Frequently Asked Questions

  • Some common questions and their answers about the Mountain West Digital Library

Here are some common questions about MWDL. If your question is not covered in the list below, please contact us.

Searching in the MWDL portal

Do I need to search each repository separately?

No, the MWDL portal by default searches all the digital collections on all our regional repositories at once. (You have the option to search only one repository if you like. To do this, use Advanced Search to specify "Digital Repository" and type in the name of the repository.)

I am trying to look at a digital resource that came up in MWDL's search results, but, when I click on the link, I see a screen that says "System unavailable." Why can't I get through?

The records in our index link to digital resources hosted on repositories around the region, and sometimes those servers go down temporarily. Since most of our repositories are managed by university and college libraries, where staff works only during business hours, there may be no one around to restart the server. Please check again after the start of the next business day in Mountain Time (Pacific Time for our Nevada repositories).

I need medical information on a condition or disease that is mentioned in some digital resources found on the Mountain West Digital Library. Can you provide medical advice to me?

Unfortunately, we are not equipped to handle medical questions of any kind.

Using Materials Found

The Mountain West Digital Library is a portal aggregating the metadata of hundreds of different collections for integrated search, and, as such, we do not own copyright or manage the licenses and permissions of any of the resources shared on our site.

What is the copyright on digital resources found in the Mountain West Digital Library?

Most digital resources are copyrighted by the collection partner responsible for managing the digital collection. A few resources are in the public domain, but this is rare. The copyright is usually given in the metadata field called "Rights".

What usage rights are granted for digital resources found in the Mountain West Digital Library?

The usage rights that partners are willing to grant you varies. A few of our partners grant specific usage rights up-front -- for example, using the Creative Commons licensing system -- right in the metadata for the digital resource. Check the metadata under "Rights" or "Usage Rights" for this information, if it exists. In those cases, you can use the resource as specified without contacting the partner. Most partners, however, simply state that they hold copyright and give contact information for you to use to contact them to request permission for your specific use. Many partners have one-page Permission Request Forms you can submit asking for usage rights. Most partners, but not all, will freely grant low-volume usage for non-commercial purposes, particularly for educational or personal use. Most partners, but not all, will arrange for you to pay a fee for high-volume and/or commercial use. The key is to contact the partner listed under "Rights".

How do I obtain permission to use digital resources that I found through the Mountain West Digital Library?

You will need to contact the partner that holds the copyright to the digital resource. Contact information is usually listed under "Rights" in the metadata for the item.

I have found a digital image that is very interesting to me, but it doesn't provide enough detail or is too grainy for my purposes. Is there a higher resolution version available?

The "access version" of many images in the Mountain West Digital Library is optimized for speedy delivery. Typically, there is a higher resolution version available from the publishing organization, listed in the "Rights" field in the metadata for the image. A few of our partners make the higher resolution versions available online, via a link at the bottom of the metadata. Most, however, have stored the high-res version -- otherwise known as the "archival version" or "original TIFF file" -- on a local server at their institutions, and for access to those you will need to contact the partner.

How do I get a high-quality photographic print of a photograph I found on the Mountain West Digital Library?

Some, but not all, of our partners provide a photographic print service for a fee. Please contact the publishing organization listed under "Publisher" or "Rights" in the metadata for the photo.

I found a list of descriptions of materials organized by "Folder" in a long list, including something I would like to access. However, there is no link to the digitized resource, just a description of it. How can I get the digitized resource?

You have likely found a finding aid describing the physical collection at one of our member libraries or archives. Most of these "special collections" are not yet digitized. If an item is digitized, you will see a hyperlink in the finding aid. For other items in the list, to get access to the physical collection, you will need to contact the library or archives itself. Sometimes libraries can help patrons remotely; sometimes they need you to come in to the library to view the collection materials. Look under "Repository Address" in the finding aid at the top and give them a telephone call to find out if and how they can help you view the materials you need.

How do I give appropriate attribution to a digital resource found online? How do I cite it in my paper, presentation, etc.?

