Friday, May 10, 2013

Should you? May You? Can you? Factors in selecting rare books and special collections for digitization.

Jennings, April

Gertz, J. (2013). Should You? May You? Can You? Factors in
Selecting Rare Books and Special Collections for Digitization.
Computers In Libraries, 33(2), 6-11
         Selection for digitization is about more than which items to scan. Selection is what shapes the online collections that are built by libraries, archives, historical societies, and other cultural heritage institutions. By selecting well, institutions can concentrate on the parts of their collections that are best suited to digitization, that make the most effective use of technology, and that meet the needs of their audiences. They can create online collections that are useful, and with high-quality digital assets that manage well into the future. It is impossible to digitize every item in a collection. Besides some items are very costly to digitize, and depending on the level of damage, it could take valuable time and effort to repair. With a sound selection process in place to determine what is appropriate, this process will assist in justifying if materials should be digitized. A simple but effective selection process also helps to have a priority system to decide if and when materials should be purchased or replaced.
         Begin with asking; if the material is valuable enough to spend the time and manpower? Having a system, which defines value based on its intellectual, historic or physical attributes, saves time and money. A judgment should be made such as, asked, if an item holds unique traits beyond the norm, such as extraordinary, or essential to a particularly person, place, or time? Maybe the content has value to philosophical or research? Non-the less, the material must express some detail of significance, but the main goal is to consider how this contributes to the collection and library’s collection development policy.
         Value alone should not be used as the sole reason for digitization, instead discover what the users want and this should be the driving force, suggested by Gertz (2013). Once this is discovered, a decision must be made if the cost of the item will balance the interest of new users.
         When developing a digital collection, it is prudent to consider all types of users, as each process and use information differently. The library’s main goal is to serve the needs of it users, but first, one must discover who the audience will be, then decide the appropriate means to provide electronic materials.
         Next, evaluate the material’s contribution and purpose in relation to the overall collection. According to Gertz (2013), sensitive materials must be handled carefully, and are at risk of loss, damage, or theft. However, through digitization those items susceptible to damage can be improved. In turn, users are provided an opportunity to interact with materials that were off limits in its original form. It may also amend the visual quality while at the same time, enables users to search through texts by the process of optical character recognitions (OCR)  (Gertz, 2013).
         Another factor is relevance, asking a simple question, “Has this been done before?” is critical, as full-text of handwritten and unique manuscripts I an arduous task at best. Digitization is costly and must not be taken lightly.
Be aware of the library’s intellectual freedom of digital materials and the responsibility to its users as stated in the collection development policy. 

Mistakes are taken seriously but they can be avoided if addressed in the early stages of the selection process.  Understanding the guidelines around copyright issues, such as libraries are well within their rights to digitize items for preservation as long as they are under copyright, and only used at the library’s location. Unfortunately, the owner may not automatically give permission to digitize materials, even when permission is granted this process is timely and costly.
The main point Gertz (2013) is to protect the institution by going through a systematic process prior to digitizing any material. One way to ensure compliance is to ask why and what purpose does it serve? Is it to preserve? What are the intentions? It is prudent is to include disclaimers, a general statement about copyright infringement, and contact information for those who maintain rights for content.
Privacy is just as important as copyright issues notes Gertz (2013). If items display personal information it is illegal to distribute publicly. There are also religious, cultural and public information that is sensitive and may cause serious damage. Gertz (2013) writes this,
What sort of contextualization would be needed in publicly mounting materials of this type to diffuse any potential upset and make it clear that the institution is presenting from a neutral point of view?

Can these materials be digitized?
Gertz (2013) brings up a another point, can the library manage or do they have experienced personnel on hand to produce digital ongoing in all areas regarding future changes. Consider the current infrastructure long-term and the collection, then imagine how to accomplish this task with minimal problems. This will answer the question “is there a need to create a digital copy?”
When an employee makes a decision that decision ultimately y becomes the decision of the agency or institution. Therefore, make sure to share goals, clarify your purpose with colleagues, and involve the experts.  Look for knowledgeable professionals in the area of preservation/conservation, metadata creation, web design, digital capture or digital management (Gertz, 2013), particularly if you lack experience..
The physical characteristics are another important reason to think carefully before you create a digital item. If the original content is damaged, it most certainly influence the quality of the digital copy. Also consider how the image will look if you decide to convert to a black and white, color or grayscale.  
Technical issues are important to the quality of the original item as well. Once an item is destroyed it is difficult to repair, or possibly destroyed. For example, books that tightly woven and are forced to lay on a flat surface, causes the image to be distorted. If the value of the original is better than the digital image, it may be a good idea to keep it in its original form.
The arrangement and current online information makes a difference in the users experience. To maintain the quality of service to users, images need common framework to describe and identity its contents. While some attributes may be unique, a scanned book may not be the best choice for library’s interface. A user-friendly interface is critical and Gertz (2013), suggest enabling an efficient navigation system to manage complex digital and multi –format object long term.

What will it cost?
Begin to address another critical issues by analyzing the benefits around the cost. Evaluate the positive factors and then look for cost. Then identify and properly quantify the negative factors and its cost. With the enormous cost of digitization and the time, it takes, the necessary services, equipment and supplies does it match library’s vision and goals? Will it reveal a product that stands the test of time and fully meet the needs of it users?

Strategies and Priorities
         Strategies that enhance preservation by reducing wear and tear on the originals for reproduction. While digitizing for access offer some preservation benefits, why it was created, and how it was created and will be used is a priority. If the service to evolving customers improve available resources and expectations, the reason to go digital is warranted because it adds value. A good strategy with a long-range plan is critical to the needs of the library because it provides coordinating a blueprint to match the mission and goals for the library.
                  Concerted efforts must be made to protect delicate originals, especially if the item is out of circulation. However, reconsider if the cost outweighs the value. On the contrary, it should not only add to the collection but fit into the users needs, and the number of request made for it.
         Let us not forget copyright issues and protecting the privacy of our customers. This is another reason why collaboration with expert technical and intellectual staff  is so critical to any decision. After all the key to making wise decisions is to first consider the area of importance, seek great advice, contributions to current resources in place, and to have long term perspective or plan in mind.

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