Dear colleagues,

I wanted to share a resource from UC Berkeley Library that may be of interest and use.

Often, scholarly outputs depend upon researchers' access to underlying resources stewarded by libraries, archives, and other cultural heritage institutions. Institutions that seek to make their collections (and especially their special collections) digitally available to facilitate research must first navigate law and policy issues like copyright, contracts, privacy, and ethics. Developing expertise in these four areas can be a significant impediment to collection digitization. As explained more fully in this story, UC Berkeley Library has recently released Responsible Access Workflows as an adaptable way for U.S. cultural heritage institutions to navigate these hurdles to facilitate digitization of special collections. 

As detailed in the story, certain workflow decisions can be made at scale where information is lacking, or an institution takes a certain position on something (e.g. maybe an institution wants to treat all content as "newsworthy" for purposes of the privacy inquiry under state and federal law; maybe there isn't sufficient information on collection publication dates so the institution decides to treat the material as unpublished with a longer period of copyright protection because they are more risk averse). All those junctures are the yellow boxes in the workflows. Please keep in mind that these are always going to be a living document, and we will continue to update them. 

The four workflows (copyright, contracts, privacy, and ethics) can be applied in any order. Within the ethics workflow in particular, when there is the potential for harm to or exploitation of people, resources, or knowledge, the workflow calls for applying local ethics best practices. We are working on developing UC Berkeley Library's local best practices right now. We will likely have one general set of local ethics best practices, and one that is specifically related to Indigenous materials. We expect these to be released sometime in the fall.

The entire set of workflows are also the framework to support our community engagement policy (akin to a takedown) -- which mirrors the four policy principles around copyright, contracts, privacy, and ethics. If content passes muster for being made available through the workflows, then it will remain online absent additional information from a user that would lead to a different result when applying the workflows.

We have major next steps ahead of us (with all deliverables to be publicly released for adaptation): 
  1. Finalize local ethics best practices within the ethics workflow
  2. Create extensive documentation about how to answer the workflow questions 
  3. Create a way of capturing the answers to workflow questions (e.g. spreadsheet or software) to have for record-keeping and to support assignment of rights statements
  4. Assign rights statements
We hope the workflows and community engagement policy may be of interest or use to you.

As ever,

Salwa Ismail
Associate University Librarian for Digital Initiatives and Information Technology
Associate CIO for UC Berkeley Library
Doe Annex 255G
UC Berkeley Library
o: (510) 664-5484

The Library is open, even though our buildings are closed:

to manage your DLF-ANNOUNCE subscription, visit