The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 21, Number 2
Jul 1997

Some Preservation Administrators Have Reservations About Digitizing

by Ellen McCrady

At the last ALA Midwinter meeting, toward the end of the Preservation Administrators Discussion Group agenda, I heard other people asking the same questions about digitizing that had been bothering me for the last few years. I had been thinking that I was the only one with these views. Perhaps this was a sign that the issue needs to be openly debated, so that no one will feel that they have to conform to pressures they do not understand.

In order to put it in perspective, I have assembled some publications and reports to show how libraries and other organizations are being affected, and how they are handling the changes. I will quote passages from this material here. Since I myself am struggling to understand this whole issue, I will not be presenting any arguments for one position or another, but will simply set out the relevant material that I came across in the last few weeks.

These are some of the questions that have been running through my mind:

How do we know that all this enthusiasm for digitizing-as-preservation isn't just a passing fad?
What aspects of the real world are driving the enthusiasm? Is there a legitimate demand from serious readers?
Who decided that the preservation department, and not some other department, should go into digitizing?
Where will the money come from?
Who will take care of existing collections if we have to assume these new and unfamiliar duties?
When you make a scanned book or electronic record available to large numbers of people, isn't that publishing? And what has publishing got to do with preservation?

The material I have appears to group itself under the following headings:

Planning and managing digital projects
Types of digital projects
Preservation of existing digital information (archiving)
Digital records management
Merging of libraries and computer centers, a trend

Following all this material, I will offer a few tentative conclusions and a bibliography of 13 SPEC Kits and one Web site.

Introduction and Background

The workplace outside libraries. The world of printers is in upheaval too. Twenty-six pages of the January-February GATFWorld dealt with revolutionary workplace changes in the printing industry, brought about by new computer technology.

Donald Belcher, CEO of Banta Corporation, says in the Commentary column,

Major shifts in technology are affecting our industry and we need to explore what we are doing-or perhaps should be doing-to deal successfully with these dynamics and to move our companies and our industry into the future.

There is change everywhere we look.… Magazine printers might be interested that Condé Nast is creating Web versions for all 14 of its core magazines.… None of us has a complete answer for how we should drive the transformation [of the printing industry], but here are my suggestions:

First, get in the [electronic media] game. Get your hands on a mouse, get on the Net and the Web. Visit your competitors, your customers, your prospects. You might be surprised, and I guarantee you'll be stimulated.

Stay obsessed with serving your customers. Know where they're going and anticipate their needs. Where necessary, reconfigure your organization and your services. Help your customers go digital. You may need to figure out what your customers' needs are before they know them.

Utilize market research. Banta's decisions to invest in on-press imaging and personalization systems, in added wide-web print capacity, and in World Wide Web technologies instead of private networks were influenced by our studies.

Invest in new technologies, both in print and nonprint, to continually improve the value of your products and services.

Invest in your people-training programs for existing employees, for sure, but also look closely at the profiles of the people you are hiring. Do they seem different? Is their training and background and flexibility compatible with the emergence of these new technologies?

Depository libraries. In June 1996, a Senate Committee held a two-day hearing on the role of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) in the 21st century. Wayne Kelley, Superintendent of Documents, said that the depository library system needs to be strengthened with continued focus on public access to government information, and advised that a 5-7 year transition period toward a more electronic program be allowed, because agencies and libraries are not yet ready to go fully electronic, and the costs would be high. ALA President Betty Turock agreed.

Dr. William A. Wulf, computer science professor at the University of Virginia, focused on the rapid rate of technological growth and the need for libraries and agencies to invest in new technologies. He said that libraries and agencies should proceed with deliberate speed and experiment with new forms of electronic publication.

Dr. Dennis Galletta advised the Senate Committee that it is too soon to rely fully on the Internet for access to information. He also highlighted the fact that the World Wide Web has several difficulties, such as slow and unpredictable speeds and frequent Uniform Resource Locator (URL) changes.

Research libraries. Library leaders from 125 research libraries and institutions around the world gathered last March in Dublin, Ohio for the 15th Annual Conference of Research Library Directors, entitled "The University and the Research Library-Beyond 2000." OCLC was one of the sponsors.

