rusq: Vol. 51 Issue 2: p. 193
Sources: Digital Collections Worldwide: An Annotated Directory
Rick Robison

Rick Robison, Dean of the Library, California Maritime Academy, California State University, Vallejo, California

Digital Collections Worldwide aims to organize, describe, and make transparent over 1,400 online collections the authors deem “authoritative, useful, and permanent” for its primary audience, “researchers” (xvi). Obviously, this is an enormous task since collections of digitized materials are constantly being created, modified, and updated. To address this inherent problem, this work comes with an associated online directory although it is unclear how long the authors and publishers plan to keep these links updated.

As a criteria for authority, the authors note that collections considered for inclusion had to originate from an “educational institution, governmental body, museum, corporate site, library (including national libraries), archives, or a scholar's personal website” with an identifiable author or party and a clear purpose (xviii). Selected collections are organized by geographical region and then country.

This work is reminiscent of the book by Gary Price, Danny Sullivan, and Chris Sherman, The Invisible Web (Information Today, 2001). That book unearthed and described collections hidden deeper than search engines would crawl. That book succeeded in illuminating many hidden resources and raising the awareness level for librarians and researcher to seek out these types of “hidden” resources.

The main print competitor to Digital Collections Worldwide is the extensive six-volume set, Gale Directory of Databases (Gale, 2011). Along with descriptions of proprietary databases, the first three volumes uncover and describe over 11,000 publicly available databases. Each entry provides contact information, the type of resource, a full description, and the URL to the resource.

There also are numerous online competitors. This work, in fact includes a number of these online directories. Two of these are the Internet Public Library (www.ipl.org), which provides descriptions and indexing to selected sites, and the UNESCO Portal/Directories (http://portal.unesco.org), which includes links to library, museum, and archival collections around the world. Some online sites that regularly review collections include The Scout Report (http://scout.wisc.edu/Reports/ScoutReport), FreePint's publications Docuticker (www.docuticker.com) and ResourceShelf (www.resourceshelf.com), and the subscription-only Choice Reviews Online (www.cro2.org). All of these resources review, evaluate, and recommend digital collections.

Nevertheless, the strength of Digital Collections Worldwide is that the authors make it easy to quickly discover valuable digital collections. One will easily learn about new collections by simply browsing through this book. The two indexes at the end are valuable in going beyond the geographical location to find collections as well.

One weakness of this work is that it lists primarily English language sites and leans heavily to U.S. collections. For example, both entries for Panama link to collections found in the U.S. The fact that an entire country includes only 2 entries but entries included under the Library of Congress alone number more than 105 makes one wonder if the authors couldn't have investigated more international collections. In fact, the North America chapter takes up 124 pages of the 310 total pages of resources reviewed.

Although this work achieves much of what it set out to do, it seems most useful to librarians who will use it for professional development and to recommend collections. How long this work remains valuable is also questionable as it illustrates the dilemma of trying to capture a dynamic publishing medium with a static one. As it becomes easier to self-publish digital collections with tools such as ContentDM, Omeka, LibGuides, and Archive-it.org, it will become harder to justify creating print monographs such as this to describe and review these numerous collections. Overall, this work is recommended but not required for most library collections.



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