Library of Congress Recommended Formats Statement
Recommended Formats Statement identifies hierarchies of the physical and technical characteristics of creative formats, both analog and digital, which will best meet the needs of all concerned, maximizing the chances for survival and continued accessibility of creative content well into the future.
Recommended Formats Statement [PDF: 353 KB, 31 pp.]
Previous version [PDF: 762 KB, 29 pp.]
Additional Information and Library Contacts and Links
What is the purpose of the Library of Congress Recommended Formats Statement?
There are two primary purposes of the Statement. One purpose of the Statement is to provide internal guidance within the Library to help inform acquisitions of collections materials (other than materials received through the Copyright Office). A second purpose is to inform the creative and library communities on best practices for ensuring the preservation of, and long-term access to, the creative output of the nation and the world.
What criteria were used to identify the formats, thus creating the hierarchies?
There was no one specific formula to establish the hierarchies. Adoption, transparency and technical characteristics were all important, as was following established international standards. We began with existing Library documentation, such as the current ‘Best Edition’ specs and the Sustainability of Digital Formats then called upon internal experts on preservation, reference and collection development and communicated with experts from outside the Library as well. Not all lists within the Recommended Formats Statement are hierarchical. Those which indicate an order of preference are noted as such.
Were archivists consulted during the process of developing the Statement?
Many members of the teams have formal training and education. Resources from archives and professional archive organizations were consulted, such as the EAD technical group. For audio, recommended formats are in step with recommendations from International Association of Audiovisual Archivists (see their TC-04 publication) and Audio Engineering Society.
Did LC consider cost when ranking characteristics in the Statement?
Not specifically, though naturally, we were and are cognizant that many sustainability factors related to digital formats have cost implications (e.g. analysis, migration, emulation). Storage cost concerns are valid and should be taken into consideration by acquisitions staff.
When an attribute of a creative work has characteristics listed only as Preferred or only as Acceptable, what does that mean?
If an attribute (e.g. Formats) has only characteristics listed as Preferred, it means that the Library has determined that there are only preferred characteristics and none which are simply acceptable. Likewise, when the only characteristics are Acceptable, it means the Library is identifying none which it wishes to endorse as preferred.
Does the Formats Statement change?
Because of the dynamic, ever-changing nature and availability of formats, the Library revisits the Statement annually. Reviewing the Statement annually permits the Library to keep pace with developments in the creative world, so that changes to the Formats Statement, although made frequently, can be made in small increments. Input and feedback are greatly encouraged and welcomed.
What is the history of the Recommended Formats Statement?
The Library began reviewing its existing guidance on preferred formats in 2011, calling on experts from across the institution. In June 2014 it issued the first annual version of its new Recommended Format Specifications. Gathering feedback from across the stakeholder communities, in the spring of 2015, the Library undertook its first annual revision process, which led to the 2015-2016 revised version, at which point it was renamed Recommended Formats Statement.