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Coordinated Service Model for Digital Collections

The Penn Libraries create digital collections of unique materials important to research and teaching. The DigitalPenn team works with the person who proposed the project and with other units in the library to get materials digitized and available. If you have questions, please contact Richard Griscom.

Our Goals:

The Penn Libraries, in coordination with SAS Computing and the University Museum, seek to support scholarly projects that build, analyze and share collections of digital objects. Such projects require clearly articulated lines of responsibility with effective policy, programmatic and technical infrastructure coordination to ensure the long-term sustainability of digital collections.

Effective coordination among service providers and shared understanding of technical platforms and administrative procedures.

The coordinated service model is built on the understanding that different resources are required for building and managing collections, versus interpreting and presenting those collections. Our goal is to build well-ordered collections based on appropriate metadata standards, stored in robust, scalable systems capable of exposing the data through standards-based protocols. Scholars at Penn and elsewhere can then integrate the data into websites that present and analyze the collection.

The service model identifies seven stages for developing collections-based projects. These stages are not necessarily sequential but do build upon preceding stages. View a schematic of the seven-stage model.

User-focused project planning through early involvement and shared understanding of objectives and requirements.

We have developed a questionnaire to use when discussing new projects with researchers. We are assisting faculty with preparation of grant proposals by documenting the available institutional resources and providing cost estimates for services such as digitizing objects or custom web development.

Provision of technology platforms that will be persistent and sustainable over time.

The Digital Library Architecture (DLA) is the primary infrastructure for holding digital collections, facilitating discovery, and enabling web delivery. The Penn Libraries continue development of DLA-R to provide Repository Services, and DLA-D to provide Discovery Services.

The University Museum is implementing KE EMu—its new system for collection management. Current activity focuses on cataloging physical objects in their collection. It will be extended over time to include digital facsimiles of the physical objects (e.g., images, 3D models, etc.) and potentially other digital objects (e.g., sound recordings, data sets). The Museum also holds several independent digital collections (e.g., Gordion Archive, Hasanlu Archive, Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary, Shotridge Collection & Archive) running on a variety of platforms.

SAS Computing uses the Drupal content management system as the primary platform for building websites with database functionality. Drupal is based on open source components and supported by an active community of developers in SAS and beyond. It provides a versatile platform for websites that draw on data from internal and external sources—including DLA and KE EMu.

Establishment of protocols for data interchange among these systems.

The DLA-D system uses the Solr search engine ( to facilitate discovery of items in its collections. The Solr module for Drupal makes it possible to efficiently integrate collection searching into Drupal web sites. DLA-D also supports the SRU/SRW search protocol (

The Museum's KE EMu system will be searchable through the Museum's website as of December 2011. Ultimately, it will be able to support external search queries and export data in XML format.

Data interchange protocols and procedures will evolve over time as specific projects develop and new tools become available.