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Program Digital Collections Management Compendium

Principles of Access

This guidance summarizes the Library's general principles and models for providing access to digital content.

As the steward of a collection that benefits the United States Congress and the American People, the Library is committed to providing the broadest access possible to digital content under its care, according to applicable laws and regulations, accessibility provisions, donor and producer agreements, and national security. The following principles guide the Library's provision of access to digital collections:

  • Access to the Library’s digital collections will be as open and broad as possible while respecting the rights of both patrons and rights holders and the responsibility of the Library to protect and preserve those collections.
  • Access rules should be simple, generally applicable, and must be consistent with law, Library policies, and finalized agreements.
  • System safeguards will ensure that the Library’s digital collections are secured and used in accordance with law, Library policies, and finalized agreements.
  • The Library will communicate known restrictions on the use of items in its digital collections. 
  • Those desiring to use items are responsible for making independent legal assessments and securing necessary permissions.

The Library makes every effort to provide clear access policies for digital content in the Library's permanent collections. To enable discovery of digital content, the Library frequently makes use of related and derivative levels of content, including indexed, computer-generated text; lower resolution derivatives, snippets, or thumbnails; and descriptive metadata. When possible, the Library maintains information about access rights in metadata records.

For more information, please consult our Legal Notices.