Vassar College Digital Library


The Vassar College Libraries Digital Initiatives Program provides guidance and makes available the framework to preserve and disseminate, in digital format, selected resources held by the Libraries or created by members of the Vassar community. Furthermore, the Program creates and enriches digital collections to be used for instruction. The Program will create collections using both existing digital material, and by converting analog materials, including slides, print photographs, audio, and text.



The mission of the digital initiatives at Vassar College is to support the creation, dissemination, and preservation of selected digital content resources within the Libraries and the College.  In establishing a collection development policy for digital collections, we establish criteria consistent with this mission and its goals.


Our goals in collecting include:

  • Providing access to high-quality digital content generated by the Libraries for research and study, as open as possible.
  • Supporting the teaching, learning, and research needs of the College.
  • Preserving at-risk or fragile physical collections through digitization, or at-risk born-digital collections through reformatting.
  • Exposing hidden, less-used physical collections through access to digital surrogates.
  • Fostering experimental, cutting-edge, and innovative projects through technology.


Subjects and Collecting Level



We adhere to the general parameters and core strengths established in Vassar College Libraries’ Collection Development Policy, noting particularly that a strong liberal arts education requires complementary digital collections that are exceptionally deep and expansive in order to provide a foundation for the instructional activities of the college.  Subjects that are in support of the curriculum have higher priority in digitization and access, but no subject is specifically excluded.

Collecting level

Generally, we seek to collect and digitize materials that are at the Advanced Study Level as defined in the ALA Guidelines for the Formulation of Collection Development Policies.


Formats Collected

Analog (chiefly slides, print photographs, audio, video, and text) and born-digital items, as defined by the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative and the Vassar Digital Initiatives Mission Statement.


Rights and Restrictions

Collecting activities will focus on content that can be freely shared in order to provide the broadest access possible.


Selection and Deselection

Selection and deselection of digital content will be determined by the Digital Library Steering Committee.  We make a commitment to retaining as much content as possible in its original digital format, although some reformatting may take place by necessity.  See “Selection Factors” and “Deselection Factors.”

Selection Factors

  • Copyright status
    • Our preference is to digitize materials in which Vassar owns the rights or the items are no longer held in copyright.
  • Significance of the materials
    • Inherently subjective, we still must ask ourselves about the importance of the materials that will be digitized.
      • Do the materials meet all goals of collecting?
      • Would experts agree as to the materials’ significance?
      • Would digitization enhance intellectual value by contributing to the scholarly record or curriculum?
  • Current and potential users
    • Including preservation impact
    • Value-added possibilities because of digitization
      • For example, a text corpus may benefit significantly from visualization, full text searching, or other critical functions
  • Collections that contain subjects of supreme strength at Vassar (core collections)
  • Collections about Vassar / Vassariana
  • Rare and unique items held by Vassar College and its Libraries
  • Potential to digitize an entire collection rather than piecemeal
  • Provides opportunity to build upon other digital materials in the scholarly record
  • Collections that have funding or offer potential to attract development opportunities
  • Significant demand by Vassar constituents
  • Exit strategy possible

N.B.: All potential digital collections are subject to funding available to properly catalog, preserve, and house the materials.

Deselection Factors

Note that we define “deselection” to mean removal of access copies of the collection.  Preservation copies adhere to the level of commitment we make as an institution when we accept a digital project.

  • Items become too costly to maintain over time because significant purchase of equipment is needed to access or reformat them.
  • Access copies receive little use (preservation copies will still be retained).
  • Security flaws are discovered in items after breach has occurred.


Digitization Standards

  • Metadata standard: MODS (Metadata Object Description Standard) for most works.  In some cases, VRACore or Qualified Dublin Core (QDC) may be necessary to better describe an object.  We seek to preserve as much of the metadata as possible — with a goal of all metadata preserved — should the need to arise to convert to QDC (a “lossless” metadata crosswalk process).
  • Imaging standards:
    • Storage: TIFF
    • Access / derivatives: JPG and JP2
  • Audio and video standards – TBD
  • Access standards
    • Whenever possible, access is available to the widest possible audience
    • All digital collections will be cataloged into Vassar’s online catalog
    • Select digital collections may be contributed to various digital collections as determined by the Digital Library Steering Committee (HRVH, LC, etc.)