Today’s post is about digitizing records behind the scenes in libraries and archives.

In a recent presentation on using manuscript collections, I mentioned the relatively low rates of digitization of manuscript collections.

Like most issues in libraries and archives, the reason why more collections are not available digitally comes down to costs. There are huge amounts of material waiting and funding is down.

Some of the costs are predictable and some not as evident:

1. There are up-front costs for the infrastructure for digitizing: buying the software, scanners, servers, and back-up systems.

2. There are training costs for librarians and archivists to learn how to create and manage digital objects and collections.

3. There are costs for the staff time to scan the items (or send them out to be scanned) and to catalog the digital files, compiling the metadata needed to make the files searchable.

4. There are long-term costs to host the files, keep the file formats viable, and create search interfaces for users.

This LA Times article, “Digital technology lets libraries share their fragile treasures with the world,” is very well done, describing the process and the challenges for libraries and archives to deliver collections digitally.