Digitization Issues and Challenges

Digital projects of all kinds were featured in this morning’s sessions. At 11:30 there were 3 sessions all tackling aspects of the digital world. Over in the content management track, one speaker talked about digital project development at University of Nevada, Reno using CONTENTdm. In the track on planning in and for a digital world, speakers from the National Archives, GPO, and LC talked about their approaches to digital preservation and planning for the future. I popped into the digital libraries track to hear about some digitization issues and challenges.

According to ebrary’s CEO Christopher Warnock, libraries need to consider the following questions when considering a digitization project or product: does it support the library’s brand, does it extend its services, does it enable the library to integrate its physical and electronic resources, and can it integrate multiple discrete databases of information.

Ebrary had announced a partnership with Kirtas Technologies at ALA midwinter to offer turn-key digitization to libraries. Kirtas has an automatic book scanner. The CEO of the company, Lofti Belkhir, said that digitization is just the first step. It’s not the end of books as we know them, but rather it’s an enhancement for books. It can enable print-on-demand, even for single copies, and many other possibilities. He talked of 5 critical components to the success of digitization projects: content, standards, hardware, software, and workflow. The Kirtas scanner can handle 2,400 pages per hour scan speed—sounds pretty impressive to me, though I don’t know how this compares to other options.

Lloyd Davidson of Northwestern University said that changes that have occurred in STM libraries—no print journals, few print reference works, online book access—are just a bit ahead of what other academic libraries will experience in our digital world. The cost of STM journals has provided funds to publishers for further digitization. Many changes have occurred including the closing of many STM libraries and integration of staff and remaining collections into the main university libraries. His outlook was fairly bleak and provided a rather stark contrast to the upbeat ebrary presentation. Librarians have had to become advocates for library services, especially for government libraries, such as the EPA. Librarians have been in the forefront of the move for open access to information. And provisions of the Patriot Act continue to challenge anonymity for library services.

I had a meeting and therefore missed what I’m sure was an interesting presentation from Stephen Abram of SirsiDynix. Guess I’ll just have to check the audio CD. If you were able to hear him and have a comment to add, please do so.

Paula J. Hane
News Bureau Chief
Information Today, Inc.

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