Best Practices and Planning for Digitization Projects
Updated July 2010
The keys to a successful digital imaging project are:
PLANNING, PLANNING, PLANNING.
The success of a project is generally in proportion to the time spent in planning the project. Digital imaging projects are complex, time-consuming, and costly. To help you avoid some of the pitfalls here are some recommendations and resources for planning a digital imaging project.
Some key components of a digital imaging project:
Selection - Issues to consider when selecting material for digitization:
- Collection development plans your library may already have in place
- Intellectual value of the collection to researchers
- Demand from current (or potential) users
- Historical or geographic area covered by the collection
- Has another institution digitized the same, or similar, materials?
- Physical condition of the collection, is the material suitable for digitization? (Issues to consider: will preservation work need to be done prior to digitization?; bound volumes should be able to be opened to at least a 90 degree angle to be scanned; maps may need to be significantly reduced to display online resulting in a loss of fine detail and spatial context)
- Copyright permission (if the materials are not in the public domain you MUST have permission from the copyright owner to digitize the material)
Standards for digitization:
There are many best practices recommendations for digitizing materials. Remember that these guidelines may require adaptation to particular projects, dependent upon source document characteristics such as font size, photographic detail, and physical size.
The Illinois State Library Digital Imaging Program uses the following best practices for scanning:
- File saved in uncompressed TIFF format
- Printed black & white text or maps: bitonal, 600 ppi
- Black & white photographs: 8-12 bit grayscale or 24-36 bit color, 300-600 ppi
- Color photographs, manuscripts: 24-36 bit color, 300-600 ppi
Access (or display) images:
- File saved in JPEG format, with medium quality compression
- 150 ppi
- 1024 pixels in length
- File saved in Compuserve GIF format
- 72 ppi
- 150-200 pixels in length
Access - issues in organization, management, and delivery of your digital image collection:
- Metadata: cataloging and technical data associated with digital images either embedded or as associated text, crucial for searching and access
- Storage: where will the images reside, will you need to purchase a server?
- Backup/disaster recovery: two copies of all digital image files are recommended, one stored off-site
- Rights management: copyright notices, licensing agreements, digital watermarking
- Viewing software: will your users need to download a plug-in to view the images?
- Finding aids/indexing: will creation of indexes/finding aids be necessary to assist users in accessing information?
- Reformatting/media refreshing to avoid data degradation: plan ahead, it's inevitable
Digital Project Guidelines [PDF] (Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records)
Moving Theory Into Practice: Digital Imaging Tutorial (Cornell University)
National Digital Library Program Project Planning Checklist (Library of Congress)
Standards/best practices/recommendations for digitization:
Building Digital Collections: Technical Information about American Memory Collections (Library of Congress)
Copyright Policies for Collection Managers (Univ. of Colorado)
Digital Formats for Content Reproductions (Library of Congress)
Digitization Best Practices [PDF] (University of Colorado)
File Naming Guidelines [PDF] (Loyola Marymount University)
Scanning Best Practices [PDF] (Loyola Marymount University)
Technical Recommendations for Digital Imaging Projects (Columbia University)
Metadata Best Practices [PDF] (University of Colorado)
Metadata Best Practices [PDF] (Loyola Marymount University)
Digitization Equipment and Software (Product Reviews and Evaluations):
Imaging Resource (scanner and camera reviews)
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