Lee Caldwell, director of Internet Technology Strategy at IBM, said, "Web sites come and go like bubbles in champagne. The Internet is like an ocean and most university life is around the islands. Librarians are not currently involved in the content flow of information on the Internet. Libraries need to create islands where we can learn."

Polley McClure, V.P. and chief information officer at the University of Virginia, discussed the benefits and barriers of technology in university teaching and learning. Among the benefits: Increased access, including distance learning anytime, anywhere; improved learning and decreased cost. Among the barriers: faculty learning barriers in technology, instructional design and pedagogical models. [This probably means that faculty need to become more familiar with technology, etc.] The conference was reported in the May/June 1997 OCLC Newsletter on pages 30-33.

"Designing a course to be delivered across a network is different from standing in front of a blackboard," said Dr. McClure. "The better you are at the current paradigm, the harder it is to accept the next one. Leaders in old paradigms rarely invent the new. It is usually 'outsiders' who create new paradigms. And when a new paradigm appears, everyone goes back to zero."

A small college faces the computer revolution. St. Mary's College of Maryland, with only 1656 students, is upgrading its technical services to faculty and students. The Information Technology Task Force report recommends changes that include installing one computer for every 15 students, increasing Internet access, and setting up an Information Technology help desk. (The recommended merger of the college's library with Tech Services is discussed below, under "Libraries and Computer Centers Merge.")

Here is how the Task Force describes the unprecedented changes brought about recently by the Computer Revolution:

The role and importance of information technologies in higher education has changed dramatically during the past decade. Computing power, which heretofore had been kept under wraps in tightly secured machine rooms housing the mainframe, is now available on desktops for many applications. And desktop computers which only a few years ago operated as isolated orphans are now linked with "siblings" and other "remote hosts" to produce results which were only recently largely imagined by futurists, information and library scientists, and hackers. Today it is widely acknowledged that the networked desktop computer is beginning to produce the results promised by the much anticipated knowledge revolution. Scholars working collaboratively via the network are producing startling results, witness the human genome project. A flood of reports of teachers actively engaging students through the use of technology are reported not only in Change and the Chronicle of Higher Education, but in the popular press as well. Access to libraries and large caches of digital information are changing the way that libraries operate and serve their communities. And administrative processes are becoming increasingly efficient and flexible to the task through the use of client/server architectures.

When external environments produce change as dramatic and rapid as that which we are experiencing in information technologies, user expectations also begin to change. The very real costs as well as the unrealized opportunity costs of underutilizing new technologies begin to exact a heavy price on organizations. In education, for example, faculty, students, and staff who have been non-users of technology have started to demand better-more modern-capabilities. Like a number of other institutions, St. Mary's must deal with these realities of history, and must recognize that growing demands have generated considerable negative energy because they were not [being]-perhaps could not under the circumstances-be adequately dealt with.

School for Scanning, Berkeley, May 1997. There were 237 participants, coming from museums, archives, libraries, institutions, historical societies, government agencies, city governments, corporate libraries or archives, and research organizations. Only 13 worked in a preservation or conservation department, to judge by their titles. The rest were archivists (31), high-level administrators (25), computer specialists (23), curators (14), registrars (11), or librarians, low-level administrators, interns and students, and miscellaneous.

Planning and Managing Digital Projects

At the PADG meeting, Janet Gertz of Columbia University explained briefly how she coped with the challenges of her large-format color digitizing project a few years ago. They used a team approach to everything: format, technology, equipment, file headings, long term storage and whether to do it inhouse or to use vendors. There was a working group for each of these projects.

Next October, in Washington, the Research Libraries Group (RLG) will have a three-day workshop on managing a digital project. In September, NEDCC will have a reformatting workshop in Eugene, Oregon, that will cover both preservation microfilming and digital scanning.

At the ALA conference this past June, the LAMA (Library Administration and Management Association) Fund Raising and Financial Development Section put on a two-hour program on "Fund Raising for the Electronic Library." The speakers were Kenneth Dowlin (former city librarian, San Francisco), Merrily Taylor (university librarian, Brown University), and Kevin Comerford (curator, Visual Resources, Microsoft Corp.). They described three fund-raising strategies.

