Anderson Archival logo

Why Share an Online Library?


What Will You Do with Your Digital Collection?

Once the planning, scanning, and OCR are done, you will have in your possession a full digital library. What will you do with it? Whether you want to make a public or private collection, whether you intend to monetize the collection or make it free access, there are many benefits to sharing your collection online.

digital books
magnifying glass on computer

What Does an Online Collection Look Like?

Many museums, universities, and independent historical organizations have online digital libraries for the public or patrons to utilize. There are different ways and reasons to share a collection online depending on the collection’s final goal. Is it meant to be read by anyone? Is it meant only for students and researchers? Do you intend to create a revenue stream from the collection or keep it for in-house use only?

What Are the Benefits to Sharing A Collection Online?

The functionality of each collection depends on its purpose. For example, using a web-based search portal through the organization’s existing website, users can browse the collection by subject, title, author, keywords, full-text search, or any other method you choose. Options to view, zoom, download, or print can be added as needed. For collections that have artifacts as well as paper documents, images or 3-D renderings can be included in a digital library. Much of what a visitor could do in the physical library can be replicated in a digital one.

digital library in phone

Access and Monetization

No matter the reason for having an online collection, the greatest benefit to a shared online collection is ease of access. The more people work and study from home, the more important remote access becomes. With an online digital collection, you can set the level of access you require and facilitate remote work or study for your intended audience.

For institutions dedicated to free public access, an online collection shared without restrictions or a paywall is the best way forward. With thorough digitization, including accurate OCR and metadata, an online collection can be quickly searched and studied from anywhere. A collection’s reach can grow dramatically with a free-access digital collection. With improved reach comes a larger audience and allows greater accessibly to those who can’t come to the physical collection

If you want to monetize the collection, you can implement a paywall as part of the digital library. With a paywall, users must pay for access or features, and it can be instituted in many ways. Organizations that want to maintain free access but need to monetize to help cover digitization costs can add a paywall for printing or downloading or set specific collections behind a paywall. For more of a continual income, subscriptions or membership could be an option.

Not all collections can be shared with the public, but a digital library may be useful for your organization’s internal use. Private cloud-based collections or remote access to internal systems can improve the flexibility and efficiency of staff who work with the collection. Employees can search faster and more effectively than in a traditional physical collection, and work from home or on the road when necessary all while keeping the contents secure from public access.

Ready to get your library out into the (digital) world?

If no one can see your collection, how much good can it do? Imagine the possibilities of a fully digitized online library. The influence of your collection increases as access to it increases. Not only does your digital library open your collection to the world, but the fragile or deteriorating physical copies  remain safely preserved.

Improved Exposure and Discoverability

Often a challenge for smaller collections and organizations is a lack of exposure, even to their own target audience. Without enough exposure, even the most accessible collection doesn’t provide an impact on the community it serves. Sharing a digital collection online helps improve the overall exposure and discoverability of the collection.

In the digital age, online search engines are the primary means of research for many people. An online library properly set up with searchable metadata offers far greater discoverability than an organization’s website alone. With more detailed data to be searched, the greater visibility the collection has online, which makes it easier for those searching to discover the valuable information held in your collection. By sharing your collection, you will foster research and collaboration to help build the community your collection or organization is a part of.

Transparency and Authority

Quality research relies on trustworthy sources. With the hue and cry of “deep fakes” and “fake news,” shared online collections provide an essential repository of primary sources that break through the clutter with verifiable facts. The importance of visibility and trust in information cannot be understated. Transparency gives researchers the security of knowing the information they find in your collection is authentic to the original physical materials.

Likewise, by offering solid, verifiable primary sources for use within your community and beyond, your organization becomes an authority on your subject matter. Recognizing you as a reputable resource, your community will engage with your organization and come to rely on your collection for research or personal interests. The more people who come to your website and use your collection, the more opportunities you will have to expand your organization and the services you can offer.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Digital preservation is about connecting to history. We do our best to bring you the important news and personal stories you’re interested in. We’re always looking for article ideas. Come learn with us!