Digital Collection Development Policy
Prepared by the Documentary Heritage Collection Sector
(Approved by the Management Board of LAC on February 1, 2006)
- 1. Policy Framework
- 2. Definitions
- 3. Basic Policy Statements
- 4. Selection Guidelines
- 4.1 Web Sites
- 4.2 Networked Publications
- 4.3 Government Records [In development]
- 4.4 Private Records [In development]
- 5. Roles and Responsibilities
- 6. Monitoring and Review
1. Policy Framework
This policy indicates the directions Library and Archives Canada takes to ensure the collection of digital documentary heritage materials of enduring interest to the history and culture of Canada, and in collaboration with others, to enable the collection of other digital information resources of value to Canadians.
Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is guided by its mandate to preserve the documentary heritage of Canada for the benefit of present and future generations, to be a source of enduring knowledge accessible to all, and to serve as the continuing memory of the Government of Canada and its institutions.
Increasingly, the documentary heritage of Canada is being born digital and made accessible to Canadians in digital form. The rapid move to a digital environment has changed everything the LAC mandate touches - publishing, government, research, learning, and culture. Library and Archives Canada has therefore set as a primary objective to become a truly digital institution. In terms of collection development, this means that LAC will become as adept in collecting documentary heritage materials in digital form as it has long been with traditional materials.
Library and Archives Canada also seeks to help others acquire, describe, or preserve the Canadian digital information resources for which they accept responsibility.
LAC is committed to develop with others national collaborative strategies and initiatives for the collection of digital materials.
Development of the LAC collection of digital materials is based on the broad collecting mandate established by the Library and Archives of Canada Act http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/L-7.7/80647.html to acquire the documentary heritage of Canada. It is also governed by the more specific powers outlined in the legislation that relate to the transfer of government and ministerial records of historical or archival value1 and the transfer of government records at risk, the powers that relate to the legal deposit of online publications and the representative sampling of the Internet, and by the provisions in the accompanying Legal Deposit of Publications Regulations.
The Library and Archives Canada Collection Development Framework (2005) establishes as a key direction for the period 2005-2010 the development of the policy, procedures, technology, and staff skills that will be required to work effectively in the digital realm. The necessary first step in this process is the creation of this collection development policy that applies to all types of digital materials acquired or produced by LAC.
Library and Archives Canada has direct responsibility for the systematic collection, preservation, and ongoing access to digital heritage materials of enduring interest to the history and culture of Canada. LAC began to first acquire digital records in the form of data sets in the mid 1970's. Since then the archival acquisition program has evolved to meet changes in technology and the creation of increasing complex digital objects such as database structures, textual records, graphics, audio recordings, and moving images. LAC began to systematically acquire digital publications such as music recordings on compact disc in the 1980s. CD ROMs became subject to legal deposit in 1993 and electronic publications on all types of physical format in 1995. The organized acquisition of Internet publications began in 1993 and was accomplished through voluntary arrangements with publishers. Experimentation with the acquisition of a limited number of web sites began in 2000 and has continued since then. Digitization of collection content has been undertaken by LAC since the early 1990s and has increased substantially over the years.
The digital documentary heritage materials acquired or produced by LAC that form part of the LAC collection include:
- Digital publications, either published on physical carriers such as diskettes, compact discs, and CD-ROMs, or published online through the Internet
- Digital records, whether received digitally, or on a physical carrier
- Web sites, whether collected individually, or as part of a broader harvest of selected domains on the Internet
- Digital materials, created to enable increased access, that are digital copies of traditional format materials contained in the LAC collection2
- Digital materials, created as a result of the conversion of LAC collection materials in obsolete technical formats to digital formats, where the new digital version replaces the original version of the material
Over time, this list can be expected to change in response to new forms of digital communication, new technologies, and changing collection development needs and priorities.
One of the main challenges in developing policy for digital materials is the tremendous amount of digital material of all types that is being produced and the exponential pattern of growth exhibited in many areas. In addition, the speed at which digital materials can disappear or become inaccessible means decisions to select and acquire must be taken earlier rather than later.
