Best Practices Manual for Electronic Publishers

The National Library of Canada’s mandate to preserve the country’s published heritage has expanded to include the world of electronic publications. Initiatives such as their Electronic Collection have placed the NLC at the forefront of Canadian organizations considering the many challenges surrounding the production, preservation and management of digital publishing.

Client Goals

  • Provide clarity regarding what constitutes an “electronic publication” in the eyes of the National Library
  • Collect concrete information on best practices in the field of electronic publishing from key industry players and academics
  • Develop formal documentation to assist publishers with electronic publishing and electronic deposit
  • Provide a list of “Next Steps” outlining options for the development of the NLC’s electronic collection efforts

User Consultations

The first step that The Commons Group took was to meet directly with the NLC staff-members working with the Library’s electronic collections in order to determine their needs and expectations for the project.

After this meeting, we drafted a a discussion paper which was circulated to a Reference Group consisting of members of the Canadian academic and literary publishing communities, selected from attendees of the NLC’s January 2000 Consultation on Online Publications. This Reference Group then met to draft a table of contents for the Best Practices Manual, and to provide feedback regarding the NLC’s efforts in the field of electronic collections as a whole.


With the suggestions and comments of the Reference Group and the NLC staff in hand, the Commons Group set out to write the first draft of the Best Practices Manual. Drawing on this information, along with knowledge we have accumulated through other projects (such as running Coach House Books, Canada’s first electronic publishing company, and co-authoring several best-selling Internet guides), we completed the manual, and recirculated it to the NLC staff and Reference Group for comment. These comments were then incorporated into version 1 of the manual.

The Result

The final result was the first version of the NLC Best Practices Manual, a “living document” that will evolve as new trends in online publishing emerge. We also produced a “Next Steps” document for internal NLC circulation, outlining various options for proceeding with the collection fo electronic literature, based on the recommendations of the Reference Group.

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