How you cite resources from the MWDL will vary somewhat depending on the type of resource that you are accessing and the citation format you are using (APA, MLA, Chicago). However, there are standard pieces of information that you will need to include in the citation, regardless of format. Most of these elements can be found in the metadata of each item. These include:

  • creator of the item, if available (e.g., the photographer, author, or artist)
  • title of the item
  • date of the original material
  • archives or institution publishing the digital resource, and the particular collection it is in, such as "Utah Valley University, Wilson W. Sorensen Photograph Collection"
  • reference URL, i.e., the unchanging "address" of the resource, which, in CONTENTdm, is given at the top left of the item display screen -- for example, ",308"
  • publication information (if previously published as a book, in a journal, etc.)
  • date viewed online

Here are several examples using several different style formats:

Scientific report or book using APA style:

Brown, C.J.D. (1935) Survey of the waters of the Cache National Forest, Utah. [Electronic version]. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. Retrieved April 1, 2011, from Utah State University Merrell-Cazier Library, Utah's Most Elusive Digital Collection:,1470

Photograph using Chicago style:

Jackson, W. H., photographer. 1871. Grotto Geyser, Fire Hole Basin. Photograph. Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library, William Henry Jackson Collection.,2206. (accessed April 4, 2011).

Map using MLA style:

Map of the Tonopah Mining District, Nevada (1905). Map. 1905. University of Nevada, Reno, University Libraries, Mary B. Ansari Map Collection. Web. 1 April 2011,4786

For more types of examples, try:

The Learning Page: How to Cite Items from the Library of Congress Digital Collections:

How to Cite Items included in the Crater Lake Digital Research Collection:

Contributing New Resources

I have some interesting (physical) photographs, historical documents, maps, or other historical materials about the U.S. Mountain West or themes represented in the Mountain West Digital Library. I would be willing to have these digitized and shared online. How can I make them available?

We do not currently have a mechanism for accepting physical materials and digitizing them at the Mountain West Digital Library. (We would like to have this!) However, many of our partner libraries, historical societies, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions are interested in digitizing materials and working with partners. They then share the metadata for those new collections with MWDL, so that the resources are discoverable in the MWDL search portal. Please contact us, and we will try to match you to a suitable library or hub organization.

Digitization Guidelines

I notice that you have finding aids in the Encoded Archival Description (EAD) format included in Mountain West Digital Library. We are considering digitizing our finding aids at our library or archives. Can you give us some guidance about the process and tools your partners use?

Yes, please see the documentation at the EAD Project wiki at

Metadata Assignment

I have found an error in the metadata about a digital resource. How do I get this corrected?

Our partners are grateful for the help of others in updating or correcting the information about digital resources. As you might imagine, many times the original metadata cataloger had little information to go on. Please contact the copyright holder of the digital resource. This information is usually in the "Rights" field in the metadata.

I am assigning metadata to a collection that is being harvested or will be harvested by Mountain West Digital Library. What fields should I use and how should they be mapped for harvest?

Fields that are to be shared for harvesting into Mountain West Digital Library should be mapped to Qualified Dublin Core (QDC) or simplified Dublin Core (DC). MWDL harvests QDC from servers where QDC is provided, and DC from other servers. Local fields that you do not wish to share for harvesting should be mapped to "None". There are eight fields that are required by MWDL standards: date, description, format, identifier, rights, subject, title, and type. There are two "mandatory if applicable" fields: conversionSpecifications and creator. For complete information about how to use the most common fields, suggested schemes, and Dublin Core mapping, please see the Mountain West Digital Library Dublin Core Application Profile, Version 2.0, 20 July 2011 (pdf), and the General Guidelines posted by the Metadata Task Force of the UALC Digitization Committee.

OAI Harvesting

I am interested in sharing the digital resources on my organization's digital repository with the Mountain West Digital Library. How do I set up my repository for providing metadata?

The Mountain West Digital Library harvests metadata from the hub repositories weekly using the Open Archives Initiative (OAI) Protocol for Metadata Harvesting. Please see the guidelines posted on our page about Setting Up a Repository for Harvest.