Considerations for planning a digitization project

People who are not part of the libraries and archives world often ask us about digitizing things, as though all it entails is putting some documents on a scanner and clicking the scan button. I wanted to have a list of considerations for people outside of the profession so that they could think about whether a digitization project is feasible.

Much of this comes from resources I list at the end, but my focus was on writing a list for non-professionals, while many other resources are clearly meant for the people who will be designing the actual digitization plan.

  • Why digitize?  What are the expected outcomes and benefits of digitization?
  • How will records be selected?
    • Are any materials under copyright?
    • Are any materials fragile?
    • Are any materials confidential or considered high risk?
  • How do stakeholders expect the records to be digitized?
    • Who owns the project?
    • Who will manage the project?
    • What space and equipment will be used for the project?
    • Who will do the scanning?
    • Scanning accounts for approximately one-third of the labor involved in a digitization project.  The remaining two-thirds of the labor include:
      • Selecting materials for digitization (condition review, intellectual property review, security/confidentiality review)
      • Preparing materials for digitization (organizing files, removing staples, removing extraneous documents, etc.)
      • Training scanning staff
      • Supervising scanning
      • Creating metadata
      • Performing quality control of scans, filenames, and metadata
      • Preparing files for submission to delivery and repository systems
      • Depositing files and making them available in access systems
      • Creating and maintaining policies, procedures, standards, and documentation of the project so that standards are maintained over time
        • Staff turnover must be taken as an inevitability, and the project needs to be thoroughly documented so that turnover doesn’t end the project
  • How do stakeholders want to access the records? Are access restrictions required on certain records?
  • How will stakeholders transition to accessing object files digitally?
  • How will paper records be managed before, during, and after the scanning project?
  • How will future accruals be digitized?
    • What system will be in place so that all accruals are scanned before they are added to the paper files?
  • What are the long-range plans for the paper files and the digital surrogates?  Will they be going to the archives?  If so, the project will need to be done in accordance with the prevailing archival standards so that the project will not need to be repeated in the future.

Helpful resources:

New South Wales Digitisation checklist

ALCTS Minimum Digitization Capture Recommendations