Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The actual digitization isn't the hard part

Next week I'll be doing a short talk on digitization. I suspect the group expects me to talk about what people's concerns are with digitizing materials, but digitizing is the easy part. It is everything else that causes difficulty. Perhaps this goes along with where we often focus our time when learning about digitization. We tend focus on the process of digitizing, since that seems so foreign to us, but there is so much more to a digitization program including project planning, metadata creation, copyright, preservation, marketing, etc. The actually digitization can be learned and is often very rote. Other areas require more thought and more preparation.

What's the most different area that needs addressing in a digitization program? I think my answer changes depending on the situation. Clearly every hurdle can be overcome if there is money to solve the problem. But sometimes the hurdle is management's attitude. They don't see the importance of beginning such a program. They don't understand the positive impact it will have on the institution and those it serves.

The saddest part of digitization is that more institutions are not doing it. Many institutions, especially those small ones (e.g., small historical societies) with great collections, are being left behind. A divide is occurring and I don't see anyone riding in on a white horse (the proverbial hero) to solve it. The only way to get these institutions involved in digitization is to create collaborative efforts that they can easily be a part of. These smaller institutions don't need to digitize everything, but they do need to make some materials available online so that people know that they exist and know -- by example -- what they own. This would help those institutions stay visible and help drive visitors to them (both online and to their physical buildings).

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Actually, our project, Digital Past (http://www.digitalpast.org), at the North Suburban Library System based in Wheeling Illinois is trying to find ways to get more small cultural institutions involved in digitization efforts. We have several instances where local public libraries have formed partnerships with small historical societies to get their items online. We have another library that brought together a group of 4 smaller local museums to digitize some of their materials as well.

We even offer a digitization lab with hands on help and training free to participants. There is a very small fee to participate but most times the library or a donor will step in to cover that cost.

Currently we are focused in northern Illinois, but are willing to form partnerships with others.