OCLC CONTENTdm Community Center and Documentation

CONTENTdm supports successful, rich and diverse collections for more than 2,000 organizations worldwide. When you choose CONTENTdm, you become part of an active user community that shares best practices and locally developed extensions through several regional user group meetings, virtual user group meetings and an online discussion group on the OCLC CONTENTdm Community Center (login required). The Community Center also provides information about quarterly releases, updates, news and other events related to CONTENTdm.

To get started with the OCLC Community Center, you will need to request a Service Account. Please use the OCLC symbol for the organization that owns the CONTENTdm license. Within a few days your CONTENTdm Community Center username will be emailed to you, along with instructions for setting your password.

Comprehensive documentation, including help files, tutorials and other tools and support resources, is available online through the CONTENTdm Support page.

Frequently asked questions

Data and metadata

Is CONTENTdm a relational database? What is the underlying management system?

CONTENTdm is not a relational database. CONTENTdm uses a text-based search engine built using Internet standards and protocols. It is optimized for fast text querying capability. This provides great flexibility in metadata support and fast performance for large collections. CONTENTdm supports text searches within or across multiple text-based metadata fields, enabling rich metadata searching within or across collections.

You do not need to purchase or support any additional databases to run CONTENTdm.

Does CONTENTdm allow data to be imported from an existing application?

Yes, data can be imported from other systems using a tab-delimited text format. This facilitates batch import of existing collection items and metadata from Microsoft® Excel, Microsoft Access, and other programs that support export of their data in tab-delimited text format. Newspapers,monographs and ebooks with metadata in METS/ALTO format can be imported using the CONTENTdm Flex Loader.

Does CONTENTdm allow data to be exported to a nonproprietary format such as XML?

Yes. CONTENTdm supports the export of data to XML or tab-delimited text format. CONTENTdm provides custom XML export options so users can define specific fields to be exported and designate the format for each exported field, including repeating fields and customization of XML tag names. In addition, you can choose to make CONTENTdm collection metadata available for harvesting via OAI-PMH.

Can records be integrated into our local Web OPAC?

Yes. You can upload the metadata from your CONTENTdm server to WorldCat using the free Digital Collection Gateway service. Each time you upload metadata to WorldCat using the Gateway, you are provided a WorldCat Sync report with the OCLC numbers of the records in WorldCat that correspond to the items in your CONTENTdm collection.  

If your ILS supports it, OAI can also be used to harvest from CONTENTdm into your ILS.

Does CONTENTdm support OAI?

CONTENTdm is fully compliant with OAI-PMH version 2.0. You can specify which of your published collections should be made available for harvesting. Support is also provided for OAI flow control, which permits large harvests of collections to be broken into smaller batches for more reliable network transmission.

Does CONTENTdm support the Metadata and Encoding Transmission (METS) schema?

Yes. XML data in the METS/ALTO format can be imported using the CONTENTdm Flex Loader. You can also export to METS/ALTO by using the CONTENTdm Standard XML metadata export format together with a custom stylesheet.

How is the metadata stored and indexed? Have you developed your own search software?

All metadata in CONTENTdm is stored in XML. It is indexed using a text-based database developed by OCLC. The database uses an optimized search engine (indexing words and phrases) and has been designed to scale to handle millions of records. The CONTENTdm search engine is the same search engine that powers WorldCat and is fast, flexible and accurate.

Does CONTENTdm support controlled vocabularies or thesauri?

Yes, CONTENTdm offers controlled vocabulary for consistent, uniform metadata entry. The software includes ten integrated thesauri from OCLC Terminologies Service:

  • Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT)®
  • Canadian Subject Headings (CSH)
  • Dublin Core Metadata Initiative Type Vocabulary
  • Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN)®
  • Guidelines On Subject Access To Individual Works Of Fiction, Drama, Etc., 2nd ed., form and genre
  • Māori Subject Headings / Nga Ūpoko Tukutuku
  • Medical Subject Headings (MeSH®) 2013
  • Newspaper Genre List
  • Thesaurus for Graphic Materials: TGM I, Subject terms
  • Union List of Artist Names (ULAN)®

Additionally, you can import or develop custom controlled vocabularies.

Are there any limitations on the number of items, collections, or metadata fields, or on field length?

