Digital Projects 101: A Resource Guide

The purpose of this document is to provide information and links to documents, websites, and other sources to assist CARLI member libraries in developing and maintaining digital collections. This document is aimed at both institutions who may be digitizing for the first time and those who are seeking additional guidance and resources to support existing digitization efforts.

Disclaimer: References to specific products, vendors, or commercial services does not necessarily constitute or imply endorsement or recommendation by CARLI.

Getting Started

The CARLI website includes a wealth of resources and best practices for digital collections. Start with the following resources for a comprehensive overview of best practices and guidelines.

CONTENTdm Documentation
See the section for "Best Practices for Digital Collections" which includes best practices for metadata and guidelines for multiple format types, such as text, images, audio, video, and three-dimensional objects.

DPLA Information and Documentation
This page includes information about rights statements, shareable metadata, and metadata case studies that may be useful regardless of your institution’s participation status in the Illinois Digital Heritage Hub.

Anatomy of a Digital Project
This 2012 webinar series covers the "core steps in managing a digital project from selection through preservation of digital objects."

Other General Documentation

Recommended Books

Leggett, Elizabeth R. Digitization and Digital Archiving: A Practical Guide for Librarians. Lanham, Maryland : Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. [Request from I-Share]

Monson, Jane D. Getting Started With Digital Collections: Scaling To Fit Your Organization. Chicago : ALA Editions, 2017. [I-Share]

Perrin, Joy M. Digitizing Flat Media: Principles and Practices. Lanham, Maryland : Rowman & Littlefield, 2016. [I-Share]

Piepenburg, Scott. Digitizing Audiovisual And Nonprint Materials: The Innovative Librarian's Guide. Santa Barbara, CA : Libraries Unlimited, 2015. [I-Share]

Purcell, Aaron D. Digital Library Programs for Libraries and Archives: Developing, Managing, and Sustaining Unique Digital Collections. Chicago: ALA Neal-Schuman, 2016. [I-Share]

Creating Digital Objects

The following documents on the CARLI website provide thorough overviews of the best practices and considerations for digital collections.

Images & Text

CARLI Digitization Best Practices for Images
This document sets forth guidelines for digitizing two-dimensional, non-textual materials for the CARLI Digital Collections. The guide covers image quality, file formats, storage, access, and other issues.

CARLI Digitization Best Practices for Text
Find guidelines for image quality, file formats, optical character recognition, text encoding, storage, and access in this document. The guidelines also include a sample workflow, and links to scanning and digitization guides and vendor services are provided as appendices.


CARLI Digitization Best Practices for Audio
Guidelines for sample rates, bit-depths, file formats, and equipment for the analog-to-digital conversion of audio materials are just some of the topics included in this document. Plus, find software recommendations for encoding, playback, and more.

Moving Images

CARLI Digitization Best Practices for Moving Images
This document is a comprehensive guide to digitizing moving image materials. The guidelines also include sample workflows and hardware and software recommendations for video digitization, editing, and distribution.

Three-Dimensional Objects

CARLI Digitization Best Practices for Three-Dimensional Objects
This best practices document includes guidelines for image capture, image management, and metadata.

Outsourcing Digitization

Institutions that have neither the staff nor the equipment to complete a digitization project in-house may consider contracting with a third-party vendor for all or part of a digital collections project. This section provides links to general tips and expectations when outsourcing and a selected list of vendors providing digitization services. Keep in mind, however, that any outsourcing project will always have in-house components, including selecting materials, providing technical specifications to the vendor, creating metadata, and performing quality control.

General Information

Outsourcing and Vendor Relations
This webpage includes some general considerations and tips regarding outsourcing from the Northeast Document Conservation Center.

Outsourcing Digitization Webinar (Connecting to Collections)
In this hour-long webinar recorded in 2012, Robin Dale, Director of Digital Services for LYRASIS, discusses why an institution may want to outsource and what to expect.


CARLI Digitization Best Practices for Text
See "Appendix D: Text Digitization Vendor Services" in this best practices document for a list of vendors that specialize in digitization of textual materials.

CARLI Digitization Best Practices for Moving Images
See "Appendix C: Selected List of Commercial Video Digitizations Services" for a list of vendors that specialize in film and video digitization.

Backstage Library Works
Backstage Library Works provides a variety of digitization and preservation services for multiple formats.

George Blood LP
George Blood LP focuses on archival audio and moving image preservation.

Two Cat Digital
Two Cat Digital provides a variety of digital imaging services.

Northern Micrographics
Northern Micrographics provides digitization services for photograhic items, print, and microfilm.

Media Preserve
Media Preserve provides digitization of many different formats, including numerous audio and video formats.

Digital Asset Management Systems

"A Digital Asset Management System (DAM) refers to the software, computation, storage, and networking components that provide the ability to control the storage, access, retrieval, display, distribution, and stewardship of digital media." (Yale Digital Collections Center) This section provides links to several vendors and DAM solutions for consideration. CONTENTdm is the software that CARLI uses for the CARLI Digital Collections. For more information on selecting a DAM, many of the recommended books in the "Getting Started" section address this important topic.


CARLI CONTENTdm Documentation

OCLC CONTENTdm Support and Training

Other Systems

Copyright and Digital Collections

Public domain, fair use, and other aspects of copyright law are fundamental issues for the creation of digital collections, and these issues can be both complex and perplexing for institutions starting out with digitization. The following resources may help with copyright basics, but institutions may want to consult with in-house legal departments for more complex questions.

