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Digitisation – Top 10 Tips

Digitisation… What does this mean?

Digitising your Paper/Film records is simply a way of making a digital copy of them. This is done by ‘scanning’ each sheet using specialist scanners. The Digitised Sheets are then supplied to you on CD-Rom, DVD or External Hard-drive in a format that you can open on your computer.

TIP 1: List ALL the Reasons for Performing the Digitisation

Make a FULL LIST of all the reasons WHY you would like to digitise your items and then give this list to any potential suppliers. The supplier will then have a full understanding of your requirements and will therefore take full responsibility in ensuring that what they supply matches your needs. Possible reasons why you might consider digitising your archive include: Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity (What happens if there is a fire or flood in the building? What happens if there is a burglary?); You Would Like Duplicate Copies of your Records (Once scanned, the sheets can be reprinted at any time); You Would Like to Display your Scanned Images on the Web (So that the public can find the records for themselves); Archiving them electronically means that the original archive can be moved off-site and will therefore free valuable space.

TIP 2: Ensure you can READ the Digitised Images!

Ask your potential supplier if they can provide viewing software in addition to the TIFF files and ask if they can provide this software for FREE. Ask if their Viewing Software will allow you to flick through the images of the archive as though flicking through the pages of a book. Ask if the Viewing Software will allow you to print, fax and email pages directly. Ask if the Viewing Software will allow you to ‘cut-out’ parts of the image so that you can paste them into Emails, Excel, Word Documents etc.

TIP 3: Get QUICK access to your Digitised Images

Ask your potential supplier if a Searchable Database can be integrated into their Viewing Software. By capturing a few fields from each of your records (i.e. surname, date etc.) and then linking that record through to the scanned image you will be able to quickly find the records within your archive. Capturing just a few fields will mean that this can be done quickly and at a relatively low cost and your supplier should be able to offer advice about which fields would be best to capture.

TIP 4: Ask for your Images to be Written to CD-Rom, DVD or External Hard-Drive

Ask your potential supplier to supply the digitised images on CD, DVD or External Hard-drive – one folder per book/box etc. Also ask if the digitised images can be placed on networked servers.

TIP 5: Consider placing your Records Online

Ask your potential supplier if they have any experience of placing the scanned images or captured records on the web. Whilst this may not be a requirement for you at the moment – it may become a requirement within the next few years and it is therefore worthwhile asking the question. Ask your supplier to provide the address of a website they have built that allows the public to search a similar archive.

TIP 6: Get your Archive Scanned using the Correct Equipment

Ask your potential supplier if they use BOOK OR LARGE FORMAT OVERHEAD SCANNERS. Book Scanners have been specially developed to handle old and fragile books. They have book cradles that self compensate to give a clear, flat, sharp image. The cradle also ensures that the spine is not damaged in any way. If the item to be digitised is large-format (e.g. maps) then ensure that your supplier is not using a roll-feed system as this may cause damage to the original. If you are happy that your supplier is using the correct equipment then ask the following question “What is the maximum size that the scanner is able to scan?” Some Scanners can only scan upto A2 (open page) which is obviously a problem if your books open to a size that is larger than A2. Those with A2 scanners will scan your registers by splitting the pages into ‘left’ and ‘right’ images. This can cause problems if your records cross over two pages.

TIP 7: If your archive is unique or valuable, digitise at your premises.

If your archive is accessed regularly and being without access to it for any lengthy period might cause you problems then ask your potential supplier how QUICKLY they can scan your archive and also if they are able to SCAN ON-SITE.

If the supplier is taking your archive away to perform the scanning then ask how long it will be away for. Whilst your collection is away from your office- ensure that the supplier has the capability and experience to look up entries in the archive should you need any information.

TIP 8: Ensure you get a FIRM Price

Ask your potential supplier to give you a FIRM PRICE to scan your archive. If the supplier has lots of experience in scanning similar materials then they should have a standard price-list.

If you are able to provide them with information such as – how many registers you have and approximately how many pages are within each register then they should be able to give you an instant quote. Sometimes, however, it is advisable for the supplier to visit your offices to see your archive so that they can count the number of items and scans for themselves.

A site visit is an absolute must if you require any form of Searchable Database attached to your images – the supplier will then be able to count the approximate number of records and fields that need capturing which inevitably means that they can provide you with a much more accurate quotation.
If you don’t have the budget to scan all of your archive in one go – ask your potential supplier if they are able to SCAN THE ARCHIVE IN BATCHES.

TIP 9: Choose an Independent supplier – Independent is Best!

Ask your potential supplier if they are an INDEPENDENT COMPANY or have they partnered with another known provider?

It is preferable that the supplier is completely independent as this guarantees that their advice will be unbiased. Also be wary if you have been referred to or advised to use a certain supplier because ‘they are the only ones who can do the job’. This certainly isn’t true.

Do not be ‘bullied’ into using a certain supplier.

TIP 10: Get Testimonials & Ask for Case Studies

Ask your potential supplier to provide details of other organisations they have carried out digitisation for and ask to see project case studies.  If the supplier has some good client testimonials then you can have more confidence with regards to their experience and capabilities.

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