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Digital Collections and Programs (Library Functions)
 Technical Documentation:
  - Library of Congress Standards for Digital Collections
  - Technical Information, White Papers and Documentation
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Digital Collections

Of the millions of books, photographs, prints, drawings, manuscripts, rare books, maps, sound recordings, and motion pictures held by the Library, only a small fraction are in digital form. American Memory, the flagship of the Library's digital services, offers multimedia collections of digitized documents, photographs, recorded sound, motion pictures, and text from the American historical collections of the Library and other institutions. American Memory now offers more than 7.5 million digital items from more than 100 historical collections.

The Library's Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) contains catalog records and digital images representing a rich cross section of still pictures held by the Prints & Photographs Division and other units of the Library. The catalog provides access through group or item records to about 50 percent of the Division's holdings. About 90 percent of the records are accompanied by one or more digital images. In some collections, only thumbnail images are available to those searching outside the Library of Congress because of potential rights considerations.

The Library also offers vast digital materials in the area of legislation and law. Acting under the directive of the leadership of the 104th Congress to make Federal legislative information freely available to the Internet public, the Library of Congress provides the THOMAS system, offering full text of bills and the Congressional Record. The Library also cooperates internationally to collect digitized laws, regulations, and other complementary legal sources in the Global Legal Information Network (GLIN) project.

National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP)

The Library of Congress has a leadership role in the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program, authorized by Congress in December 2000. The Library is collaborating with other federal agencies as well as other organizations and individuals in the information community in developing this important program. The mission is to develop a national strategy to collect, archive and preserve the burgeoning amounts of digital content, especially materials that are created only in digital formats, for current and future generations.

>> Link to the NDIIPP Web Site for more information

Digital Reference

The Library of Congress initiated an “Ask A Librarian” service, in June 2002. This service brings the Library’s reference specialists and resources into direct contact with researchers and the general public beyond the Library’s walls. Eighteen of the Library’s reading rooms currently participate in the Ask A Librarian project. Patrons may access the service from a link on the Library’s home page, and then submit their questions to the reading room they feel is most likely to be able to answer it.

The Library of Congress launched the Ask A Librarian project using QuestionPoint reference software that was developed in collaboration with the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) of Dublin, Ohio. The software allows libraries to manage their reference traffic centrally, generate activity reports and statistics, and refer questions to colleagues in-house and experts elsewhere using a shared interface and a dedicated network. QuestionPoint enables reference librarians to take their expertise out onto the web, and to build a worldwide collaborative network of librarians and resources.

The Digital Reference Team (DRT), a newly-established group of reference specialists, is dedicated to exploring the ways in which online tools may be used to promote and enhance the Library of Congress’s programs and services: www.loc.gov/rr/program/ The DRT responds to reference questions about the Library’s online resources, creates electronic pathfinders and bibliographies, maintains the Virtual Reference Shelf, writes and edits historical features for the Library’s website, and presents a variety of electronic and in-person workshops for members of Congress, educators, librarians, historians and others. Additionally, the DRT is responsible for providing context for and promoting the use of the Library's online materials.

Web Preservation

An ever-increasing amount of the world's cultural and intellectual output is presently created in digital formats and does not exist in any physical form. The MINERVA Web Preservation Project was established to initiate a broad program to collect and preserve these primary source materials. A multi disciplinary team of Library staff representing cataloging, legal, public services, and technology services is studying methods to evaluate, select, collect, catalog, provide access to, and preserve these materials for future generations of researchers.


To support its digital collections, the Library of Congress uses a variety of standardized metadata. The Library is also involved in producing and maintaining standards for the use of other digital libraries. The METS schema is a standard for encoding descriptive, administrative, and structural metadata regarding objects within a digital library, expressed using the XML schema language of the World Wide Web Consortium. The standard is maintained in the Network Development and MARC Standards Office of the Library of Congress, and is being developed as an initiative of the Digital Library Federation.

>> Link to the Library of Congress Standards Page

The Library of Congress >> Librarians & Archivists' Home
September 1, 2004
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Digital Programs and

American Memory
Historical Collections

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for Kids and Families

I Hear America Singing

Veterans History Project

Global Gateway

Legislative Information

Country Studies/
Area Handbooks

Handbook of Latin American
Studies Online

Global Legal Information (GLIN)

Ask a Librarian

Preservation Digital

MINERVA Web Preservation Project

Prints & Photographs
Online Catalog (PPOC)

Electronic Finding Aids
for Library Collections