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 webzine and jobs list INALJ.com (formerly I Need a Library Job) and former CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of T160K.org, a crowdfunding platform focused on African patrimony, heritage and cultural projects. INALJ was founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard. Its 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. INALJ has had over 21 Million page hits and helped many, many thousands of librarians 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 one month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this with many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro and many other publications in the past decade. She presents whenever she can, including serving on three panels at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Las Vegas; as breakout presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa; as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting; at the National Press Club in Washington DC; McGill University in Montreal, Canada; the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has been living and working in Budapest, Hungary and Western New York State. She spent years running her husband’s moving labor website, fixed and sold old houses and assisted her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food. She is preparing to re-enter the workforce and is job hunting. Her husband is now the co-editor of INALJ, a true support!  She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay.