POST: Looking for Open Digital Collections

In a post entitled “looking for open digital collections,” Sarah Werner (@wynkenhimself) returns to the problem of digital access to special collections, to detail the complexities of locating and working with digital images from the collections of libraries, archives, and museums.

What I need for my work are images able to be freely used, whether because they are public domain or licensed CC BY or CC BY-SA. Alas, these open collections are harder to find, as the bulk of institutions out there seem to think that a non-commercial license is plenty generous, thankyouverymuch. I understand why non-commercial licenses might be appealing for libraries who are often struggling for income—the feeling of “why should someone else make money off our collections?” is awfully strong. But there are many reasons why this is a problematic license.

Werner goes on to detail the limitations of such licensing practices and how they affect the work of scholars. She appeals to the importance of librarians’ core values in influencing policies:

So, library friends. I know most of you agree with me on these points—the librarians I know overwhelmingly want their collections to be more freely available, but they are not always able to convince those who administer and set policies that openness is the way forward.

Librarians, archivists, and gallery workers engaged in digitization and access projects will benefit from Werner’s explication of the impacts of reuse policies on scholars’ work and will find her arguments– as well as works by Michelle Light and Effie Kapsalis, cited in the post– useful in discussions with administrators who may have differing priorities.

For examples of digital collections with a variety of public domain to CC BY-SA licensing structures, see Werner’s early modern digital collections list, referenced in the post.

dh+lib Review

This post was produced through a cooperation between Jennie M Burroughs, Taylor Davis-Van Atta, Rebecca Dowson, Nickoal Eichmann-Kalwara, David Greene, Allison Ringness, Bobby Smiley, and Sveta Stoytcheva (Editors-at-large for the week), Patrick Williams (Editor for the week), Sarah Potvin (Site Editor), and Caitlin Christian-Lamb, Caro Pinto, and Roxanne Shirazi (dh+lib Review Editors).