Starting a New Collection

Category : Introduction to DC

How can you create and maintain an efficient, scalable workflow for adding new collections to your Digital Commons?

Here are tips gathered from fellow repository managers and from our Consulting Services team to help speed you on your path to success.

1. Aim to keep it simple

During our courses, more experienced repository managers often advise their juniors not to overthink and to expect the unexpected. Generally, administrators find it inefficient to plan to the last detail before starting a new collection. Instead, start simple and use the flexibility of Digital Commons to fine-tune things like metadata and introductory text as needed. Planning the hierarchy for a collection and choosing the types of structure are good areas to focus on initially.

2. There’s no one right answer when choosing a type of structure

The structures in Digital Commons give you a range of presentation options. Some content has a clear path to a particular Digital Commons publication type. A journal will typically use the journal structure; a set of books or monographs will use a book gallery; and a collection of images will most commonly use an image gallery. Other materials might have a few different options, or they might benefit from the features available in an unexpected structure type.

To become acquainted with the range of structure types and the terminology of Digital Commons, we recommend Digital Commons Structure Types: Publications and Communities and the accompanying Publication Types at a Glance (PDF) that provides examples of content in each publication.

Those resources are often enough to help you select the right type of structure for your new collection. But in some cases the best route isn’t the most obvious for matching your institution’s unique collections with the right presentation. If you’ve narrowed down your choices, but still aren’t sure, contact Consulting Services for further guidance. Your consultant can help you weigh the options and pick the best fit for your collection.

3. Consult stakeholders early

Who will have an interest in the collection? Which groups should have input? These are its stakeholders. At minimum, your visitors will be an important audience to keep in mind. Additional stakeholders might include the following:

  • Librarians: when you are building collections that touch on areas of your colleagues’ specialty, e.g., special collections, public service, metadata, etc.
  • Editors and Conference Organizers: when launching journals or collections for events like conferences, symposia, etc.
  • Graduate School Administrators: when building ETD collections
  • Undergraduate Research Office Directors: when building student collections
  • Office of Research Coordinators: when building faculty scholarship and grant-funded collections
  • Communications and Marketing Managers: when designing and describing the repository
  • Office of the Provost Administrators: when communicating the value of the repository to campus
  • Press Representatives: when launching journals or monograph series to delineate your scopes
  • Advisory Council Members: when forming guidelines and to help relay them to designated constituencies

Note that if you are building journals or event communities, there are additional resources to help you gather input on design and workflow needs from likely stakeholders. See the Journal Setup Form and Event Community Setup Form for details.

4. Build (when content is ready or almost ready!)

Traffic patterns indicate that visitors leave repositories after only a few clicks, if those clicks land on pages without content. Therefore it’s best to build a collection once you have the content ready to upload.

Tip: sometimes it is necessary to build an empty structure while you are finalizing a content migration or if a collection requires self-submissions, e.g., a journal. If so, consider using the introductory text to signal to visitors that content is forthcoming in SEASON, YEAR. Or contact your consultant for additional options.

Consulted your stakeholders, chosen your type of structure, and content is ready  to upload? Time to build!

What to include in your request for a new structure

When you are ready to request a new structure, contact Consulting Services at For most structure types, you will need to provide:

  • Structure type: The type of publication(s) you wish to add to your repository. For instance, you may need a new series to house faculty publications. Read about the types of publications available.
  • Structure title: The title of your publication or community as you would like it to appear on the site. For instance, “Biology Faculty Publications.”
  • URL label: A URL label for the structure, which also identifies it in the Configuration tools. The label appears after the slash in the series URL: The URL should be lowercase, without spaces, and starting with a letter. To separate words, you may use hyphens (recommended) or underscores.
    For journals and events, a space to enter the URL label is included on the corresponding setup form. See the Journal Setup Form or the Event Community Setup Form for details.

Other information you might provide with new structure requests:

  • Nesting of structures: For larger collections, it is useful to include the intended nesting between structures. A spreadsheet or outline are often used for this purpose. Seeing this overview helps Consulting Services consider all factors when setting up your structures. Read more about how Digital Commons structures are nested in Creating a Hierarchy with the Group Tool.
  • Metadata: Any specific requests for the publication metadata or submit form(s). Find details about default metadata and typical custom fields in Metadata Options in Digital Commons and its accompanying charts.

Consulting Services will inform you once your structure has been set up on the site. Note: many aspects can be adjusted after we build a collection, but we cannot change the type of structure or its label in the URL!

Configure the collection–make it unique

Once your consultant has the above information, it’s often less than a day before you can begin using the Configuration tab to tweak the collection. (Additional time may be required for journals and events.) Read about using the Configuration tab in Digital Commons Administrator Configurations.

What to modify:

  • Introductory text: to orient visitors and provide the context of the collection
  • Links: to provide visitors with related links, e.g., to the webpage of the department featured, if it’s a departmental collection
  • Display: to create visual interest or strengthen branding, add a logo, a slideshow, or a carousel. Customize the defaults to suit your new collection
  • Workflow: to optimize the workflow, scan the collection’s Configuration tab for options, and use the Administrators link to refine administrator permissions
  • Metadata and more: need more fields, to rearrange them, or to edit the tips? To update metadata or make other changes to a collection, just contact your consultant.

Go ahead and change it up, and don’t wait to let us know if you could use a hand! Once you like the results, you’re ready to upload. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to reach perfection. You can make further changes while uploading, too.

With content uploaded, you can:

  • Customize submission headings from “Submissions from YYYY” to something more descriptive and unique. For a series of archival correspondence, for example, the headings might read “Letters from YYYY.”
  • Take advantage of cross-over opportunities or options to enhance display. For example, image galleries can feed content carousels and image slideshows in related structures, or in a parent community.
  • Leverage available configurations and features to enhance the publication, e.g., a jumplist, PDF viewer, etc. The blog series 20 Cool Things You Didn’t Know about DC can be good to spark ideas.
  • If you haven’t yet, consider how search engines will find your content.

5. Share, share, share!

A truly successful collection is easy to find and use. Each collection has built-in tools that make it simple to:

Share your new collection with campus.

Optimize for search engine discoverability.

Embed collection readership maps onto center or departmental webpages.

Track and disseminate readership stats that demonstrate the impact of your work!

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