Thursday, September 30, 2004

A personal deed of gift experience

In the past, I have donated personal items to two museums, both of which had procedures in place for deciding to accept the items and preparing the proper paperwork. This week I donated items to a college and worked through an office that didn't have a deed of gift form. (The archives might have such a form, but that was not the office I was working with.) This became an interesting experience for me in several areas.

First, I was able to write a deed of gift form for my items that I believe will serve the institution well both now and in the future. This was my chance to do what I write and talk about!

Second, I used the deed of gift form to explain to my contact the important sections of the form and why they are important. In other words, this gift became an informal learning experience for that office. Yes, they have received other gifts before, and at least one other deed of gift, but this time they saw why the form is important and how it will help them and the college.

Third, although I had given all rights to the college, I thought it appropriate (and helpful) to talk about how I hoped the materials would be handled and used. It was a quick -- non-threatening -- lesson in conservation and preservation. This was perhaps the most important thing I did (besides giving the gift) because it lead to discussing other gifts that had been received, proper lighting, storage, etc.

As I write this, I am happy with the gift I have given this college and the history I have entrusted with them. In addition, I am happy that I have opened the eyes of one office to realize that the treasures they have need to be protected. I hope that I've shown the need for them to work more closely with their archivist. So I gifted them with new information of the school's history and information that will help them preserve their history. Not bad!

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The Maine Memory Network, part 2

Last week I posted an introduction to the Maine Memory Network. The about section on the site uses the phrase "Distributed Input, Dynamic Output". And remarkably there is no charge to the contributors or users; it is all free. But what do they mean by distributed and dynamic?

The Maine Memory Network has been constructed in such a way that many organizations can contribute to it. Well over 100 organizations have done just that. For some, this has allowed them to have a web presence for their collections. Contributing Partners, who are given an administrator password to the site, can upload, edit and catalogue items, and manage those items once they are part of MMN. Besides having a presence for their collections, Contributions Partners are able to learn about digitization. They receive training on how to digitize and how to catalogue their items to meet the Network's standards. (Records are reviewed, so the Network does maintain quality control.)

By having all of these Contributing Partners, the input becomes distributed. No one institution bears the burden for scanning or cataloguing the records, making the input of more than 6,000 primary documents a manageable task.

On the opposite end, users can create their own albums within the project to store images that interest them. As the site says, users can:
  • Save images to return to later
  • Add text and rearrange images to tell a story
  • View the album as a slideshow
  • Send the album as an email and collaborate
  • Create your own uses

This gives the users tremendous flexibility. Each user can interact with the images in different ways. Users become active participants in the site. Isn't this what all users want?!

The Maine Memory Network is a wonderful example of what is possible in building a large project that includes the contributions of many institutions and gives users the ability to interact with the materials as they see fit. It is a project that should been seen by everyone who is involved in digitization. Perhaps they won't emulate it, but they may derive some inspiration from it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Web sites cannot be required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act

The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that web sites do not have to comply with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), which required that any "place of public accommodation" must be accessible to people with disabilities. Earlier court decisions had suggested that web sites would need to comply with ADA, but this decision is more definitive.

It takes more planning and a little bit more effort to create a site that is useable by people with disabilities (e.g., people who use technology to read a web site for them). However, the extra work ensures that the site can be used by anyone and often will lead to a better designed site. Organizations and businesses that do want everyone to access them through the Internet should be reading and learning about this...then implementing what they learn.

Some organizations, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group, are working on standards in this area. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0: W3C Working Draft dated July 30, 2004 are now available online. The document details four principles:
  • Content must be perceivable.
  • Interface elements in the content must be operable.
  • Content and controls must be understandable.
  • Content must be robust enough to work with current and future technologies.
Organizations who are creating web sites that display images (e.g., digitization projects) should consider how people with disabilities will be able to "see" the images or do any special commands that might be needed to manipulate content on the site (e.g., zooming in on images). Using text to explain graphical elements, for example, is very helpful.

If you are interested in reading the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals judgment, it can be read here.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Coverage of digitization issues in First Monday

First Monday, a peer-reviewed journal that is published on the Internet, covers as part of its purview some of the issues that impact digitization projects, including copyright, the development of cultural content, and preserving digital assets. The journal also carries articles on specific projects, such as "Indian Peoples of the Northern Great Plains." This is a good place to look for articles by authors who are well versed in the issues, trends, and potential pitsfalls of creating, managing and preserving digital assets.

One article worth reading/skimming is a 2003 article by Gerry Wall entitled "Business model issues in the development of digital cultural content." Based on a study conducted in Canada, Wall notes that funding is an issue that may only be solved long-term by the adoption of business models such as user fees or content licensing. Although the ideas fly against the notion that information should be free, they must be considered since governments and other grantors are unlikely to fund all the digitization that cultural heritage organizations want to do.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Learning how to blog (a personal posting)

I am rapidly coming up the blog learning curve. This blog now as some extra features that help both me and you (the reader), such as the e-mail update feature. And as I add these things. which are mostly available for free, I am seeing how the interact with each other. The results have not always been as expected! For example, although the blogging site allows me to save draft versions of my postings, the e-mail update feature sees those drafts as being real and e-mails them to people who are getting the updates. But then when they try to read the full posting, there is nothing on the blog site (because I've saved them as drafts). Hopefully my growing pains are not painful for you.

I would hope that you'll give me feedback on the blog. Tell me what you like, what you'd like to see changed, and -- of course -- what topics you'd like to see covered under the broad topics of digitization and competitive intelligence. As the TV sitcom character Fraser used to say, "I'm listening."

The Maine Memory Network, part 1

I want to call attention to this statewide project in Maine. The Maine Memory Network is a place where institutions can deposit digitized historic items for use by a broad range of people. The Network will help people digitize by teaching them needed skills, etc., and provides server space and maintenance for the collection. They welcome anyone (yes...even individuals) to add items to the collection.

From the text on the site, the project is a success. According to the site, "Approximately 130 organizations from every corner of the state have contributed more than 6,000 primary documents to the MMN."

From a user's point of view, the project allows people to save images in personal albums. Text can be added to those albums and slideshows created. In other words, users can use this project to create their own stories. That is a very powerful ability!

We'll look more at this project over the next couple of days....

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The glut and lack of digitization vendors

While teaching a graduate class this past spring on digital assets, I learned that some areas of the country have many digitization vendors, while other areas have very, very few or none. Some states (such as Montana) seem to be void of vendors. Why?

It could be that digitization has caught on in areas where there large libraries or cultural heritage organizations who understand the benefit of digitization AND have the resources to do projects. Those large institutions do not tend to be in the Great Plains, but rather near large population centers on each coast.

Vendors will only appear where there is a need. If no organizations are looking to outsource digitization efforts-- either because they can handle their demand in-house OR they do not yet see the need to digitize -- then no vendors will appear since there is no business for them.

Vendors should begin market themselves to areas that are without digitization resources. They might think of themselves as prophets spreading the good news of digitization and showing people what is possible. Selfishly, they may build demand for themselves. Hopefully, they would spark interest...which would eventually create local digitization vendors. (And we all know that competition is a good thing.)

Looking at blogs

Now that I have a blog, I also spend time looking at other blogs and seeing what they include. Three that I've added to the side menu here are:
  • Google Blog which is both a serious and fun look inside of Google. The postings are done by a variety of people, including the guy who creates the fun Google logos.
  • The Yahoo! Search Blog which contains charts and guest posts from people like Danny Sullivan (of Search Engine Watch) . This blog includes info on how people are using search engines and what they find. Looks like very interesting reading.
I'll add more blogs as I come across them...and hopefully I'll find ones dedicated to digitization and competitive intelligence to add. (So far, I've come up blank on blogs truly dedicated to digitization, so if you hear of any, let me know.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Digital Curation Centre

Long term preservation of digital information is a complicated subject. Several institutions are studying this topic including The Digital Curation Centre. The Centre using the term "digital curation" to mean:
... the actions needed to maintain digital research data and other digital
materials over their entire life-cycle and over time for current and future
generations of users. Implicit in this definition are the processes of digital
archiving and preservation but it also includes all the processes needed for
good data creation and management, and the capacity to add value to data to
generate new sources of information and knowledge.

The Digital Curation Centre (DCC) is just getting off the ground. It was begun on March 1, 2004 and will formally launch during the fourth quarter of this year. The Centre has research priorities and a network of associates. Located in Edinburgh (UK), it is being funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) . A timeline is not given for their research agenda, but it will undoubtedly take time. We can hope that the DCC will publish results and papers along the way, sharing what it learns with the rest of the world. Given its focus, it is definitely an organization that is worth watching.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Statewide digitization initiatives

At the American Library Association conference in June 2004, a group of people got together to discuss the statewide digitization initiatives that are happening in the U.S. Eight people gave project updates. (You can read the meeting minutes at Perhaps more states than that are involved in major digitization projects, but some (like New York) are not. If digitization is an important technology that will make more information available to users (without them having to make special requests or travel long distances), if it will help our educational systems, and if it will help to preserve information (content) for the future, why aren't more states spearheading digitization efforts? There are likely several explanations.

First, some states may see more potential in other efforts such as funding statewide database access. Hopefully, they have truly studied to see if the potential for these efforts outweighs that of digitization.

Second, some state governments may not yet understand why digitizing materials within their states is important. They may not realize the potential audience or positive impact it will have on the state.

Third, they may be waiting to learn from the successes and failures of other states. This is admirable, but the longer state governments wait to fund digitization projects, the hard it will be to catch up.

Forth, a state may just be "paralyzed", unable to decide how to move forward with digitization. Sadly, state governments -- like any government -- can get paralyzed and unable to make a decision about what to do, how to do it, and how to fund it.

If a statewide effort is happening in your state, support it. Use it, point others to it, and tell your government that you appreciate their efforts. If your state is not supporting statewide or even regional digitization efforts, start mentioning it to your representatives. Tell them why it is important. Perhaps even point them (or their staff members) to projects that would be of interest to them and their agendas. Hopefully your efforts will get them to realize the potential and then get them to think about funding such efforts.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Focus on France

A large portion of the August issue of DigiCULT is focused on the best examples of digitized cultural heritage now avaiable on the Internet from France. There are eight articles including articles on the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and UNESCO's Memory of the World. The issue is full of URLs that beckon you to explore.

DigiCULT was begun in 2002 and now has correspondents in various countries that report on the intersection of cultural heritage and the information society. This is a great publication for staying on top of what is happening internationally with digitization and digital libraries.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Digital photography

I own a digital camera and have become quite accustomed to taking pictures with it. I haven't used a film-based camera in years and can't imagine using one. Digital photography has displaced film in many areas. It offers many advantages including cost. A professional photographer, for example, can take more photos at an event without drastically impacting the cost to the client. However, with film-based cameras, every photo taken increased the cost to the client.

The advantage of digital photography that I really enjoy is being able to see the photos right away. This has allowed me to take better photos and build my "photography" confidence.

When you digitize, you enjoy many of the same benefits as when you use a digital camera. (In fact, some digitization is done with a digital camera.) However, the biggest things to remember is that you can keep on creating images until you -- the person doing the digitization -- get it right. The impact is only in the time you spend. And -- of course -- as you digitize more items (or re-digitize items to get them correct) you are learning and improving your technique, and building your confidence.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Lesson Learned: Have well defined selection criteria

Much has been and can be written on selection criteria for digitization projects. The selection criteria impacts not only what will be digitized, but the equipment needed, handling procedures, cost, etc. For example, if you decide to digitize 35mm slides and glass plate negatives, you will need two types of scanners. You might also need to train your staff (or a vendor) on how to properly handle the glass plate negatives so they do not break during digitization.

So when you think about your selection criteria -- what you will and will not digitize as part of your project -- think about the entire digitization process including handling the items, digitization, and metadata (describing the items). Questions about each item that you might ask yourself and your team include:
  • Does the item fit the subject area for this project?
  • Does the item help to tell an important part of the story? Or does it illustrate something important?
  • Can the item withstand the handling that will be needed in order to be digitized? If not, should the item receive some conservation efforts or special handling so that it can be digitized?
  • Is enough known about the item so that metadata (cataloguing record) can be created for it?
  • Can this item be digitized using the same equipment as the other items selected? If not, can its digitization be outsourced? Should the organization acquire special equipment so that it can be digitized?
  • Is the item copyrighted? If yes, does the organization have the right to digitize it? Can the organization gain the right to digitize it?
  • Is the object too personal to digitize and make publicly available? For example, is the item a record of hospital admissions?

Having well defined selection criteria is a lesson we all try to learn upfront. Of course, mistakes are made, but testing your criteria on a representative sample of items can help.

Remember -- time spent creating your selection criteria is time well-spent.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Copyright statements on digitization projects

When you mount a digitization project on the Internet, you will want to put a copyright statement on the web site. But what should it say? Many groups use the copyright statement posted by the Library of Congress on its American Memory web site as a template ( This copyright statement covers areas that may be important to include. For example:

"Some materials in these collections may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) and/or by the copyright or neighboring-rights laws of other nations. "

"Transmission or reproduction of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners."

"The Library of Congress is eager to hear from any copyright owners who are not properly identified so that appropriate information may be provided in the future."

The text also explains that using the materials appropriately rests with the user, not with the Library of Congress. In other words, if the user downloads an item, distributes copies of it and is found to be violation of copyright, it is the user that is at fault and not the Library. (This also points subtly to the often forgotten fact that even though you can do something, it may not be appropriate or legal.)

The idea that the Library of Congress wants to hear from copyright owners who are not properly identified is a good one. It means that the Library is willing to correct any inappropriate use of copyrighted materials that it has done. Although that statement may not be enough to keep a copyright owner from suing the Library of Congress for inappropriate use, it does demonstrate a willingness to be fair, which is often all that someone wants.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Deed of Gift forms

In the spring of 2003, I did a seminar series (five sessions) on digitization and several of the people who attended worked for historical societies that had received many donated items over the years. Because an institution needs to understand what rights it has to these donated items, the deed of gift form became a hot topic.

Let's say that you donate old photographs to a historical society without any written instructions. Does the historical society know what it can do with those items? The answer is "no." In fact, the historical society may not even know -- for sure -- if it owns the items you have donated or if you retained ownership.

According to the Society of American Archives, "The deed of gift is a formal, legal, agreement that transfers ownership of, and legal rights in, the materials to be donated." A deed of gift form not only transfers ownership of the items, but also transfers the copyright (if applicable), and states what the new owner can and cannot do with the items. For example, if the historical society decides not to retain the items, can it sell them or throw them out? Or perhaps the items must be returned to the original owner (or that person's decendents)?

When one considers digitizing items from an archives, not only is copyright important on original works of authorship, but ownership and the rights of the owner are important. For example, if you were to digitize a letter, one would need to know if the letter was still covered by copyright or not. In addition, you would need to know if you had been granted the right make a copy of the letter (digitize) and publicly display the letter (which occurs when you display digitized items on the Internet). Those ideas would be covered in the deed of gift.

With changes in technology, deed of gift forms have become more comprehensive, learning from the mistakes of the past. Some institutions post their deed of gift forms online, which can be helpful in understand what should be included and how it might be worded. Examples can be viewed at:

4/3/2009: All of the links above no longer work. The Navarro College form was quite nice, so I'm sad to see that one disappear. Here are is one that is a decent model:

Please note that each example is different and has its pluses and minuses. Each works for that institution and its current situation. We hope that they will cover future situations by transferring all rights to the archive or library (donee).

Friday, September 10, 2004

Digital States

Are you looking for information on statewide digitization initiatives? Do you want to know what concerns the larger digitization projects have and how they are addressing them?

Digital States in a discussion list for people involved in "collaborative statewide projects for the digitization of cultural heritage resources." The discussion list currently excludes people who are considered vendors, but that may change. However, the list archives are viewable by anyone. There is excellent information here, and perhaps information that you'll see nowhere else (for example, notes from a meeting of statewide digitization projects held in June at the American Library Association conference).

This is a site worth bookmarking and monitoring.

Thursday, September 09, 2004


Digitization is discussed on many e-mail lists. Two that can be quite useful for locating resources and discussing ideas are:

Anyone can subscribe to these lists. Both are available in digest form (which means you get one big message per day, instead of many smaller messages), which can be handy for someone who is "lurking" on a list or doesn't want to be innudated with lots of e-mail.

Personally, I like the breadth of discussion on ARCHIVES and have found it a great place to ask any archives related question. The subscribers to that list are truly knowledgeable and willing to share what they know.

Lessons Learned: Projects need to be planned

Sometimes digitization projects seem to just begin without real forethought or planning; however, digitization project must be well planned in order for them to achieve their desired results. Why?

When we plan, we consider all of the things that need to occur -- from start to finish. When creating digital assets, that means considering questions such as:
  • What is the focus of the project? Does it support the organization's mission?
  • What critieria will be use to select items for digitization?
  • How will the items be digitized? What standards will be followed? What equipment will be needed?
  • How will the items be made available to users? How will the items be described so that they can be retrieved?
  • How will the project be maintained long-term?
  • How will the project and its maintenance be funded?
  • Who will work on this project? Who will be responsible for its success?

Planning does take time, but once the plan is in place, the project will go much more smoothly.

And that old adage remains true: "Plan your work and work your plan."

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Competitive intelligence: overheard at lunch

Information gathering about one's competitors and the competitive environment allows a company to make fully informed decisions. Most information needed is available through public means, but it might take some effort to find it. We don't expect a competitor to announce their problems, concerns, suspicions, etc., in a public place, but sometimes they do.

Today, I had lunch in a very public spot, and listened to a group at the next table quite loudly talk about a technology that seemed to appear in the market and might have been stolen from someone else. Specifics --including names -- were mentioned. That's not good. Perhaps it wasn't their technology and perhaps their company had no involvement in the situation, but it sounded like sensitive information was being aired very publicly.

If you are involved in doing research for your organization/company, maybe even competitive intelligence, you might want to work with your management to educate other employees about how to handle the information that they have. How should they handle or safe guard information such as sales data, marketing information, strategy documents, price lists, etc.? What information should be shared with people outside of the organization and how? What information should or should not be discussed in a public place? A little education might save your organization/company heartache -- and its market share -- later on.

A framework of guidance

In 2001, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) published A Framework of Guidance for Building Good Digital Collections. This document was created with input from people and organizations that were at the forefront of digitization. The introduction states:
This document is not a guideline itself but rather a framework for identifying,
organizing, and applying existing knowledge and resources that can be used as an
aid in the development of local guidelines and procedures.

Although more recent documents may point to better resources, this document is still important because of the framework is give and the challenge offered subtly in the second paragraph. It states:
In the early days of digitization for the Web, projects could be justified as
vehicles for the development of methods and technologies, as experiments in
technical or organizational innovation, or simply as learning experiences. A
collection could be good if it provided proof of concept, even if it disappeared
at the end of the project period. As the environment matured, the focus of
collection building shifted towards the more utilitarian goal of making relevant
content available digitally to some community of users. The bar of goodness was
accordingly raised to include levels of usability, accessibility and fitness for
use appropriate to the anticipated user group. We have now entered a third
stage, where even serving information effectively to a known constituency is not
sufficient. In today's digital environment, the context of content is a vast
international network of digital materials and services. Objects, metadata and
collections should be viewed not only within the context of the projects that
created them but as building blocks that others can reuse, repackage, and build
services upon. Indicators of goodness correspondingly must now also emphasize
factors contributing to interoperability, reusability, persistence, verification
and documentation. At the same time attention must be focused on mechanisms for
respecting copyright and intellectual property law.
This challenges us not to create demonstration projects (which might be referred to as first stage projects), but to create projects that consider such concepts as interoperability, reusability, and persistence among others. A third stage project is well planned. It not only considers the present need, but also looks towards other unknown uses in the future. A third stage project is forward thinking.

If you are considering a demonstration project, stop and ask yourself why. Why do you need a demonstration project? Is it a way of learning more about digitization? Do you need to prove that digitization will work for your institution? Instead of just doing a demonstration project, could you make it the first step in a third stage project? In other words, can you move yourself (and your institution) beyond just a demonstration project?

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Hudson Valley Heritage

The Southeastern NY Library Resources Council has coordinated a regional digitization project named Hudson Valley Heritage ( (This region covers nine counties just north of of New York City.)

The homepage of the web site places information about the digital initiative and digitization first, then gives information on the collections that are currently featured. This order to the hompage makes one wonder if the emphasis of the site is on providing information and resources about digitization or providing access to digitized collections. My first reaction is that site is not meant for end-users, as it is currently organized, but for people in the region who are involved in digitization. If that is what the group intended, then they succeeded. However, this might be a place where they could build different front-ends (homepages) for different uses. Think of it as different doorways leading to the same room. There could be a doorway (homepage) geared towards end-users who want to view the collections and another doorway (homepage) for organizations who are interested in the nuts-n-bolts of digitization. The back-ends could use the same information (images, etc.) but would present the information differently depending on the needs of that view's user. The ability to use content multiples ways is one of the benefits of a digitization project. A well-thought out project (what IMLS refers to as a third stage project) will take advantage of the ability to reuse and repurpose content to meet different user needs.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

What do others know about your digitization work?

If you are involved in creating, managing or preserving digital assets, what have you told others about your work? Do they know what you do? Do they know of your successes or your failures (...lessons learned...)? Do they know how you could help them? Have you written any articles? Published information on processes, etc., on your web site? Have you taught someone what you learned from your work?

Why not?

It is important that we not only do digitization projects, but that we teach others what we have learned from those projects. We need to talk about what worked well and what we wish we had done differently. And any documentation that we create, especially if it talks about what we wish we had done, is valuable to others.

Consider this...many of the digitization projects that stand out to us are those that have taken the time to talk about (and share) what they have learned. It becomes one of the ways that they market their projects and attract users.

Friday, September 03, 2004

A web site that posts information on digital cameras and film scanners is the Imaging Resource, The contains both reviews and test images for film, negative, slide and print scanners.

The impact of copyright

Copyright impacts us everyday, yet it is a concept most people know very little about. As an adjunct senior instructor at Syracuse University, I tend to cover a bit about copyright in every course. (It is useually quite an eye-opener for the students.) When I taught a class on digital assets (digitization), copyright was a very important topic and one that reared its ugly head for weeks as students came to terms with what copyright means.

When we take a book, for example, and digitize it, we have made a copy. If that book was published before 1923, it is in the public domain and anybody can make a copy of it legally. However, if the book was published after 1923, then copyright law comes into play. The U.S. Copyright Law give the following rights to the owner of the work:

  • To reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;
  • To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
  • To distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
  • To perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
  • To display the copyrighted work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work; and
  • In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

(See for additional information.)

As a persion who wants to make a copy of a copyrighted work, you must consider if your use will be fair (called Fair Use). Fair Use considers:

  • the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  • the nature of the copyrighted work;
  • amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Each of these four factors must be considered when deciding if the use is fair or not. For example, if the copy takes away potential imcome (e.g., sales or copyright fees) from the owner of the work, then the use is not fair.

The U.S. Copyright Office has information on Fair Use at:

I'll blog more about copyright later. For now, here is an excellent resource for people who needed to decide is something is in the public domains.

"Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States" by Peter Hirtle

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Using digitization to help with competitive intelligence

Libraries and archives tend to digitize historic -- old -- materials, but companies might use digitization to build databases of competitive intelligence information. For example, a company might digitize old hardcopy memos and reports that it wrote on its competitors in order to have that history in electronic form (and searchable). The company might also digitize photos of locations or products. The company would need to ensure that it does not violate copyright when doing this, so it would be best if the company digitize materials that it had created (and thus owned the rights to).

Companies also digitize for other reasons, for example:

* To create electronic files on its own products (e.g., digitizing old engineering drawings, etc.).

* To collect and analyze materials to support a litigation.

Unlike projects done by libraries and archives which try to gain much public attention, these digitization projects are done "quietly" and without fanfare. Lessons learned are not published and you'll see few articles or conference papers on them. However, they do exist and are an employment or internship opportunity for students interested in digitization. How would a student find such a program for an internship opportunity? Students should talk to corporate librarians, since they would be aware of such projects, and do lots of networking. Finding these opportunities is not impossible, but it may take patience.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

The cost and quality of scanners

The first scanner I worked with cost $20,000! (I don't remember if that included the software or not.) The large table-top scanner, with a sheetfeeder, was a sensitive piece of equipment and didn't like to be moved. The software used with it allowed us to OCR (optical character recognition) documents. The scanner could scan many documents per hour, but what slowed down the process was the OCR, since the software had problems with various fonts -- especially if the text was skewed a bit. And although anybody could operate the scanner, only a few understood how to get a "good" scan so that the OCR went "better" and then understood how to check and correct the documents efficiently.

Now I own a flatbed scanner that is also a printer and fax machine. It cost around $100, including software. The multi-purpose machine can scan or print in color or black-n-white.

As the technology has gotten cheaper, people think that these small low-cost scanner will work on digitization projects that require high-quality images. That is not always true, since the inexpensive scanners may not scan at a high enough dot-per-inch (DPI) or pixel-per-inch (PPI). Some scanners (and their software) won't even create TIFF files, whcih is the preferred high-quality file format used in digitization projects.

So these inexpensive scanners are great for the office, but not for working on digitization projects where you are creating images that you hope will last for years. In order to find a scanner that is appropriate for your digitization project:
  • Talk to others who have worked on a digitization project and see what hardware they have used. (You can check for projects through a local library consortium or archives organization.)
  • Check the Internet to see if any projects have posted information on the equipment used. (Consider checking or contacting those projects that seem to be adhering to best practices.)
  • Talk to equipment vendors.
  • Test equipment and see if it produces the quality that you need. Also check to see if it is easy to use.

And remember that the equipment must fit its purpose. If you are digitizing slides, then you'll need a scanner that was build for that purpose.