply fully to digital libraries including the core values such as commitment to access, confidentiality/privacy, the public good, and professionalism.

  2. Digital content, like other library materials, must be given the same consideration for collection development, ease of access, freedom of information, and preservation.

  3. Digital activities and the resulting collections must be sustainable by libraries. Sustainability requires secure and ongoing funding, technology solutions that are appropriate to the longevity of the cultural record, and long-term management capabilities.

  4. Digitization on a large scale requires collaboration. Collaboration enables the building of collections that support research, scholarship and information needs of diverse communities. Collaboration will require strong organizational support and promotion by cultural heritage professionals, their institutions, and their associations.

  5. Digital activity requires ongoing communication for its success. The library and cultural heritage community must reach out to the public, to government, and to funding institutions with a clear and compelling message regarding the role of digital libraries and collections.

  6. Digital collections increasingly address an international audience. These collections are part of a global information infrastructure that is not limited by geography.

  7. Digital collections are developed and sustained by an educated workforce. Members of the cultural heritage professions must engage in continuous learning and be able to explore new technology, to work with new partners, and to reach new audiences.

  8. Digital materials must be the object of appropriate preservation. Preservation activities require the development of standards and best practices as well as models for sustainable funding to guarantee long term commitment to these materials.

  9. Digital collections and their materials must adhere to standards to maximize their usefulness. Standards must serve the broadest community of users, support sustainable access and use over time, and provide user functionality that promotes the core library values .

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Documents and Readings

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Related Files

Gap Analysis (PDF File)
Digitization Principles (PDF File)
Digitization POlicy Areas (PDF File)
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OITP, Task, Force,Digitization, Policy
Task Force on Digitization Policy