Sustainability of Digital Formats: Planning for Library of Congress Collections

Introduction | Sustainability Factors | Content Categories | Format Descriptions | Contact
Introduction >> Overview | Formats, Evaluation Factors, and Relationships | Papers and Presentations | Related Resources


Digital formats: a work in progress
The Digital Formats Web site provides information about digital content formats through detailed format description documents or fdds.  An initial offering was placed online in 2004 and expanded and updated analyses and resources have been added regularly. Digital formats will continue to evolve in the coming years and this or a successor site will also evolve to keep pace.

• To support strategic planning regarding digital content formats, in order to ensure the long-term preservation of digital content by the Library of Congress, and
• To provide an inventory of information about current and emerging formats, including the identification of tools and detailed documentation that are needed to ensure that the Library of Congress can manage content created or received in these formats through the content life cycle, and
• To identify and describe the formats that are promising for long-term sustainability, and develop strategies for sustaining these formats including recommendations pertaining to the tools and documentation needed for their management.
• To identify and describe the formats that are not promising for long-term sustainability, and develop strategies for sustaining the content they contain.
• The overall analysis is part of the execution of the Library of Congress Digital strategic plannning goal pertaining to the management and sustenance of digital content. 

• This site is devoted to the analysis of the technical aspects of digital formats.  This analysis will inevitably have implications for policy matters, most significantly collection policies.
• This site is concerned with the formats associated with media-independent ("intangible") digital content, i.e., content that is typically managed as files and which is generally not dependent upon a particular physical medium.
• This site is not concerned with the formats associated with media-dependent ("tangible") digital content, i.e., formats that are dependent upon and inextricably linked to physical media, e.g., DVDs, audio CDs, and videotape formats like DigiBeta. 

Typical questions the site will answer
The mature version of this site will help Library staff answer questions like the following:

• If a digital work is subject to mandatory deposit under U.S. Copyright Law, which of the formats in which it is available is preferred by the Library?
• When seeking to acquire a body of digital content with the intention of sustaining it for the long term, which formats are preferred or acceptable and why?
• Which digital formats must be fully supported by systems, automated tools, or workflow associated with the digital content life cycle processes under discussion at the Library, i.e., support for receiving and validating digital content (in the Get process), selecting digital content (in the Select process), preparing digital content for responsible long-term custody (in the Prepare/Assemble process), and establishing strategies for preservation (in the Sustain process)?
• Given content in a particular format, does the Library already have a commitment to support content in this digital format? If so, are there more specific technical requirements that apply? What associated metadata of a technical nature is essential? Does LC have an existing workflow process appropriate for receiving and validating digital content in this format? Or are software tools for format validation and metadata extraction available for building a workflow process?
• If a particular digital format is not already categorized as preferred or acceptable for a particular category or subcategory of material, what information or assistance is available to develop a recommendation that a format should be supported or that a process be developed for reformatting to a supported format?

More information:
Formats, Evaluation Factors, and Relationships.
Digital Format Descriptions as XML.
Papers and Presentations from this project.
Related Resources. An annotated list of other resources related to digital formats.
Specifications for Digital Formats. Sources of freely downloadable specifications.

Last Updated: 03/ 9/2017