The National Library of Medicine has a statutory mandate to collect and preserve scholarly and professional literature about health, medicine, and the biomedical sciences, irrespective of format. The Library is committed to investigating and implementing new ways of making electronic content accessible to users; to preserving significant electronic scholarship; and to collaborating internationally, with publishers and with other archival institutions, to promote and enhance the development of standards in electronic publishing.
The following definitions apply to this policy statement on electronic resources.
The ability to locate, to gain entry, and to use an electronic resource.
Refers to electronic resources, online or physical, which the Library receives through formal acquisitions processes, or to which the Library provides access through contractual, licensed, or other official agreements. These electronic resources may or may not be owned by or housed at the Library.
Refers to electronic resources owned by, created by, or archived by the Library and selected for the permanent collection. This category also includes works which are stored elsewhere, but to which the Library has permanent ownership rights.
Works which are encoded and made accessible through a computer, online or in a physical format. This category includes an ever-growing array of electronic journals, monographs, reports, articles, databases, digital collections, still and moving images, sound, and interactive resources.
A pointer from the Library's Web resources or bibliographic records to an electronic resource. To link is not to acquire or to collect.
Works which are "born digital" and for which there is no counterpart in print or on physical media.
Tangible objects, such as disks, which store computer data.
III. Electronic collection development at NLM
In cooperation with other U.S. and international institutions with archival missions, NLM endeavors to ensure permanent public access to scholarly and professional electronic works (particularly online-only resources) in the fields of biomedicine and health care.
When considering electronic resources for selection, the Library's intent is to apply the same criteria for scope, depth of coverage, and authoritativeness as for publications in other formats.
The Library's collecting guidelines for electronic resources reflect the ideal situation. In practice, the Library is still developing strategies for ensuring permanent access to important biomedical documents published in electronic format, given the current licensing and publishing environment, and the evolution of digital preservation techniques.
In the meantime, NLM takes a multifaceted approach to the collection of electronic resources, including the following:
1. NLM creates, or collects and makes permanently accessible, an expanding body of electronic works, such as:
- journal literature deposited in PubMedCentral.
- books published through the NCBI Bookshelf.
- digital collections of important research materials which originally were issued in print or issued as born digital and reside in the NLM Digital Collections repository. Other digital materials under NLM stewardship include those in Profiles in Science and FDA Notices of Judgment.
- the Library's own electronic publishing output, including its many databases, publications (e.g., NLM Classification, Collection Development Manual of the National Library of Medicine), technical reports, fact sheets, and other works considered to be part of the NLM archives.
The Library actively seeks to create and collect new digital content for this collection.
2. NLM collaborates with other organizations to collect and preserve online-only resources maintained at other trusted institutional repositories.
A trusted institutional repository is a library, archive, government agency, or educational institution which has made a commitment to archiving electronic resources; maintaining a reputation for technical capability and institutional stability which provides assurance that it will be able to fulfill its commitment. If, for any reason, NLM is unable to collect published material which has been thus archived, and it is determined that there are enough extant copies at multiple repositories to ensure that the material will be preserved, the Library may attempt to acquire current access, to describe and link to the resources in NLM databases, and distribute bibliographic records for the resources.
3. NLM provides access, and seeks to ensure archival access, to online-only scholarly resources that the Library is unable to collect and that are not maintained at another institutional repository.
NLM may provide access to such resources via its online public access catalog
or other NLM databases, while continuing its efforts to collect the resource and/or to work with the scholarly and publishing communities to ensure permanent online access via another means.
4. NLM collects preservation copies of resources which are available both electronically and in another format.
To ensure preservation of the content of an electronic work, NLM normally attempts to collect a print version (or an archival electronic copy on physical media), in addition to the online version.
5. NLM provides access to a wide variety of miscellaneous online resources, and intends selectively to preserve some of this content.
NLM selects and provides links from its Web sites and databases to a variety of other electronic resources, including selected patient and consumer health information. NLM intends to provide an archival repository for selected examples and periodic "snapshots" of this material, in order to document the evolution of consumer health publications over time.
IV. Selection criteria for electronic resources on physical media
NLM selectively collects electronic works issued on physical media.
Collection emphasis is on works which are valuable for research and which contain unique information, or information which is significantly enhanced by electronic presentation.
NLM collects instructional works on physical media highly selectively, emphasizing those that illustrate contemporary instructional techniques, such as simulations, decision making models, or computer graphics.
The Library selects works which exhibit good technical quality and which are produced in currently acceptable formats. NLM generally does not collect electronic media that require additional proprietary software, or software designed to be modified by the user.