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.

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