5 things you need to realize before starting to digitize a collection

by Emily Woodcock, Senior Assistant, INALJ Nova Scotia and PEI
previously published 8/11/14

5 things you need to realize before starting to digitize a collection

emily woodcock landscapeI am currently completing a co-op where one of my responsibilities is to work on digitizing a collection of documents mainly from the 1970-80s about the coal industry and co-operatives. I am also finishing up a course from the Library Juice Academy called Getting Started with Digital Image Collections.


Digitizing special collections is a really big thing in libraries right now but it is not always an easy process. Here are 5 things that I think everyone needs to know/realize before they start working to digitize a collection.


  1. You will need lots and lots of computer space to store the files. In order for image files to be archival they need to be .tiff files, these are very large files. On top of the .tiff files you will also need to be creating .pdf or .jpeg files because they will be the file that people actually access online.
  2. Your workflow will most likely never be finished! This right here is a very important thing because you will finish creating the workflow, start to use it only to realize you need to change this, this and also something else. You will only figure everything that needs to be included by going through the process yourself and having others to the same.
  3. You will make mistakes. Don’t sweat it, everyone make mistakes. Slowly think about what you did and go back to fix it.
  4. Standing in front of a scanner is not exciting. When scanning documents it is a good idea to also have something small you can be doing because otherwise you will get bored very fast. I am lucky in the sense that for many of documents I can place 50 or so pages in the feeder in the scanner and go do something else. Personally I normally scan while I am also servicing the circulation desk and it is not busy.
  5. There will always be unexpected costs. Yes, they may be minimal but they will happen. One cost that I have come up against is the price of rebinding documents. In order to place the documents in the feeder on the scanner we have to take them apart, which can be come by hand but putting them back together again is not always so easy.


Good luck with your digitization project!


Emily Woodcock is currently in the MLIS program at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada planning to graduate in Spring 2015. She is originally from Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. In her free time she enjoys reading, drawing, taking pictures and knitting. She currently serves as Senior Assistant for Nova Scotia and PEI.


Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular LIS jobs resource INALJ.com (formerly I Need a Library Job). Founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard, INALJ’s social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ.com. INALJ has had over 20 Million page views and helped thousands of librarians and LIS folk find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in a month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this many new jobs published daily. She was a 2013 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and has served on the University of Maryland iSchool Board from 2014-2017. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and now lives part time in Western NY and Budapest, Hungary. She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay.