ARL Publishes Managing Digitization Activities, SPEC Kit 294
Increasingly, academic and research libraries are becoming involved in reformatting materials from their collections to create digital content and are providing access to that content through metadata. As the management of digital projects and initiatives is a relatively new endeavor for most libraries, there is a significant impact on libraries’ budgets, organizational structures, and staffing.
This SPEC survey was designed to identify the purposes of ARL member libraries’ digitization efforts, the organizational structures these libraries use to manage digital initiatives, whether and how staff have been reassigned to support digitization activities, where funding to sustain digital activities originated and how that funding is allocated, how priorities are determined, whether libraries are outsourcing any digitization work, and how the success of libraries’ digital activities has been assessed. The focus of the survey was on the digitization of existing library materials, rather than the creation of born-digital objects.
This survey was distributed to the 123 ARL member libraries in February 2006. Sixty-eight libraries (55%) responded to the survey, of which all but two (97%) reported having engaged in digitization activities. Only one respondent reported having begun digitization activities prior to 1992; five other pioneers followed in 1992. From 1994 through 1998 there was a steady increase in the number of libraries beginning digital initiatives; 30 joined the pioneers at the rate of three to six a year. There was a spike of activity at the turn of the millennium that reached a high in 2000, when nine libraries began digital projects. Subsequently, new start-ups have slowed, with only an additional one to five libraries beginning digitization activities each year.
The primary factor that influenced the start up of digitization activities was the availability of grant funding (39 responses or 59%). Other factors that influenced the commencement of these activities were the addition of new staff with related skills (50%), staff receiving training (44%), the decision to use digitization as a preservation option (42%), and the availability of gift monies (29%). An additional factor that motivated many survey respondents was the need to improve access to library resources. Others commented that participating in digitization activities was a strategic goal of the library.
In addition to being one of the instigating factors in many libraries’ decision to begin digitizing library materials, improving access to the library’s collection was cited by all of the respondents as an ongoing purpose behind these efforts. Other purposes that were highly ranked by respondents are support for research (85%), preservation (71%), and support for classroom teaching (70%). For a smaller number (24 or 36%), the purpose of their efforts is to support distance learning. Several respondents reported that promoting the library and its collections was also a reason to participate in digitization activity.
Only four libraries reported that their digitization activities are solely ongoing functions; the great majority (60 or 91%) reported that their digitization efforts are a combination of ongoing library functions and discrete, finite projects.
This SPEC Kit includes documentation from respondents in the form of organization charts, mission statements, job descriptions, policies and procedures, and selection criteria.
The table of contents and executive summary from this SPEC Kit are available online at http://www.arl.org/spec/SPEC294web.pdf.
SPEC Kit 294, Managing Digitization Activities
Rebecca L. Mugridge • September 2006 • ISBN 1-59407-710-X • 162 pp. • $45 ($35 ARL members)
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