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Digital Collections Development Policy

Georgetown University is an academic community dedicated to creating and communicating knowledge. In pursuit of that mission, the Georgetown University Library selects, creates, and manages collections, including digital collections, for the benefit of the Georgetown community as well as scholars, researchers, and others worldwide.


As with all of its collections, the Library develops digital collections with a sense of respect for the University’s heritage while anticipating the requirements of the 21st century, aware of its mission in the creation of knowledge and in the conservation and transformation of the distinctive cultures that do and ought to shape learning and research at Georgetown. Informed by this mission, the Library will select materials for digitization that support the curriculum, research needs, and aspirations of the University.


The goal of this policy is to create a consistent, structured approach to evaluating digitization projects so that collections selected for digitization (i) will have the greatest impact on research, scholarship, and learning at Georgetown, and (ii) will best support and reflect the mission and goals of the Library and the University.


Materials to be considered under this policy include text and manuscript documents, photographs, fine art, illustrations, sound recordings, video recordings, 3-D objects, and other types of materials. Collections considered under this policy may come from the Library’s general collections, the Booth Family Center for Special Collections (BFCSC), and the Woodstock Theological Library.

Criteria for Digital Projects: Collections

The intellectual content and research value of a collection are the most important criteria when reviewing a proposal from a collections perspective. Collections that do not have known scholarly, academic, teaching, and/or research value will not be considered for digitization. Similarly, collections that do not have clearly defined, known user groups will not be considered for digitization.

The Digital Collections Working Group will review all proposals and assess and prioritize them based on the following criteria:

1. Intellectual Content of the Collection

    • The collection is rich in intellectual content.
      • Materials in the collection provide information, insight, or perspectives not well-documented by other collections within or beyond the Library.
      • The collection represents strong or distinctive holdings of the Library.
      • The materials have institutional, local, regional, national, or international significance.
    • The collection supports research, pedagogical, and/or institutional goals.
      •  The subject is of interest at Georgetown or within the broader community, including but not limited to the following:
        • - Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation
        • - Catholic and Jesuit materials
        • - Foreign policy, diplomacy, international affairs, intelligence
        • - Government documents
        • - Fine arts collections (e.g., prints and Washington, DC, artists)
        • - Literary collections (e.g., American, British, and Catholic authors
        • - Area studies (e.g., Arabic and CJK materials)
        • - Other unique collections (e.g., Women's collections, Motion picture archive)
    • Digitizing the collection enhances the intellectual value of the original objects by improving functionality or providing access to fragile or inaccessible objects.

2. Current and Potential Use of the Collection

    • The collection has the potential for or is already high-use.
    • There is a defined set of users or anticipated users for the collection.
    • The collection is rare or difficult to access.
    • The collection will attract use from both Georgetown and external communities.

3. Institutional Mission

    • The collection reflects Georgetown’s commitment to diversity and the principle that serious and sustained discourse among people of different faiths, cultures, and beliefs promotes intellectual, ethical, and spiritual understanding.
    • The collection reflects Georgetown’s commitment to justice and the common good.
    • The collection promotes reflective lifelong learning.

4. Relationship to Other Collections

    • The materials form a coherent collection, fill gaps in existing collections, or complement existing collection strengths.
    • There is potential for collaborative digital collection building or other collaborative relationships with other institutions.

5. Prestige, Innovation, Inspiration, and Funding

    • The collection brings institutional prestige, distinctiveness, and/or recognition to the Library or University.
    • The collection provides an opportunity for technological innovation.
    • The collection provides inspiration for and ability to engage in transformative teaching, research, and/or learning.
    • Digitizing the collection offers the potential to attract funding.

Criteria for Digital Projects: Technical

In addition to assessing proposed digitization projects from a collections perspective, the collection will be reviewed to determine how difficult it will be to digitize the collection with respect to: preservation, metadata, technology, and rights/privacy. If it is not feasible to digitize a collection due to technical concerns, the proposal will be turned down or deferred.

1. Preservation

Only collections where the gains from the resulting digital collection clearly outweigh the potential harm to the original materials during digitization will be considered. The following questions provide a structure for evaluating a collection from a preservation perspective:

    • Are the materials at risk of being lost due to poor condition or obsolete media format?
    • Will reformatting put the original materials at an unacceptable risk of damage?
    • Is conservation work needed prior to digitization?

2. Metadata

Ideally, collections will be organized and described before they are digitized, though it is likely that additional metadata will need to be created for a digital collection. While different metadata schema will be used to support different digital collections, the metadata for all projects must adhere to community agreed-upon best practices. The following questions provide a structure for evaluating a collection from a metadata perspective:

    • Have the materials been organized and processed?
    • What metadata is already available?
    • What level of metadata is needed for the content of the collection to enhance the discovery of, access to, and use of the digitized materials?
    • What metadata work is needed to support the project?

3. Digitization

Technical expertise and specialized equipment are required to reformat a physical collection to a digital collection. While different technical standards may be used to support different digital collections, the standards for all projects must adhere to community agreed-upon best practices. The following questions provide a structure for evaluating a collection from a digitization perspective:

    • It is technologically possible to digitize the items with resources available in the Library?
    • Can the digital objects be reformatted and stored according to relevant technical specifications, guidelines, and best practices?
    • Are the derivative asset file formats supported by the Library’s digital collections platform?
    • Will the Library’s digital collections platform allow the user to use the collection effectively?

4. Rights & Privacy

The Library has a strong preference to make its digital collections freely available to a worldwide audience for research and educational purposes. The following questions provide a structure for evaluating a collection from a rights and privacy perspective:


    • Are the materials clearly in the public domain?
    • Does the Library have permission to digitize the materials? If not, can the rights holder(s) be located to secure permission?
    • Are there other options that would allow digitizing the materials and making them freely available?


    • Does the collection contain materials with personal information or other content which, if made public, would violate privacy laws or University policies?
    • Is there any other reason why it would be unwise to make the collection, or certain materials within the collection, public?