Digital Archival Collections survey

Jisc is supporting Higher Education (HE) institutions in developing a more strategic approach to the acquisition of Digital Archival Collections (DACs). We have been working with 12 HE libraries* on a pilot to help us identify, specify, and quantify information and data which supports a more informed decision-making process.

The pilot has shown us, amongst other things, just how hard it is to define what we mean by digital archival collections. In the end we have arrived at the the following definition which evolved from earlier ones which had been developed during early research activities:

Digital Archival Collections:

  • Are normally purchased as perpetual licence/one-off major expenditure
  • Often consist of primary source material, although may include secondary sources
  • Are not current journals or current book collections
  • Are not generally journal back-files or older books *except* where the use is intended in a more historic or social research context, where the material almost functions as a primary source (so e.g. 19th century periodical archive could qualify, as could historical book collections)

We were still left with ambiguities because the are sometimes bought as subscriptions and often attract platform/access fees, which means they then appear in library budgets. After much deliberation we are satisfied with the definition we have derived from this work.

The pilot has also helped us to identified some solutions to the provision of information about DACs. The effectiveness of such information should help  to lighten the load when librarians are making purchasing decisions.

The proposed solutions and accompanying benefits are describe in this survey which we now would like HEIs to complete. We are targeting institutions which have not partaken in the pilot  in order that we are better informed about what is most important to the whole sector when it comes to buying these resources. If you are either in a strategic role with oversight of purchasing such collections or are a librarian routinely involved in the acquisition processes, please follow the link and complete the survey. Thank you in advance for your participation.

* The participating institutions:  University of Birmingham; University of Bristol; University of Cambridge; Durham University; University of the Highlands and Islands; University of Leicester; University of Manchester; Nottingham Trent University; University of Plymouth; University of St Andrews;  University of Sussex

By Peter Findlay

Subject Matter Expert, Digital Scholarship, Content and Discovery, Jisc

Working with Jisc's Higher Education members to improve access to to their special collections in the age of data-centric arts, humanities and social science research.

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