:: Digital Libraries Columns


Library Journal "Digital Libraries" Columns 1997-2007, Roy Tennant

Please note: these columns are an archive of my Library Journal column from 1997-2007. They have not been altered in content, so please keep in mind some of this content will be out of date. :: Digital Libraries Columns

Selecting Collections To Digitize


   Two years ago, I looked at the issue of selecting items or collections
   to digitize ([123]"So Much To Digitize, So Little Time (and Money)," LJ
   8/98, p. 36-37). Much new guidance has since become available, aimed
   mostly at university/research libraries but helpful to others.

   The single most important work in this area actually appeared the same
   month as my previous column: "Selecting Research Collections for
   Digitization," by Dan Hazen, Jeffrey Horrell, and Jan Merrill-Oldham
   and published by the Council on Library and Information Resources. They
   correctly begin with the issue of copyright, since no digitization
   project can get off the ground without permission to make it available.
   The paper considers issues relating to the intellectual nature of the
   source materials; current and potential users; anticipated use; the
   format and nature of the digital product; describing, delivering and
   retaining the digital product; relationships to other efforts; and
   costs and benefits.

   Do not overlook the decision-making matrix provided at the end, since
   it distills into one useful flowchart a process for determining if a
   given collection is suitable for digitization.

   The British view
   A month later, the Research Libraries Group (RLG) and the National
   Preservation Office of the United Kingdom cosponsored the "Guidelines
   for Digital Imaging" conference. "Selection Guidelines for Digital
   Preservation" by Janet Gertz of Columbia University and "Guidance for
   Selecting Materials for Digitization" by Paul Ayris of University
   College, London, addressed selection.

   Gertz considers selecting for preservation of the physical item,
   selection for access, the value of the content, the demand for the
   materials, intellectual property rights, the required infrastructure,
   the cost of digitization and sources of funding, and the preservation
   of the digitized files. Ayris begins with considering the context of
   the digitization process and continues with categories of questions
   that should be considered in several areas. A UK-based case study is
   included, and Ayris concludes the paper with a decision matrix.

   The book Moving Theory into Practice, by Anne R. Kenny and Oya Y.
   Rieger, offers the chapter "Selection for Digital Conversion" by Paula
   de Stefano of New York University Libraries (RLG, 2000). Noting that
   there are different purposes for digitization, she highlights the types
   of selection to match those purposes: selection to enhance access,
   selection based on content, and selection for preservation. Case study
   sidebars augment the chapter by providing additional perspectives. A
   well-done tutorial based on this book is available online.

   An outgrowth of the popular School for Scanning offered annually by the
   Northeast Document Conservation Center is the just-published Handbook
   for Digital Projects: A Management Tool for Preservation and Access
   (NEDCC, 2000). In the chapter "Selection of Materials for Scanning,"
   Diane Vogt-O'Connor of the National Park Service outlines a strategy
   for soliciting suggestions of collections to digitize from staff and
   stakeholders and scoring and ranking those collections for selection.
   Both books can also help in other stages of a digitization project.

   Institutional criteria
   Selection guidelines produced by individual institutions are
   understandably focused on the particular needs of that institution and
   its clientele but may inspire you. Columbia University, in "Selection
   Criteria for Digital Imaging," considers the issues of technical
   feasibility, intellectual property rights, institutional support, and
   the value of the materials. The University of California Preservation
   Program describes similar guidelines in its "Selection Criteria for

   A report by Canada's Federal Task Force on Digitization contains a
   section "Selection of Materials for Digitization." It provides advice
   to government agencies beginning such projects, as well as for those
   seeking federal grants.

   The decision
   Most guidelines basically agree on some key issues, no matter your
   institutional environment or clientele. Do you have the legal right?
   Does the material have intrinsic value that will make it popular to the
   target clientele? Is there potential to add value to the material by
   increasing access to it, associating it with related materials, etc.?
   Is it unique? Is it possible (adequate institutional support,
   technically feasible, etc.)? If the answers are yes, then you're good
   to go.

                                  LINK LIST

        Columbia University Library Selection Criteria for Digital Imaging
                         Guidance for Selecting Materials for Digitisation
           Moving Theory into Practice Digital Imaging Tutorial: Selection
                           Selecting Research Collections for Digitization
                           Selecting Research Collections for Digitization
                  Selection Criteria for Preservation Digital Reformatting
                                     Selection Guidelines for Preservation
                                   Selection of Materials for Digitization
                           So Much To Digitize, So Little Time (and Money)
                                    UC Selection Criteria for Digitization