Libraries are moving towards digitizing and preservation of older records for ease of access. Moreover, with the internet and electronic media becoming the major sources of information dissemination, libraries are rising to the next level. With digitization of libraries, the creation and sharing of information becomes more feasible in the present digital age.
Library automation has helped to provide easy access to the collection through the use of computerized library catalogues. The choice of materials to be digitized depends on the priorities of each library. This may include:
- Materials that are in high demand, especially when they are available in limited copies or are allowed only restricted access
- Town records
- Historical records on microfilm and microfiche
- Aging materials that may be required for research purposes
- Useful materials that are out of publication
- Collections that are difficult to manage
A prime example of a library that has digitized its acquisitions and collections for preservation is the Harvard University Library. This library is best understood as a coordinated system of more than 80 libraries with shared holdings. The aim of the project was to increase online access to the holdings which include more than 15.8 million volumes. Physical access to Harvard’s library materials is generally restricted to their students, faculty, researchers and scholars whereas the digitized collection is available to both members of the Harvard community and users around the world.
Libraries that are planning to digitize their resources can follow the following steps for better results.
Evaluating project requirements
- Check the condition of the items and determine whether they can be handled safely throughout the project
- Reduce the risk of damage to the collection with appropriate scanning equipment, trained staffs and sufficient workspace
- Identify the treatment required to stabilize the collection for the project workflow
- Identify the most cost-effective scenario for timely digitization without causing any damages to the collection
Assessing the Condition of the Items
Check the items for the following conditions.
- Books that have slack joints, disconnected spines or boards
- Text concealed by crease or folds
- Harmful housing that has to be replaced
- Restricted bindings that open less than 90 degrees
- Scrolls, palm leaves, panoramas and other such difficult formats
- Paper or text damaged by tears that are longer than a quarter inch
- Photographs or paper that are cockled and have to be flattened
Installing the Equipment Necessary for the Digitization Project
- Computer system
- Scanners which can be flatbed, handheld or any other sophisticated system
- Digital cameras that can be used in some cases
- CD or DVD writer or printer
The scanned documents can be saved in different formats such as JPEG, TIFF or PDF as needed. They can also be edited before they are permanently saved.
If you are planning to perform the digitization in- house, a proper work space should be provided to house the scanning equipment. You will also have to recruit dedicated staff for the same and provide them with the necessary training.
Many libraries opt to outsource digitization activity since it involves costly equipment, huge financial investment, specialized manpower and so on. The decision to outsource is usually taken on the basis of the following factors:
- Size of the collection
- Complexity of the process
- Period within which the digitization must be completed
- Experience of the outsourcing service provider
With an experienced document conversion company having the latest sophisticated scanning equipment and trained document conversion professionals, any digitization project can be successfully completed. Outsourcing also ensures minimum effort and waste of time on the part of the library staff. Moreover, they would also ensure careful handling of the documents entrusted, and reduce the risk of damage to the collections. Large volume documents are effortlessly and efficiently handled, and the service provided within the specified time. Established companies offer affordable and competitive pricing as well.