Friday, May 30, 2008

Everything You Want To Know About Digitization

SUNY PotsdamOn May 28, I participated in a workshop entitled "Everything You Want To Know About Digitization" given at the New York Archives Conference (NYAC) at SUNY Potsdam. As I mentioned, five of us gave brief presentations then answered questions for the workshop attendees. Originally, the idea was that each attendee would send in three questions in advance, and that the entire workshop then would be comprised of us (the panel) answering the questions. Unfortunately, we received only six questions (and at the last minute) so we decided to do short presentations and then field questions. Three of us did PowerPoint presentations, while Geof Huth -- who was also the keynote speaker -- spoke from handwritten notes. Catherine did a quick web site tour. From each of us, I think attendees got what was on our minds this week or what we felt could be covered in 20 - 30 minutes. For example, I was ready to talk about copyright, but skipped those slides because I knew it would blossom into a much longer conversation.

I spoke first. I told the group that normally I focus on scope, selection, "scanning", and sustainability. [I wanted four "s" words and conversion does not start with an "s".] I told the group to keep those four areas in mind as they listened to the presentations. In my 20 minutes, I talked about material selection, key factors for success, and a broad overview of the digitization process. The broad overview are questions I developed as part of the WNYLRC digitization plan and are meant to get people thinking about the various aspects of a digitization program.

New York Archives ConferenceGeof Huth, from the New York State Archives, spoke next and added a nice measure of humor to his presentation:
  • Metadata - you were right to hate it.
    • What do we read need to know for these objects to make sense in the future?
  • Do you want to live forever with poor quality?
  • CDs are like adolescents. (Good today, bad tomorrow.)
  • Everything digital becomes obsolete.
Geof talked about the importance of planning and deciding what you need before hand. He emphasized quality control. He believes that preservation imaging will become a reality in our lifetime. He noted that grants only give you a boost. Two other presenters then noted how grants had been important to their projects and the boosts they had received.

One thing that Geof mentioned -- and was emphatic about -- was not using CDs as a storage media. He really feels that programs need to be using magnetic media instead since CDs are unstable. And he believes in having multiple backups. Every time someone mentioned storing things on CDs, Geof gave them "the look."

The imaging production guidelines that Geof mentioned are here. BTW Geof said that archivists image, librarians digitize, and humans scan.

New York Archives ConferenceNext was Larry Naukam from Rochester (NY) Public Library. Larry talked about their digitization efforts, which have occurred over a 10 year period and included a wide variety of material types. They are creating MARC records for their digital objects and placing them in their ILS. They have five terabytes of data and it is backed up three times.

Larry gave us rough cost information on the equipment they have purchased. He said the Indus scanner had cost $35,000, the scanback (BetterLight?) had cost $25,000 and the Kirtas book digitizer had cost $125,000.

Kathy Connor from the George Eastman House was suppose to present, but could not attend, so Catherine Gilbert from the Upstate History Alliance (and workshop host) gave a quick overview of the digitization efforts that the Eastman House has done. If you tour the web site, you'll see what they've done.

New York Archives ConferenceThe last presenter was Peter Verheyen from Syracuse University. (BTW Peter as a background in book arts.) Peter has been able to do several projects with grant funding and talked about some of the projects. They are now using CONTENTdm. Since I'm familiar with the projects -- and since Peter and I rode together to the workshop -- I didn't take any notes. Oops! I think there are a couple things that are important about what they have done. First, he has used students/interns successfully. Second, he has used MS Excel to manipulate and create metadata. He is always talking about the benefits of using Excel -- or any spreadsheet -- for tracking information in a digitization project.

Besides the information that we shared with the workshop attendees, we had a good time talking with each other. Perhaps we need to find an excuse to get together for an afternoon of just talking about digitization stuff, with no agenda?

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