Simon Fraser University


Mark Jordan

Mark Jordan’s open-source Digital Collection Builder program makes it easy for libraries to provide access to their digital collections.

Software delivers digital access to Canadiana

July 9, 2009

SFU is leading a major effort to post Canadian cultural experiences online, thanks to a new open-source software tool first conceived by university librarians Lynn Copeland and Mark Jordan.

Digital Collection Builder (DCB) makes it simple for libraries, archives and other heritage organizations to provide access to their unique digitized collections.

The software allows even the smallest institution to describe its digital content in a structured way so it can be discovered through search portals such as, the non-profit, cultural NGO mandated to locate and preserve early printed Canadian materials.

DCB, which can be downloaded for free at, was created with the help of a $200,000 grant from Heritage Canada.

Jordan, head of SFU library systems, used the funds to lead a team of contract software developers, particularly New Westminster-based Artefactual Systems, whose president Peter Van Garderen is an SFU graduate. Garderen hired Jack Bates, an SFU computing science student, to write much of the code.

"It’s basically a website content-management system for putting digital collections online," says Jordan. "If you want to be efficient about how you organize digital collections there are not many options."

Proprietary solutions are expensive, inflexible and limited by the vendor’s choice of features. But with open-source programs such as DCB the programming code is freely available so anyone can share improvements with the entire DCB user community.

Any local IT staffer can set up DCB without help from a programmer. But "you still have to get a budget or grants to digitize the content and manage these new digital collections," says Jordan.

"Nothing takes care of itself for free."

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