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Born-Digital Working Group: Policies and Procedures for Collecting Born-Digital Material

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The Born-Digital Working Group, Policies and Procedures subgroup, has spent February examining the changes we will need to make to existing policies to accommodate born digital material. The goal of the subgroup over the course of the next few months is to:

  • examine current Special Collections policies such as collection development policies, donor agreements, and the UM processing manual
  • review policies that consider born-digital or electronic media at other institutions, especially within the AIMS project
  • create modular policies and agreements for the UMD Libraries that consider born-digital media
  • identify the input we will need from the Administrative and Tools subgroups that will determine the content of some of the policies.


Special Collections does not currently have an overarching collections policy. Instead each subject area within special collections has smaller, separate policies, none of which specifically address collecting born-digital material. Our subgroup will develop a policy for born digital material that will provide Special Collections staff who are working with donors a clear understanding of our capability to provide long term stewardship of digital material. It will also give guidance on the type of information that should be gathered at the early stages of donor development.  We expect that we will draw heavily on the born-digital sections of other institutions’ existing policies.

Examining the existing donor agreements at first glance seems to be the most straightforward aspect of our work. Special Collections uses a standardized deed of gift form which is modular in format and takes into account various rights, privacy, and use restrictions. We plan to add points and revise current statements to consider born-digital media. However, some of the questions we need to reflect in the donor agreements include how born-digital material will be transferred or captured, donors’ preference in terms of files previously deleted but recovered in the transfer process to the library, the scope of what we can provide in terms of preservation of the born-digital material, and specific conditions on access to materials. Although the donor agreement seemed the easiest place to start it become clear that establishing what we can and are willing to collect (i.e. the collection policy) is the critical first step for this group. It’s also clear that we need to work closely with our tools group to understand what will be technically feasible at the University of Maryland. 

While part of the scope of this group will be making changes to the Special Collections Processing Manual it is already clear that this will happen much later down the road once the tools group has made recommendations for ingesting and accessing born digital materials. 

Fortunately, we are not the first to begin work on these issues and we will be relying heavily on the work of other institutions. Our first steps are to examine the following resources: 


The BDWG has started it’s work in earnest at this point and it’s the questions we need to answer are becoming more clear. Our FRED (Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device) has arrived so soon we will be able to start thinking more concretely about workflows and procedures.

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