May 19, 2022

Library of Congress Releases Recommended Formats For Long-Term Preservation (6 Types of Creative Works)

From LC:

The Library of Congress today released a set of recommended formats for a broad spectrum of creative works, ranging from books to digital music, to inform the Library’s acquisition practices. The format recommendations will help ensure the Library’s collections processes are considering and maximizing the long-term preservation potential of its large and varied collections.

The recommended formats can be viewed here [full text PDF also embedded below] and cover six categories of creative output:

  • Textual Works and Musical Compositions
  • Still Image Works
  • Audio Works
  • Moving Image Works
  • Software and Electronic Gaming and Learning
  • Datasets/Databases

The recommendations will not result in the exclusion of other formats from consideration for the Library’s permanent collections. Foremost, the recommendations will enable the Library to identify the preferred format for acquisition when a work is offered in more than one format. However, given the importance of building a collection that can be preserved and made accessible in the long-term, it is expected that Library staff will take the recommendations into account in conjunction with other acquisitions guidelines.

The Library convened in-house, subject-matter specialists from across its curatorial divisions to develop the recommended formats. The Library will review and update the recommendations annually to ensure they remain current given the rapidly changing technological landscape.

In addition to informing internal processes, the Library is also making the recommended formats public to inform the creative and library communities of best practices for ensuring the preservation of and long-term access to creative output.

“The Library’s mission is not simply to collect the extraordinary and diverse creative content of the American people and from around the world, but to make sure the collections are available and accessible for many generations to come,” said Roberta Shaffer, Association Librarian for Library Services. “The goal of these recommendations and the ongoing process of reviewing and updating them annually is both to inform our internal acquisitions teams and also to share with external audiences what we are observing works well from a preservation perspective.”

From the Document:

The specifications which the Library is now publishing do not replace or supersede the Best Edition Statement, which provides guidance to publishers and creators in fulfilling their obligations with regard to the registration or deposit of their works under the terms of the Copyright Law. Instead, it seeks to complement that work, building upon the knowledge gained from working with the Best Edition Statement and providing a broader set of recommendations, aimed at providing guidance and clarity in a creative world, which is both rich with potential and rife with pitfalls, and afforded numerous competing options for information format or container. 


The creation and publication of these recommended format specifications is not intended to serve as an answer to all the questions raised in preserving and providing long-term access to creative content.

They do not provide instructions for receiving this material into repositories, managing that content or undertaking the many ongoing tasks which will be necessary to maintain this content so that it may be used well into the future. Tackling each of those aspects is a project in and of itself as each form of content has a unique set of facets and nuances. These specifications provide guidance on identifying sets of formats which are not drawn so narrowly as to discourage creators from working within them, but will instead encourage creators to use them to produce works in formats which will make preserving them and making them accessible simpler. Following these specifications helps make it realistic to build, grow and save creative output for our individual and collective benefit for generations to come.


Library of Congress Recommended Format Specifications

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.