Discussion session proposal: Digital Collections Represent?

What do you look for in a digital collection? When was the last time you used content (whether images, video, audio, or text) from a digital collection for your research? How easy was it to find what you wanted? Did you find what you wanted? The work I’m trying to accomplish as a digital collections curator at Penn State University Libraries needs input from a community of users – in particular, from our faculty and students. A digital collection can’t, nor should it necessarily, recreate what happens in a physical archive, but what should librarians, including subject specialists, and archivists be doing to facilitate efficiencies and rich outcomes in research through the way we represent our digital collections? Is a digital collection development policy appropriate? If so, how would this differ from, or be similar to, policies for the development of a physical collection? I want what we put online to be useful and used, rather than just pretty objects serendipitously encountered (if that). To this end, I’m keen to have a discussion in which we not deconstruct the notion of a digital collection, so much as we unpack the representation and user experience (both typical/actual as well as ideal) of a digital collection, particularly from a researcher’s perspective. Joining me in leading this discussion will be my colleague, Dawn Childress, Humanities Librarian for German and Slavic Languages and Literatures at Penn State University Libraries. (The question mark after “Represent” in the title is intentional, such that this session may also be seen as: how do we get to “Digital Collections Represent!”)