Selection in the Digital Age, Janet Gertz, Columbia University
Three essential questions inform the selection of materials to be digitized: Should we digitize? May we digitize? and Can we digitize?
Should we digitize?
- Value: Does the material’s content and value merit the effort and expense of digitization?
- Is the content important for understanding a given subject matter? Is the information useful, accurate and/or broad? Is it related to poorly documented areas? Would digitization fit in with the institution’s larger collection policy?
- Demand: Is there an active, current audience for the materials? Is current access to the materials inadequate, due to heavy use or fragility of items? Is there a realistic chance of attracting new users through digitization?
May we digitize?
- Have the intellectual property rights to an object or set of objects been cleared?
- If so, are there privacy issues that need to be considered for any of the objects? How about issues of ethnic or community sensitivity? What level of access are we willing to provide? How will we control access and use of our digital files?
Can we digitize?
- Do we have the technical infrastructure, the expertise and the commitment to digital preservation necessary for the creation of a high-quality digital library?
- Are we able to conserve fragile or damaged objects?
- Are we able to create digital versions of the objects?
- Are we able to create metadata about the capture, structure, content and management of the objects?
- What types of value-added features are we able to incorporate into the finished project? OCR’d text? Key-word searchability?
- Cost/benefit analyses: Do the costs of the project match the value of the materials? The demand for digital access? The mission and goals of one’s institution? Keep in mind that the capture of images accounts for only 1/3 the cost of a project, whereas metadata creation is much more expensive (upwards of 2/3 of total cost).