Michigan State University

Starting on Thursday, December 23, 2021, MeLCat Borrowing and Lending will be suspended while the MSU Libraries undergoes a significant software transition.

MSU students, staff, and faculty can continue to utilize interlibrary loan by placing requests through the MSU Libraries Interlibrary Services department. Community patrons will not be able to use MeLCat through the MSU Libraries during this time, but they can continue to do so using their local public library.

Digitization Considerations

Digitization should be thought of as just one part of a holistic preservation strategy. Retention and ongoing care of original media objects is strongly recommended unless specific factors make this impractical (e.g. severely deteriorated nitrate or acetate film).

Preservation Reformatting & Fair Use

Decisions related to the digitization of library holdings for preservation purposes are made under the guidance of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries. In short, these guidelines state that libraries and archives have the right—through the general exemption of fair use—to make digital copies of at-risk and inaccessible collection assets. For the legal definition of fair use with regard to reproduction in libraries and archives, see U.S. Copyright Law, Section 108.

A qualifying institution is allowed to make up to three copies of materials to preserve or replace items that are damaged, deteriorated, lost, or are in an obsolete format. The doctrine applies differently to unpublished and published works (see below).

Format obsolescence is a significant factor in the justification of preservation copies, but it is also vaguely defined. From the perspective of the law (17 U.S. Code §108), a format is considered obsolete if the equipment necessary to access it is no longer manufactured or no longer "reasonably available in the commercial marketplace." Contact the Media Preservation Librarian to discuss reasonable availability and to chart next steps.

Unpublished vs. Published Works

Unpublished Works (§108b) – Making copies of an unpublished work is permitted only for purposes of preservation, security, or deposit at another qualifying repository. This statute extends to digital formats, but limits access to the digital copy to the library premises.

Published Works (§108c) – Preservation copies (digital or physical) of a published work are permitted only when a legitimate, equivalent copy is not available at a fair and reasonable cost. Additionally, access to or circulation of original and preservation copies (or their derivatives) simultaneously is prohibited, with access to the digital copy limited to the library premises.

Prioritization of Collections

Commercial availability also comes into play when assessing the uniqueness of media content. Rare, original, archival or special collections media will typically take precedence over general collections, assuming that the material is not currently available for purchase (in digital or physical form) or that there are not significant holdings of this title presently in WorldCAT.