CONTENTdm can scale to handle millions of items. There is no limit to the number of collections. The maximum number of metadata fields a user can create for each collection is 125. The maximum number of characters supported in a single metadata field is 128,000.

More and larger collections require more system resources. For details please see the CONTENTdm System Requirements below.

What is the CONTENTdm searching method?

CONTENTdm provides text search capability across user-defined fields and multiple collections. CONTENTdm also has a browse capability that allows users to view all the items in a collection. Searches can be performed on a single field or multiple fields in a collection and across multiple collections on a CONTENTdm server. Additionally, CONTENTdm offers Unicode searching, relevancy sorting, and faceted searching.

File formats

Does CONTENTdm handle books, periodicals, and other documents?

CONTENTdm allows you to create items consisting of multiple elements, such as books, newspapers, postcards, and multiple views of an object. This makes it possible for a user’s search results to return the entire entity rather than just individual elements of it. Full-text searching of documents is also supported.

What file types does CONTENTdm support?

CONTENTdm can store any file format. It can also display any file format that can be displayed in your browser either natively or via a plug-in. This includes all common formats such as JPEG, GIF, or TIFF images, WAV or MP3 audio files, AVI or MPEG video files, and PDF files, as well as URLs and EAD finding aids. Large-format image collections also benefit from the JPEG2000 capability available with CONTENTdm. XML data in the METS/ALTO format can be imported using the CONTENTdm Flex Loader.

Audio and video files that are H.264-encoded will play inline when selected by an end user. Other audio and video file formats can be stored but will be played via a plug-in or browser capability to support the format.

Authentication and security

Does CONTENTdm have provision for encrypting or protecting images from being copied without permission?

Images can be protected by restricting access to them using the CONTENTdm security features. Additionally, the Image Rights options enable you to band, brand, or watermark images with copyright information or a logo. There is no facility in CONTENTdm to prevent images from being saved by users viewing them in a Web browser. In general, any image that can be viewed in your browser can be captured and saved.

What kind of security or access control does CONTENTdm offer?

CONTENTdm supports both collection-level and item-level security. Access to collections and items can be restricted based on user names or IP addresses. You can also set permissions so that metadata is available to all users but permissions are required to view the associated file.

We understand that the confidentiality, integrity and availability of our library members’ information are vital to their business operations. To protect key information, we use a multilayered approach by constantly monitoring and improving our applications, systems and processes to meet the growing demands and challenges of dynamic security threats. We are ISO-27001 certified.


What platform is supported for CONTENTdm?

CONTENTdm is provided as “software as a service” (SaaS), so you don’t need to allocate personnel or hardware to manage your digital collections. CONTENTdm has a robust technical infrastructure, and the ability to handle collections with many millions of items. Operational support for CONTENTdm includes incremental backups for your CONTENTdm site, so your collections can be restored if you ever experience any problem. That’s a big help if you notice a problem in your workflow that you’d like to back out and try again. In addition, each CONTENTdm site is monitored by onsite operators 24 hours a day, so issues can be spotted and addressed even while you sleep.


Can I customize my CONTENTdm site?

CONTENTdm offers three levels of customization.

  • The CONTENTdm Website Configuration Tool lets you customize your website without doing any programming. You can use the Website Configuration Tool to set defaults, enable or disable components, choose colors, fonts and styles, and describe your site and your collections.
  • The Website Configuration Tool also lets you add custom scripts, custom CSS, and custom web pages to your CONTENTdm site. These customizations require some programming skills.
  • Finally, CONTENTdm has a well-defined query API that allows you to develop entirely new interfaces to display your collections. With the CONTENTdm API, users currently integrate their collections with Drupal, WordPress, Google Maps, VuFind and shopping carts.

If our images are already in a database, how difficult will it be to move them to CONTENTdm?

It's simple to load an existing database into CONTENTdm. If you can export your existing text description information into a tab-delimited text file (most databases have this capability) and can identify one of the fields as the filename of the corresponding image, you can easily load data and items into CONTENTdm using the data import tools.

Does CONTENTdm support languages other than English?

CONTENTdm supports Unicode—you can enter, store, display, and search metadata in all Unicode character sets.

You can easily localize CONTENTdm websites to support languages other than English. Currently, localizations are available in Catalan, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Dutch, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and Thai. Users can localize to support other languages by editing an XML file in Translation Memory eXchange (TMX) format.

