The Role of Digitization in Building Electronic Collections

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona]On: 27 October 2014, At: 06:50Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK

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    The Role of Digitization inBuilding Electronic CollectionsClifford A. Lynch a ba Coalition for Networked Information , University ofCalifornia Office of the President , USAb Division of Library Automation , University ofCalifornia Office of the President , USAPublished online: 23 Sep 2008.

    To cite this article: Clifford A. Lynch (1998) The Role of Digitization in BuildingElectronic Collections, Collection Management, 22:3-4, 133-141, DOI: 10.1300/J105v22n03_12

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1300/J105v22n03_12

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  • The Role of Digitization in Building Electronic Collections:

    Economic and Programmatic Choices Clifford A. Lynch

    The conversion of materials from printed format to digital representa- tions is no longer experimental. Digitization has been demonstrated and its value has becn proved by a scries of projects, including work at Comell University, the National Agriculture Library, Elsevier Science Publishers, Bell Labs, the University of Michigan, and the Library of Congress. The cost per page for scanning materials into digital form continues to drop as the process becomes more automated, at least for those classes of material that have relatively uniform characteristics and have not severely deterio- rated. Production digitization of other print-like formats, such as micro- film and photographs, remains more experimental (given the great varia- tions in the characteristics of these materials), but some aspects have already been explorcd through several large-scale pilot projects. The usc of digitization technologies to convert analog sound and motion picture recordings to the digital domain is still quite costly and complex. While now used routinely in the entertainment industries (for example, in the production of audio CDs from old,master tapes), the process is not yet viewed as a practical method of transforming most library collections.

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    Clifford A. Lynch is Exccutive Director, Coalition for Networked Information, formerly Director of the Division of Library Automation, University of California Office of the Presidcnt.

    Note from the author: This paper is based on my presentation at the RLG symposium Selecting Library and Archive Collections for Digital Reformatting held November 5-6, 1995, in Washington, D.C.

    [Haworth co-indexing cnlry note]: The Role of Digitization in Building Electronic Collections: Economic mid Piograinmatic Choices. Lynch, Clifford A. Co-published simullaiieously in Colleclioii Managentent (The Haworth Press, Inc.) Vol. 22, No. 3/4, 1998. pp. 133-141; and: Going Digitnl: Strategicsfor Access. Preseroorion. nnd Conversion of Collections I D a Digital Fornmr (ed Donald L. DcWitt) The Hnworlli Press. Inc., 1998. pp. 133-141.

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  • 134 Goirig Digital: Slralegies for Access, Preservcrtiori, arid Corlversion

    But the vast majority of research library holdings are printed materials, microforms, and photographs. The transformation of these collections into digital form is now within reach, although it represents a massive invest- ment. At the same time, a growing proportion of the new material being acquired by libraries is now available in digital formats, though perhaps at a substantial price premium. The costs of developing systems to provide patron access to digital materials ofall kinds is clearly a large and ongoing investment, as is the continued management of these digital materials. Libraries face both opportunities and potentially unmanageable budgetary demands from all quarters. The questions now facing libraries arise less from the availability of technology than out of the development of strate- gies for collection development and management and supporting resource allocation choices.

    This paper will outline some possible strategies for approaching the transition to collections that incorporate increasing quantities of digital information, and will offer some perspectives that may help in comparing and evaluating these strategies.

    GENERAL ISSUES

    Before considering various types of collections specifically, it is worth examining a few general themes that apply across the various types of material.

    Library users clearly expect more and more material in digital form, but their reasons vary greatly. Much has been written on the general advantages of digital materials over printed materials, and a number of case studies affirm the impact and value of having certain very specific materials in digital form to support various research and instructional programs. But we really know very little about the cost-benefit tradeoffs that might guide us in selecting one strategy over another. There is a great need for even basic measures such as raw usage data for different types of digital material.

    Further, in cases where the intellectual property rights to materials are controlled by organizations outsidc the library community, cost-benefit considerations are muddled by the marketplace. A publisher, for example, will try to charge a premium for materials in elcctronic formats that basi- cally discounts the added value that the library and its patrons would gain from having the material in electronic form, thus weakening the justifica- tion for migration to the electronic version of the material.

    There is clearly a critical mass issue with digital collections, however they may be selected. The availability of small amounts of digital material randomly interspersed through a primarily print collection has been shown

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  • Stralegies for Selecriirg Co/lec/ions,for Coiri~eisioil to n Digital Forttiat 135

    again and again to have little value to uscrs bcyond a technological proof of concept. Once the novelty wears off, users tend to avoid the extra effort of accessing the occasional digitized works they may encounter in the course of their library use. Any strategy to incorporate substantial amounts of digital content into the production library collections and services needs to ensure that at least some subset of the library patrons is quickly offered a critical mass of matcrials in digital form.

    Different strategies for approaching critical mass have been suggested, but with little comparison of results. One strategy might be to build up a base of source materials and secondary commentary structured around instructional programs-an extension of an electronic reserves and class reading approach. In particular the ready availability of source material from special collections for large classes (oAen impossible or at least impractical with the physical collections) offers exciting new possibilities for approaching some types of instruction. An alternative approach involves much larger-scale bulk digitization of material on a disciplinary basis, perhaps guided by an editorial board of working scholars. Thus, a digital collection would be available from which researchers and teachers could extract what they needed for various purposes with a high expecta- tion that the required materials would be available in digital form.

    Finally, there are issues of the organization of digital materials and the construction of access systems. Early digitization projects tended quite naturally to focus on t