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 They have not been altered in content, so please keep in mind some of this content will be out of date.
Selecting Collections To Digitize
Two years ago, I looked at the issue of selecting items or collections to digitize ("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 Digitization." 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 http://www.columbia.edu/cu/ libraries/digital/criteria.htm Guidance for Selecting Materials for Digitisation http://www.rlg.org/preserv/ joint/ayris.html Moving Theory into Practice Digital Imaging Tutorial: Selection http://www.library.cornell.edu/ preservation/tutorial/ selection/selection-01.html Selecting Research Collections for Digitization http://www.clir.org/cpa/ reports/hazen/pub74.html Selecting Research Collections for Digitization http://www.clir.org/cpa/ reports/hazen/pub74.html Selection Criteria for Preservation Digital Reformatting http://lcweb.loc.gov/preserv/ prd/presdig/presselection.html Selection Guidelines for Preservation http://www.rlg.org/preserv/ joint/gertz.html Selection of Materials for Digitization http://www.nlc.nc.ca/coopprog/ finalreport/epg20.htm So Much To Digitize, So Little Time (and Money) http://www.libraryjournal.com/ articles/infotech/digitallibraries/ 19980801_3226.asp UC Selection Criteria for Digitization http://www.library.ucsb.edu/ ucpag/digselec.html