Digitization/Planning a digitization project
The part of the planification of the project is usually a neglected part, even when a correct planning is definitely key to the success or failure of any project. When you are a small or medium institution, you might be tempted to avoid planning, since you might not have as many resources as big institutions -so what's there to plan? You just need to buy a scanner and start working on whatever you have decided you need to scan, right?
On the contrary, precisely those kind of projects are the ones that need the most planning. Enthusiasm can be easily be overriden by the burden of work, and big ambitions with scarce resources can be disheartening. There are a couple of questions that need to be answered in order to start a digitization project and be able to take it to success. In general, these questions are mainly a guide for your own assessment. The outcomes of your project are mainly dependant on your own assessment of the institution you are working in / working with, and your ability to provide a clear analysis can't be replaced by guides.
Sometimes the excitment to start a digitization project rapidly escales to the dream of every librarian or archivist: to do ALL. To the question of "what to digitize", some archives and institutions answer with the size of their collection: "we have 5,000 lineal meters of archives" or "we have 10,000 books". Digitizing that amount of archives or books is a pharaonic task and impossible to do without resources (both financial and human). It might also be the case that digitizing the whole library or archive is an impossible task, not only due to resources but also because of copyright issues, duplicated materials in some other archives, uninteresting material that might not be a priority, among others.
As a general principle, it is also important to start a small project that is limited in time and can provide results within that timeframe and then go for something bigger. With a small project, you would have learned a lot about the pitfalls of planning in a digitization project (i.e. how much time really takes you to scan something against the ideal time you have set for the project), you will get to know the type of machinery that is more appropiated to what you want to achieve, and also be more aware of your trade-offs when making certain decisions.
In order to establish yourself some priorities, you could try to answer yourself the following questions:
- Why do I want to digitize this material?
- Who is it going to serve? What is this public going to do with these archives?
- What do I want them to achieve with these digital archives?