Rarely Analyzed

The Relationship between Digital and Physical Rare Books Collections

Keywords: Digital libraries, Special collections, Rare books, Collection analysis, Data visualization, Metadata


The relationship between physical and digitized rare books can be complex and, at times, nebulous. When building a digital library, should showcasing a representative slice of the physical collection be the goal? Should stakeholders focus on preservation concerns, high-use items, or other concerns? To explore these conundrums, a special collections librarian and digital services librarian performed a comparative analysis of their library’s physical and digital rare books collections. After exporting MARC metadata for the rare books from their ILS, the librarians examined the place of publication, publication date, and broad subject range of the collection. They used this data to create a variety of visualizations with the open-source digital humanities tool Tableau Public. Next, the authors downloaded the rare books metadata from the digital library and created illuminating data visualizations. Were the geographic, temporal, and subject scope of the digital library similar to that of the physical rare books collection? If not, what accounts for the differences? The implications of these and other findings will be explored.


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How to Cite
McCormack, A., & Wittmann, R. (2022). Rarely Analyzed. Information Technology and Libraries, 41(2). https://doi.org/10.6017/ital.v41i2.13415