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Digital Library Program

The University of Chicago Library's Mission Statement recognizes the increasing importance of digital resources as part of the Library's collection. In pursuit of its mission, the Library "facilitates the creation, discovery and use of these resources" and "ensures the long-term preservation, availability, and access to these resources." The Digital Library Program provides organizational structure and institutional commitment for achieving these goals.

The Library is organized to facilitate the coordination of digital activities and their integration into ongoing programs and services. Reporting to the director, the Digital Library Development Center (DLDC) coordinates the Digital Library Program, develops and maintains its technical infrastructure, and coordinates with related groups and initiatives on campus; the Digital Reformatting Unit within the Preservation Department provides ongoing expertise and services in the conversion of materials to digital form; the Library Computing Council provides a communication forum for senior administrators and technical managers to discuss issues related to library computing and to prioritize computing projects.

The Digital Library Program has several ongoing programs for creating and delivering various types of digital resources. Materials from our general and special collections are identified by the Digital Collections Steering Committee for digitization in the Library's Digital Reformatting Program and for grant-funded projects. Selection criteria include such factors as intellectual value, added value through digitization, preservation needs, and scarcity of holdings. The Special Collections Research Center has an ongoing program to convert the Library's archival collections finding aids into XML using the current Encoded Archival Description DTD (EAD 2002) and load them into a local Finding Aids Database as well as into national archival catalogs. The Electronic Text Services Program provides access to electronic full-text resources by converting and indexing them for presentation using Philologic, a locally-developed full-text search, retrieval and text analysis tool.

The Digital Archiving Program ensures that digital information with lasting value is preserved for future access. The scope of the Library's Digital Archiving Program includes materials that are locally created and unique to the University as well as materials more widely held, but for which the Library provides access and has shared, inter-institutional interest in preserving. The Library has long been committed to promoting digitization as a preservation reformatting option and to implementing strategies to ensure the long-term availability of digital resources (see Recognizing Digitization as a Preservation Reformatting Method [PDF], a paper co-authored by Library staff and available on the Association of Research Libraries' Digitization Resources page).

Digital Library Functions and Practices

Digital library functions are distributed throughout the Library's organizational structure and coordinated through the Digital Library Program. Several working groups support and inform digital library activities and provide standing forums for addressing cross-departmental issues. In this collaborative environment the expertise of specialists from various departments is applied to our Digital Library Program and digital activities are integrated into ongoing Library activities.


Subject specialists and curators are responsible for making selection decisions for digitization according to recommended guidelines. Digital projects are developed in consultation with faculty and researchers and/or in collaboration with colleagues at other institutions. Large-scale proposals are reviewed and prioritized by the Library Computing Council.

Programming and Infrastructure

The Digital Library Development Center (DLDC) provides a central core of staff dedicated exclusively to digital library work. It coordinates digital activities, provides leadership in the creation, implementation, documentation, and assessment of digital library initiatives, and develops and maintains a sustainable, standards-based, technical infrastructure to support the Library's digital information systems and collections. DLDC staff perform Web design, programming and database development, and Unix system administration on the two dozen server computers that provide digital library services for the Library and related initiatives on campus. The DLDC supports a technical infrastructure that combines both vended and locally developed solutions and actively collaborates on national and international digital library initiatives.


The Preservation Department and Special Collections Research Center provide conversion services for Library collections. Digital capture, processing, and quality control are performed according to accepted standards and best practices in order to create high quality digital master files. Both units also oversee the specifications and quality control of conversion work done by vendors. In addition, the units derive use copy files and create associated metadata that allows linking of bibliographic description to digital objects and provides navigation within these objects. Files are named according to an established convention which incorporates project and item identification, derivative type, and sequence information where applicable.


Metadata for our digital resources is captured and/or created by staff in Cataloging, Preservation, and Special Collections. Descriptive metadata for locally-created digital objects is drawn from existing sources such as MARC records, finding aids, and collection labels and may be further supplemented with information derived directly from the piece at the point of digitization and cataloging. Descriptive metadata is stored in standardized formats (e.g., MARC, MODS, EAD, etc.) and uses controlled vocabulary derived from appropriate thesauri when possible. Persistent identifiers are created for locally-created digital objects. Structural, technical, and preservation metadata are recorded by staff as part of the digitization process. The Non-MARC Metadata Group examines existing and emerging metadata standards to analyze their applicability to our various digital activities.


The DLDC develops the infrastructure that ensures long-term access to digital materials. Digital master files are maintained on a Unix server computer which is accessible only by authorized users and redundant copies are made and stored on both CD and tape. The Digital Archiving Program ensures that systems are developed in accordance with digital archiving best practices and that the Library's digital assets are controlled using a set of core metadata elements based on those being developed by the PREMIS Working Group.

Discovery and Dissemination

Interfaces to our digital resources are developed with input from subject specialists and public services staff, web designers, programming staff, digital conversion staff, and users. The Library's Assessment Interest Group supports the evaluation of these interfaces through such means as usability studies and use analysis. Digital resources are made widely available through multiple avenues including collection-specific interfaces, the Library's online catalog, linking services such as SFX, and various union catalogs and digital repositories.

The Library maintains an OAI (Open Archives Initiative) metadata provider, through which it exposes item records in simple Dublin Core, qualified Dublin Core and/or MODS formats for the following collections: American Environmental Photographs; University of Chicago Photographic Archive (Series II: Buildings and Grounds); Chopin Early Editions; The Digital South Asia Library (The Hensley Photo Library); and The First American West. Archives and Manuscripts Finding Aids will be added shortly. Metadata for the Library's other digital collections will be exposed as soon as they become available.

Development Partners

The ARTFL Project
The Library collaborates with the ARTFL project to develop the PhiloLogic search engine used to deliver electronic full-text databases.

CUIP: Chicago Public Schools/University of Chicago Internet Project
The Library collaborates with CUIP to enhance teaching and learning in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The Library manages the eCUIP Digital Library which develops and provides access to electronic collections relevant to the CPS curriculum, and partners with CPS librarians and teachers to incorporate use of these materials in the classroom.

Humanities Research Computing
The Library has collaborated with Humanities Research Computing on various project undertaking by Humanities faculty.  Examples include the Kanji Alive project and work with the Digital Media Archive.

ITServices Academic Technologies: Learning Technology
The Library and ITService's Learning Technology Group work together in order to provide enhanced support to faculty in their teaching and research. To this end, the Library provides space, adjacent to its Digital Library Development Center, for NSIT's Learning Technology Group, including its Audio Visual Services, the Chalk project, and the Digital Media Laboratory.

Online Cultural Heritage Research Environment (OCHRE)
The Library provides technical support to the OCHRE project by running the Tamino XML Server software upon which XSTAR is built.

Sloan Digital Sky Survey
The Library collaborated with University faculty, The Fermi National Research Laboratory, and Johns Hopkins University to archive the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The Library archives copies of the SDSS data as well as providing reference services and secondary servers for the SDSS SkyServer.

Related Digital Initiatives

The Library undertakes its digital activities within the broader context of national and international initiatives. The Library supports and contributes to organizations working towards interoperable digital environments and contributes digital materials and records to subject-based repostitories.

Library Memberships

The Library maintains membership in the following organizations which support digital initiatives and inter-institutional collaboration.

Digital Collections to which we Have contributeD: