Friday, April 21, 2006

How do you get digitization started in a region?

This is a question that I have thought about, talked about and worked on for years. It is not a question of getting an institution to digitize materials, but one of how to get digitization to be prevalent in a region. How do you get institutions to see digitization as something that they do along with their other collection building?

In some regions, a consortium introduces digitization to its members and begins to plan how it and its members can get involved. The institutions will be interested and will send people to be trained. Enthusiasm will continue until people have learned enough in order to see how much work is involved in creating a collection of digitized materials. Then enthusiasm wanes. The institutions look at their other priorities and don't see creating digital assets as one of them. Yes, they will scan materials for interlibrary loan (ILL) or for electronic reserves, but they will not build collections of digitized materials.

Those institutions that do move forward and create a digitization program, do so because someone has a vision and that person knows how to overcome obstacles in order to make the vision a reality. In some regions, a strong institution will be able to spearhead a collaborative project that will get more institutions involved. Again, there must be someone with a vision to keep that collaboration going. Unfortunately, it is not easy to create visionary people.

Yesterday morning, I sat and talked with someone who is struggling with the question of how to get institutions in his region more involved in digitization. We talked about the stoppers/inhibitors. We commiserated. We know that some libraries and historical societies just don't have the resources to think about digitization, even if they have materials that should be digitized for broader access. We know that digitization is not for everyone, but struggle with how to get those involved who should be doing it. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. And as the saying goes, "you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink." So it is with digitization.


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2 comments:

Kay Schlumpf said...

I really enjoy reading your blog - always something thought-provoking! I wanted to respond to this post as we here at the North Suburban Library System, have been running our regional digitization program - Digital Past since 1998. What we did was start with the willing, meaning we toss the idea out there and see who is willing to come along. We did this with Digital Past in 1998 and got 15 libraries involved. We're now at 29 libraries/museums. After that, you have to show what's in it for them - what benefits does digitization offer? Show that it's worth their time/money investment. For those who can't afford it, there are ways to approach that with various methods including grants.

Anyway,we'll have more information available in an article to be published later this year. I'll post again once the it is available so you can read all about it.

Kay Schlumpf
Digital Past Coordinator

Kay said...

I really enjoy reading your blog - always something thought-provoking! I wanted to respond to this post as we here at the North Suburban Library System, have been running our regional digitization program - Digital Past since 1998. What we did was start with the willing, meaning we toss the idea out there and see who is willing to come along. We did this with Digital Past in 1998 and got 15 libraries involved. We're now at 29 libraries/museums. After that, you have to show what's in it for them - what benefits does digitization offer? Show that it's worth their time/money investment. For those who can't afford it, there are ways to approach that with various methods including grants.

Anyway,we'll have more information available in an article to be published later this year. I'll post again once the it is available so you can read all about it.

Kay Schlumpf
Digital Past Coordinator