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Digital Collections at AUB

This is a general guide about digital collections, highlighting major digital collections at AUB as well as selected Middle Eastern digital collections around the world.
What is a Digital Collection?


  • "A digital collection consists of digital objects that are selected and organized to facilitate their discovery, access, and use. Good digital collections include metadata used to describe and manage collections. In addition to metadata, a digital collection will include at least one interface that gives access to it."   (From NISO - A Framework for Building Good Digital Collections)
  • What is a digital collection or digital library? "A digital library is any collection of documents that has been digitally preserved and is accessible on the internet or through software. A digital library may contain manuscripts, newspapers, books, journals, images, audio, and video." (From What is a digital collection? Anderson Archival)

Digital Materials 

A digital collection is simply a set of related items that are in electronic form and can be accessed by computers or other electronic devices (Mobile, tablet, etc.). We can call these electronic items digital objects or digital materials. These digital materials tend to fall under two categories: 1. born digital and 2. made digital from analog sources. 

I. Born Digital Materials

Born-digital refers to any item that was created in an electronic environment or originated in a digital form. Types of born-digital materials include but are not limited to:

  • Original images or pictures taken with a digital camera
  • Websites
  • Texts written and published electronically (e.g. Word and Google documents, spreadsheets)
  • Emails
  • Media (photos and videos) taken with a digital device
  • Data sets and Databases available electronically through special devices.


II. Digitized Materials

These are analog materials that have been transformed into digital form, especially for storage, access and use in a computer. These are materials that were NOT “born digital” but converted to digital materials through the process of digitization and include, for example:

  • Scanning of print photos, paintings, maps, posters, manuscripts and other works on papers
  • Converting print books into PDFs
  • Converting VHF files (music and videos) into digital files.

Digitization is a process of converting the different forms of information, such as text, books, art works, historical documents, images, photos, journals, sound recordings, videos, etc. into digitized format. The digitization of these materials must follow appropriate digitization standards and guidelines. 

AUB Libraries follow FADGI guidelines (Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative) for its digitized content. FADGI is a cooperative effort among experts in the field, including Library of Congress, to develop and sustain common digitization guidelines and practices for cultural heritage materials.

To learn more about digitization standards, preservation and best practices refer to the following books, resources and guides: 

I. Books

II. Resources and Guides

 (IFLA 2002) إرشادات مشاريع رقمنة مجموعات الحق العام، في المكتبات ومراكز الأرشيف

Searching Digital Collections


Digital collections tend to be focused on a person, event, organization, or time period, and can be organized by subject, format, type, place, and also by time period.

Digital collections also offer search functionality. 

  • Full text search, in addition to the descriptive metadata improve search results and discovery of the content of these collections. 
  • Born digital text is searchable electronically while, scanned text is only searchable after using OCR (Optical Character Recognition). 
  • Full text search is supported whenever required by the digital library.


Metadata is data about data. "The term refers to any data used to aid the identification, description and location of networked electronic resources" (IFLA, Digital Libraries: Metadata).
There are different types of metadata. The main types of metadata relevant to digitization projects are: 

  • Administrative metadata: contains information that will help in management and preservation of the digital object, including file format, file size, how the object was created, who can access it, what software is required to use it, and copy right permission.  
  • Descriptive metadata: describes the object and its content (title, author, date of publication, subject, keywords, description, etc.). Descriptive metadata is used for discovery of the digital object.  

For more on Metadata refer to this book 'Metadata for digital collections : a how-to-do-it manual' 

OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is a technology that enables to convert different types of documents, such as scanned paper documents, PDF files or images captured by a digital camera into editable and searchable data. This technique converts the image of a scanned page into text.
For best practices refer to 
OCR Best Practices from University of Pittsburg Libraries.
The following are s
ample OCR software or tools: Adobe Acrobat Pro DCABBYY FinereaderTesseractOnline OCR, Google Drive and Copyfish. 

Types of Digital Collections


  • Digital Archives are usually created for the purpose of preserving historical objects and making them available to researchers. They are based on actual archives and may include born digital and digitized objects.
  • Digital Libraries consist of digital objects that are selected and organized to facilitate their discovery, access, and use.
  • Databases are a collection of data arranged for ease and speed of search and retrieval by a computer or other devices.
  • Digital Repositories are a collection of online resources. These repositories can be institutional or subject in focus. They facilitate digital preservation and scholarly communication.
  • Digital Exhibitions are based on actual exhibitions and can be a discovery tool for finding an archival collection.
Copyright, Public Domain, and Creative Commons


Copyright is a form of legal protection that provides authors of original creative works (for example text, images, music, and videos) with a set of exclusive rights to: 

  • Reproduce the work
  • Distribute copies of the work
  • Prepare derivative works based on the original, such as translation and adaptation
  • Change the work, such as creating a new work form the original work
  • Publicly perform the work, such as musical concerts
  • Publicly display the work, such as art exhibitions

Copyright Duration varies from country to country, for example:

  • Under current U.S. law, copyright lasts until 70 years after the death of the author
  • Lebanon and the majority of Arab countries protect books for the lifetime of the author plus 50 years after his/her death 

Copyright duration does not last forever. When copyright expires, the work is said to be in the public domain or out of copyright

Public Domain

The term "Public Domain" refers to creative and intellectual works that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, and patent laws. These works are open for access and usage by the public without obtaining permission. 

Works can become in the public domain, if:

  • Copyright expires
  • Copyright owner dedicated the work to public use
  • Copyright owner placed the work in the public domain using the Creative Commons licenses

Creative Commons Licenses

Creative Commons is a non profit organization that provides free licenses for individuals who want to license their work. The Creative Commons (CC) licenses allow creators to communicate which rights they reserve, and which rights they waive for the benefit of recipients and other creators.

There are six different Creative Commons licenses, each with varying levels of freedom and conditions for use of various materials.

Key License terms are four:

  BY - Attribution required

  NC - No Commercial use

  ND - No Derivatives works

 SA  Share Alike (the license
             must be the same on any derivative works)

The six Creative Commons licenses are
combination of these terms

Infographic by Shihaam Donnelly

The most restrictive of the six main licenses is CC-BY NC ND (Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives): "Anyone is free to download and share works under this license as long as they give credit for the original creation, the shared work is not changed and not used for commercial purposes." (AUB University Libraries - Digital Collections)