Recommended Books

Butler, Rebecca P. Copyright for Academic Librarians and Professionals. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2014. [I-Share]

Crews, Kenneth D. Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators: Creative Strategies and Practical Solutions. 4th Ed. Chicago : ALA Editions, 2018.

Klein, Bethany, Giles Moss, and Lee Edwards. Understanding Copyright: Intellectual Property in the Digital Age. London : Sage Publications, 2015. [I-Share]

General Resources

Besek, June M. Copyright Issues Relevant to the Creation of a Digital Archive: A Preliminary Assessment. (2003)

Hirtle, Peter B. and Hudson, Emily and Kenyon, Andrew T. Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for Digitization for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums. (October 27, 2009). Revised November 3, 2014.

Intellectual Property Rights and Copyright: Resources Providing Guidance on Academic Use of Images
This webpage curated by the Visual Resources Association includes links to a variety of copyright law and public domain resources including relevant legal decisions and statutes.

Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States
This comprehensive table created by Peter B. Hirtle at Cornell University summarizes when copyrighted works enter the public domain.

Public Domain Slider
The Public Domain Slider is a tool to help determine the copyright status of a work. It is just one of the resources available from the Copyright Advisory Network (CAN), a part of the Office for Information Technology Policy Copyright Education Subcommittee of the American Library Association. provides a set of standardized rights statements that can be used to communicate the copyright and re-use status of digital objects to the public. It is a project of the Digital Public Library of America and Europeana.

Digital Preservation

Digital preservation is what happens after institutions create digital files for online collections. It is the actions and activities that institutions take to ensure that the files are accessible and usable for as long as they are needed.

Recommended Books

Brown, Adrian. Practical Digital Preservation: A How-to Guide for Organizations of Any Size. Chicago : Neal-Schuman, 2013. [I-Share]

Corrado, Edward M., Moulaison Sandy, Heather. Digital Preservation For Libraries, Archives, and Museums. 2nd ed. Lanham : Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. [I-Share]

Prom, Christopher J., ed. Digital Preservation Essentials. 2nd ed. Chicago : Society of American Archivists, 2016. [I-Share]

Traczyk, Tomasz, et al., eds. Digital Preservation: Putting It To Work. Cham, Switzerland : Springer, 2017. [I-Share]

General Resources

Digital Preservation
This site from the Library of Congress provides a clearinghouse of digital preservation standards and best practices, tools and services and education and training.

Digital Preservation 101
Preserving Digital Objects with Restricted Resources (POWRR) provides workshops and training on digital preservation for small and under-funded institutions.

Digital POWRR Webinar Series
This four-part webinar series provides an overview of digital preservation fundamentals.

Digital Preservation Best Practices and Guidelines
This website from the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources provides a good foundation in digital preservation basics.

Digital Preservation Handbook
Open access resource maintained and updated by the Digital Preservation Coalition.

National Digital Stewardship Alliance
Consortium of organizations committed to the long-term preservation of digital resources. Website includes educational resources and publications, including the "Digital Preservation in a Box" toolkit, and "Levels of Digital Preservation."

Grants and Funding

Note: Many funding agencies provide grant writing guidelines; all provide criteria for their applications. The most consistent advice that comes from grant writing sources is to know the requirements for the grant and to objectively evaluate how your project matches them. With that advice in mind, the the initial sources below provide more details on the project planning and grant writing processes. A selection of funding agencies and sources follow.

Recommended Books

Hall-Ellis, Sylvia D. Librarian's Handbook for Seeking, Writing, and Managing Grants. Libraries Unlimited, 2011. [I-Share]

Kalikow Maxwell, Nancy, ed. ALA Book of Library Grant Money, Ninth Edition. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2014. [I-Share]

Kalikow Maxwell, Nancy. Grant Money Through Collaborative Partnerships. Chicago : American Library Association, 2012. [I-Share]

MacKellar, Pamela H. Writing Successful Technology Grant Proposals: A LITA Guide. New York : Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc., 2012. [I-Share]

MacKellar, Pamela H., Gerding, Stephanie K. Winning Grants: A How-to-do-it Manual For Librarians. 2nd ed. Chicago: ALA Neal-Schuman, 2017. [I-Share]

Selected Funding Sources

Marketing Digital Collections

Recommended Books

Tanzi, Nicholas. Making The Most of Digital Collections through Training and Outreach: The Innovative Librarian's Guide. Santa Barbara, CA : Libraries Unlimited, 2016. [I-Share]

Conference Presentations

Sizemore, Daardi and Southworth, Heidi J., "Two Repositories, One Strategy: Marketing Digital Collections" (2015). Library Services Faculty and Staff Publications. 49.

Gibson, Samantha and Pou, Rebecca. "Retweets, Likes and Favorites, Oh My! Public Engagement with Digital Collections on Social Media." DPLAfest 2017.

Other Resources

SPEC Kit 341: Digital Collections Assessment and Outreach (August 2014) from ARL "investigates what methods ARL member libraries use to maintain the relevancy of their locally curated digital library collections, and to continue to sustain, grow, capture return on investment, and enhance existing resources through outreach and assessment."

Super Library Marketing. A blog with useful strategies for marketing geared towards libraries.

Organizations, Publications, and News


Open Access Journals and Online Publications

Email Lists

Created by Alice Creason and the CARLI Created Content Committee in February 2018. Links updated August 2019.