Does CONTENTdm support EAD?

Yes, EAD finding aids can be added to CONTENTdm collections. End users can use a navigable table of contents to find and display each full EAD record. The full-record view can be customized with an XSL file. EAD records are fully text-searchable, and search terms are highlighted within the EAD content.

Item-level metadata is automatically extracted from EAD files based on an organization's custom metadata map.

What is an item? What is a compound object? How are they counted against my license level?

An item is any digital file that has been added to a CONTENTdm collection, such as a photograph, a page in a book, a dissertation in PDF format, or one side of a postcard. The item together with its metadata is counted as one in the total number of items. For example, if you have 500 photographs, each photograph (image with associated metadata) counts as one item. Therefore, 500 items are added to the collection and counted in the CONTENTdm license level total.

A compound object consists of two or more files bound together with an XML structure that enables the end user to retrieve them as a single object. Compound objects can be documents, books, postcards (two-sided objects), or picture cubes (six-sided views of three-dimensional objects). Each of the individual images or pages, as well as the resulting compound object itself, has associated metadata and is included in the item count.

For example:

  • If you have 10 postcards, they count as 30 items: 2 images plus 1 compound object = 3 items per postcard.
  • If you have 20 diaries of 100 pages each, they count as 2,020 items: 100 images plus 1 compound object = 101 items per diary.

A special case is a multi-page PDF. Regardless of whether a multi-page PDF is added as-is, or (in order to improve page-level discovery) converted to a compound object when added to CONTENTdm, it is counted as just one item.

How can I tell how many items and objects are in a collection?

CONTENTdm provides reports that give collection administrators information about the item count, compound object count, file types, and build history.

System requirements

CONTENTdm Project Client

The CONTENTdm Project Client requires the following:

  • Windows 10 (64-bit version required)
  • Microsoft .NET Framework 4.8
  • 4 GB RAM is recommended. For sites processing a large volume of files and/or large files/images, 8 GB RAM is recommended.
  • 4 GB of available hard-disk space for installation, plus additional space for Projects started in Project Client. A portion of this disk space will be freed after installation if the original download package is removed from the hard drive.
  • Minimum display resolution of 1024 × 768.

CONTENTdm Website

Browsers tested with the CONTENTdm Website are:

  • Google Chrome (current versions)
  • Mozilla Firefox (current versions)
  • Apple Safari (current versions)
  • Microsoft Edge (current versions)

CONTENTdm now includes a preservation archive

Ensure secure, managed storage and monitoring for your digital originals. CONTENTdm’s preservation archive provides digital preservation of all your digital files, and it is fully integrated into your digital collection workflow. You can be sure your library's digital originals are securely stored in a purpose-built environment. The preservation archive is a specially designed system in a controlled operating environment dedicated to the ongoing managed storage of digital content.

Need professional digitization services?

OCLC's digitization partner, Backstage Library Works can manage a variety of digitization projects. Backstage Library Works also provides a wide range of additional services, including data entry and OCR (optical character recognition) processing.


Training for CONTENTdm is available in both instructor-led and tutorial formats. As part of our commitment to controlling costs and providing value for our members, this training is offered for free to users of the service.

Member stories

photo: Salone monumentale at the Biblioteca Casanatense

Maximize sharing, searchability, and access to library collections

Discover how Casanatense Library committed to providing worldwide visibility of its growing digital collection.

photo: Rare Books and Special Collections at the American University in Cairo, interior hallway

Gain international recognition for your special collections

Discover how the American University in Cairo won a UNESCO award for its work preserving and sharing Egypt’s documentary heritage.

CONTENTdm allows you to easily build, preserve, and showcase your digital collections on your personalized website, making them more discoverable to people around the world. CONTENTdm also secures and monitors your digital originals in a cloud-based preservation archive so they remain safe for the future.

Service availability

  • Available everywhere (features differ by locale)

Learn more

Download the CONTENTdm flier

Download the CONTENTdm flyer
Download the flyer (US Letter)
Download the flyer (A4)

Download the CONTENTdm feature flier

Download the CONTENTdm digital preservation flyer
Download the feature flyer (US Letter)
Download the feature flyer (A4)

Upcoming events

Watch this space for CONTENTdm events.

On-demand webinars