Scaling Back for an "Experimental" Collection at The University of Iowa Libraries

The following chapter excerpt is from the third section of Digitization in the Real World; "The Digital Campus: Digitization in Universities and Their Libraries."  Download the entire chapter for free (PDF) or purchase online at

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Mark F. Anderson (The University of Iowa Libraries)


2010-12-09_0843 Digital Library Services (DLS) at the University of Iowa Libraries has progressively worked toward coordinating more large-scale digitization projects both within the libraries and across campus, moving away from model of web exhibits that were often created before the department was formed in 2005. However, a variety of situations still call for small-scale projects. This chapter, describing the design and production of the “W9XK Experimental Television Digital Collection”, shows that small-scale digitization projects can bridge that gap, and yield collections that rise above the level of web exhibits in their usefulness to scholars and the general public by limiting exclusive selection and promoting comprehensiveness. While mirroring this approach of mass-digitization, digital librarians can also use curatorial decisions and software functionality to further assist users of these small-scale collections.


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, “Most people would succeed in small things if they were not troubled with great ambitions.” Even if the poet was not referring specifically to digital initiatives in libraries, it’s an appropriate sentiment at a time when so much institutional effort is directed toward mass digitization projects such as the agreement between Google and the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (the consortium to which The University of Iowa belongs) to digitize no less than 10 million volumes from among members’ collections (Committee on Institutional Cooperation, n.d.). At the same time, it has become common for institutions, or units within institutions, to work on building small, narrowly-focused collections as an initial foray into digitization, while securing funding for the necessary resources to ramp up to large-scale scanning projects and mass digitization, or to expose exceptional materials. This chapter will discuss one of these small digital collections, but will begin with the development of the digital library at the University of Iowa to which it belongs.

Download the entire chapter for free (PDF)  or purchase online at


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