This report aims to address one of the biggest challenges facing libraries and cultural heritage organizations: how to move their special collections into the 21st century through digitization while developing successful strategies to make sure those collections remain accessible and relevant over time. Through a cooperative agreement as part of the National Leadership Grants Program, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) funded the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), in partnership with Ithaka S+R, to undertake in-depth case studies of institutions that have worked to build the audience, infrastructure, and funding models necessary to maintain and grow their digital collections.

The eight collections profiled provide useful models and examples of good practice for project leaders to consider when digitizing their own materials. We hope that these case studies will encourage greater discussion among individuals in the academic library and cultural heritage communities about the reasons why they invest so much time and energy in the creation and ongoing management of their digitized special collections, the goals they set for them, and the planning needed to realize those aims. These questions become even more pressing in an environment where the traditional sources of funding for digitization are beginning to wane. In the coming years, the ability to identify secure sources of support and to demonstrate impact over time will undoubtedly become increasingly important.

Case Studies

Advisory Committee

  • Edward Galloway, Head, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh
  • Nancy E. Gwinn, Director, Smithsonian Libraries
  • Anne R. Kenney, Carl A. Kroch University Librarian, Cornell University
  • Kim Sajet, President and CEO, Historical Society of Pennsylvania (now Director, National Portrait Gallery)
  • Victoria Steele, Director of Collections Strategy, New York Public Library
  • Beth Yakel, Professor, School of Information, University of Michigan