Other challenges include:
- More analysis is required to determine the quality and value of content
- Technical requirements and capacities have to be considered and analyzed as part of the acquisition process
- The structure and content of material is frequently dynamic in nature
- Maintaining accessibility and authenticity requires the capacity for active management of the material's dependence on rapidly changing hardware and software
- New approaches to description are necessary to complement new methods of collection and preservation (e.g. harvesting) and to accommodate the different ways information is searched for in the online environment (e.g. full text keyword access)
- New models of authorship and ownership can impose rights-based constraints
- The cooperation and collaboration of creators is critical to success
- Users expectations of access to content are high
The key principles and assumptions guiding the collection of digital materials are those outlined in the Collection Development Framework for Library and Archives Canada.
In implementing this policy with regard to its own collection, the Library and Archives will:
- Ensure cross-sector collaboration and planning for all aspects of digital collection development within LAC
- Ensure a financial commitment to an acquisition, description, accessibility, and preservation program for digital materials
- Ensure an organizational focus that supports a coordinated corporate approach to digital materials
- Adopt an active management approach, including working with creators at the digital resource creation stage where possible
- Support standards development and research that facilitate LAC's business needs
- Adapt to the changing nature of technological developments, and to evolving standards and best practices
Library and Archives Canada is one part of a larger national network of those with an interest in ensuring the national documentary heritage is collected, preserved, and accessible. Others involved include: archives, libraries, museums, creators, publishers, governments, and information users.
The LAC seeks to work with others who have responsibility for components of Canada's digital documentary heritage. In working with others, LAC desires to:
- Understand the goals, objectives, and needs of the communities of creators and the communities of consumers of digital documentary heritage materials
- Identify appropriate partners and stakeholders to contribute to a national effort
- Help develop national strategies and initiatives that enable the distribution of collecting, description, service delivery, and preservation activity
- Establish understandings or agreements with members of the documentary heritage community that respect the mandates of all members of the community
- Work actively with creators of documentary heritage materials to encourage and promote practices that will enable the collection and preservation of the digital heritage
- Develop and promote in collaboration with creators guidelines and standards to direct or assist creators in the transfer of digital materials to LAC
Selection and Acquisition Criteria
The selection of Canadian heritage materials in digital form will be guided by the same general objectives that direct the selection of materials in other media, that is to say, LAC will develop:
- a comprehensive collection of published Canadiana that documents the published heritage of Canada and materials published elsewhere of interest to Canada, and that supports the creation of a comprehensive national bibliography to make that heritage known and accessible,
- records holdings sufficient to document the functions and activities of the Government of Canada, and
- a representative collection of records of heritage value that document the historical development and diversity of Canadian society.
For published digital materials, the intention is to be comprehensive for those publications received on legal deposit and representative for those web sites acquired by sampling from the Internet. The selection of digital records, both government and private, is to be guided by the same methodologies and practices that direct the acquisition of records in traditional formats.
Specific policy, criteria, and guidelines related to the selection of digital materials for the LAC collection, such as web sites, are also required and these are a component of the collection development policy.
LAC also acquires on a selective basis non-Canadian digital materials that are not considered to be part of the documentary heritage but which are acquired because they are necessary to support the collecting mandate and to support services to the public.
In most cases digital materials identified to be of value by LAC will be acquired and preserved by LAC in its permanent collection. LAC will also provide organized access to a range of digital materials whose acquisition and preservation is the responsibility of others. Included within this approach are digital materials of recognized national heritage value acquired and preserved by others in Canada at either the local or regional level; non-Canadian digital materials to supplement the LAC collection; and digital materials to support the research or client services of LAC.
The LAC maintains various other policy documents and guidelines relevant to digital materials that include:
Guidelines for Computer File Types, Interchange Formats and Information Standards (June 2004)
Electronic Publishing Guide to Best Practices for Canadian Publishers (2001)
1 Historical or archival value is determined by LAC through the application of macro-appraisal methodology as outlined in "Appraisal Methodology: Macro-Appraisal and Functional Analysis Part A and Part B" and "Drafting an Appraisal Report for the Disposition of Government Records".
2 Such copies are produced as part of LAC's mandate to make the documentary heritage known and are not therefore the result of collection development activity per se. They are preserved as part of the LAC collection in accordance with the approaches and standards laid out in the preservation policy of LAC.