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The DLF Assessment Interest Group (DLF AIG) citations working group formed in the Fall of 2014 following the successful launch of the larger DLF AIG at the 2014 DLF forum. Volunteers interested in developing best practices for creating and displaying citations for digital library assets were solicited through the Digital Library Assessment Google Group. The citations working group was tasked with answering the following questions:

  1. What should a citation consist of?
  2. How can we best support appropriate citations?
  3. To what extent do common citation formats support this?
  4. What are the limitations of current digital library software systems, for displaying citation information?
  5. What are best practices for displaying citation information for reference manager software capture?

The citations working group was further split up to accomplish the following goals:

  1. Draft citation standards, based on what can and can't be incorporated into APA, Chicago, and MLA, that incorporate the necessary elements for digitized special collections and institutional repository content
  2. Explore how best to display citation information in page markup so reference managers like Mendeley, Zotero, and EndNote Web can easily parse the pages to import complete citation information
  3. Compile information on the technical issues for displaying citations from major software systems

As of DLF 2015, the first goal involving draft citation standards has been completed. An initial draft was circulated to the DLF Assessment group using Google Docs from March 6 through April 3, 2015. At that point comments and edits that were grammar and/or punctuation-related as well as suggestions to clarify text were resolved, and a new document was moved to for further editing. Additional comments were invited through April 24, 2015, at which point this version of the document was compiled.The resulting white paper, "Guidelines for Citing Library-hosted, Unique Digital Assets," is now available.

Access to the white paper is available via Google docs here, and will be posted on Figshare following DLF 2015.

Abstract of "Guidelines for Citing Library-hosted, Unique Digital Assets"

These draft guidelines were developed in response to a call for steps forward made by the Digital Library Federation (DLF) Assessment subgroup on Benefits. One of the areas identified for development included the establishment of best practices and guidelines for citing digital libraries.

Most if not all major citation styles do not provide direction for citing digital objects, and it is difficult for the administrators of digital repositories to use traditional citation metrics to track the use of their digital objects in scholarly output. Scholarly literature has recently begun to focus on challenges and best practices for citing data sets. In addition, some citation styles, as well as individual institutions, provide guidelines for citing special collections materials. Much of this work can be drawn upon in order to format citations for digitized special collection and cultural heritage materials (e.g. rare books, manuscript materials, images, moving images, etc.) and institutional repository content.

These guidelines attempt to address the following questions:

  1. What should a citation consist of?
  2. How can we best support appropriate citations?
  3. To what extent do common citation formats support this?

This document outlines suggested citation guidelines in an attempt to fill in gaps when the citation style does not give guidelines for a type of source—in this case, institutional repository and digitized cultural heritage objects.

White Paper Author and Contributors

  • Elizabeth Joan Kelly, Loyola University New Orleans (author)


The following people provided valuable feedback, edits, and comments on the various drafts of this document.

  • Geoffrey Bilder
  • Bianca Crowley
  • Jody DeRidder
  • Kevin Hawkins
  • Stacy Konkiel
  • Martha Kyrillidou
  • Bill Landis
  • Elliot D. Williams

Next Steps

This document will be presented and discussed at the 2015 Digital Library Federation Forum as part of the session "Collaborative Efforts to Develop Best Practices in Assessment: A Progress Report" on Monday, October 26 at 1:30pm Pacific Time. The session will be available via livestreaming during the conference. There will also be an opportunity to learn more about and discuss the group's work at the DLF Assessment lunch on Tuesday October 27.

Other groups both within the Digital Library Federation and without are working on how best to display citation information in page markup so reference managers, local library catalogs, discovery systems, and others can easily parse digital repositories to import complete citation information. Those interested in participating in developing best practices for creating and displaying citations of library-hosted, unique digital assets should contribute to the discussion through the DLF AIG Google Group or in person at DLF.

Next Steps

If you are interested in helping us develop best practices and guidelines for measuring benefits of digital libraries, please join our Digital Library Assessment Google Group and speak up!  :-)

Reference resources:

  1. ANSI/NISO Standard Z39.29-2005 (R2010) Bibliographic References
  2. The California Digital Library's Datapub blog has a good summary of data citation basics, which document "core" and "recommended" components of dataset citations.
  3. Spiro, Lisa, and Jane Segal. “The Impact of Digital Resources on Humanities Research.” — Fondren Library, Rice University., n.d. Web. 2 July 2014. [1]
  4. Eccles, Kathryn E., Mike Thelwall, and Eric T. Meyer. “Measuring the Web Impact of Digitised Scholarly Resources.” Journal of Documentation 68.4 (2012): 512–526. ProQuest. Web. 3 July 2014. [2]
  5. Kelly, Elizabeth. A guide for students on citing digitized special collection materials using Chicago, MLA, and APA citation styles [3]