The Getty Art History Information Program published a 48-page booklet in 1995, called Introduction to Imaging: Issues in Constructing an Image Database, by Howard Besser and Jennifer Trant. It has a bibliography and a glossary, and is well illustrated in color. The telephone number of the publisher is 310/395-1025 (fax: 310/451-5570).

Some Types of Digital Projects:

Virtual collections on a theme, containing material gathered from scattered sources, like RLG's "Studies in Scarlet" (Sept. 1996 issue of this newsletter, p. 66b).

Microfilm images scanned for use on the Internet and storage on compact disc or tape. This is one of the services provided by Preservation Resources, OCLC's division for preservation microfilming and digital access. Used especially for rare or unique materials in demand by readers, like certain books in the Schomburg Collection at the New York Public Library.

Digitizing of periodical back files to save storage space. Example: JSTOR, a nonprofit organization that provides electronic access to back files of periodicals, is collaborating with OCLC to avoid duplication and improve searching and delivery.

Archiving Digital Records

In the March/April OCLC Newsletter, on p. 25, OCLC's V.P. of Marketing and Reference Services is interviewed. The first question is, "Why is electronic archiving important to libraries?" He answers: "For a number of reasons. First, it holds the promise of a low-cost solution to the problem of mass storage. If electronic storage can reduce the need for 'mortar and brick' housing of material, libraries will save money they would otherwise have had to invest in buildings. Second, and almost as important, electronic storage can make archived materials much more accessible to library users. Items can be identified and retrieved much faster than they might be when the storage medium is paper or microform. Finally, electronically archived materials can be delivered over the Web to patrons outside the library-in their homes or offices, across the country, even around the world."

PANDORA. In Australia there is a project called PANDORA (Preserving and Accessing Networked Documentary Resources in Australia). It was initiated by the National Library of Australia, and is funded in part by the Australian Vice Chancellors' Committee (AVCC) Working Group on Electronic Publishing, which has a report up at; or contact the Project Manager, Wendy Smith, on telephone (61 6 262 1667, or e-mail

PANDORA has been working on strategies and procedures for the capture, storage, preservation and access to digital data of all sorts.

PADI. This acronym stands for "Preserving Access to Digital Information," a project initiated by the National Library of Australia. PADI is also funded by AVCC, and it has a working group with members from a large number of cultural institutions and information technology companies. Its Web site is html. At this site can be seen a) the Final Report of the [joint RLG/CPA] Task Force on Archiving of Digital Information; b) a paper on long-term management of electronic information, given at the 1995 conference on multimedia preservation-"Capturing the Rainbow"; c) the "Statement of Principles on the Preservation of and Long-Term Access to Australian Digital Objects," Jan. 1997; d) a list of forthcoming conferences on the topic; and e) a 15-page selected annotated bibliography.

Electronic archiving project at OCLC. Last January, OCLC began an electronic "archiving" project in order to test the technology. (Actually, it resembles an exhibition more than an archive.) The prototype involves ten groups of records (10,000 newspaper pages from the Irish American Advocate; 1,000 photographs relating to a girls' baseball league; costume and set designs and maps; regimental histories from the Civil War; and so on) to be mounted on the Internet and other locations, and to be (apparently) interactive. The press release says "the working prototype will provide input from users, allowing the study of usage patterns and issues.…"

-and at RLG. The Research Libraries Group has a task force on digital archiving, or did last February.

Records Management

The U.S. National Historical Preservation and Records Commission (NHPRC) funded a number of state electronic records projects in 1996:

Delaware Bureau of Archives and Records Management: $101,744 to develop an electronic records program.

Kansas State Historical Society: $28,690 to develop and implement an electronic records management policy for both state and local governments.

Michigan: The regents of the University of Michigan received a grant of $43,450 for an electronic records conference, to assess progress made in electronic records research and program development since the last conference in 1991.

New York: SUNY Research Foundation received a grant of up to $140,000 to develop and promote the use of a "system development model" that incorporates electronic recordkeeping and archival considerations into the creation of networked-computing and communications applications.

Ohio Historical Society: Up to $10,000 for a six-month consultancy to assist with planning for the development of the Ohio Electronic Records Archives.

Pennsylvania: The city of Philadelphia received $17,370 for a four-month bridge grant to continue a Commission-funded project that is developing a program to preserve archival electronic records.

South Carolina Department of Archives and History: $21,700 for a one-year project to plan and develop a prototype information locator system for South Carolina state government, evaluate its limited implementation, and make recommendations concerning its expanded implementation.

Records management in the Nordic countries. Last November, the SAA newsletter Archival Outlook had a news item on a joint five-nation project called TEAM-"Tools for Electronic Archives Management"-funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Nordic Council for Scientific Information. It was completed in 1995, and the result was a 1996 publication for researchers and other users of archives: To Preserve and Provide Access to Electronic Records. It covers transferring records with flat file structure to a relation-al database format; access to electronic filing systems transferred to a public record office; storage media; and physical arrangement for long-term storage. To order a copy, contact Unipub, 4611-F Assembly Drive, Lanham, MD 20706-4391 (301/459-7666; fax: 459-0056). ISBN is 92-9120-872-8.

Libraries & Computer Centers Merge

A 60-page report compiled by the Information Technology Task Force (ITTF) at St. Mary's College of Maryland was mailed upon request to attendees at an ALA Midwinter panel discussion on library/computer center mergers. It gives some insight into what has become a national trend on campuses.

The cover letter, addressed to the college president, discussed the administrative problems of the college, which this merger was expected to ameliorate; the need to upgrade the campus computer hardware; and the feedback received at open forums called to discuss the changes contemplated-but not a word about the library until p. 4. There, the ninth recommendation in a list of 13 reads, "close cooperation [of Information Technology] with the library-in order to enhance academic services and conserve scarce resources." Closer contact with the library is seen as a way to make the information technology people more client-oriented and helpful to faculty, staff and students. One way they considered doing this was to establish the position of Vice President for Information Resources, "supervising a new division of Information Resources consisting of the current components of Information Technology Services, and the Library." The rationale for merging the two departments is illuminated in the following passage:

There was considerable debate and discussion within the ITTF regarding the scope of this new division. The key question was whether it would/should include the library, and if so, whether it should include all library services and operations or just media services. The decision to recommend an integrated information resources division… reflects the belief that the institution must take an holistic approach to information services that are driven by the academic mission but represent the needs of all portions of the College.…

The integration of the library into this new division would bring a number of strengths to the core technical area. Librarians understand issues related to the organization and dissemination of information; computer specialists understand the capacity and uses of technology. When brought together, the expertise of librarians and technical computer specialists has the capacity to provide a highly effective service response to the challenge set forth in the mission for information technology on this campus: specifically, "quality access … to information resources … knowledge management and interactive learning systems," and tools to "store and retrieve information."

The Task Force proposed several action plans. In the end, the new division was set up not under a vice president, but under the newly created position of Director of Information Technology and the Library.

Tentative Conclusions

Interest in scanning seems to be pretty widespread. We are not alone. In fact, we are surrounded. But nobody expects library preservation departments to bear sole responsibility for imaging. The non-preservation people at the "School for Scanning" must have anticipated administering or being involved in scanning projects at their workplace. And libraries without preservation departments will find a way to do what scanning is necessary, whether this means jobbing it out to a commercial firm or using inhouse expertise..

As time goes on, will specialties emerge, or will everyone be involved in scanning projects to the same extent? Will there be two kinds of scanning, as there are two kinds of microfilming-routine scanning and preservation scanning?

The Impact on Library Policies and Practices

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) surveys its members from time to time regarding their current practices, and binds the manuals, policies and other paperwork into SPEC (Systems and Procedures Exchange Center) Kits. In the last three or four years, there have been 13 SPEC Kits on digitizing, electronic documents, the Internet and related matters:

SP198 Automating Preservation Management in ARL Libraries, Dec. 1993

SP201 Electronic Journals: Policies and Procedures, Aug. 1994

SP202 Electronic Journals: Issues & Trends, Aug. 1994

SP204 Uses of Document Delivery Services, Nov. 1994

SP214 Digitizing Technologies for Preservation, March 1996

SP215 Library Reorganization and Restructuring, May 1996

SP216 Role of Libraries in Distance Education, July 1996

SP217 Electronic Reserves, Oct. 1996 (Transforming Libraries 1)

SP218 Information Technology Policies, Oct. 1996

SP219 Geographic Information Systems, March 1997 (Transforming Libraries 2)

SP220 Internet Training in ARL Libraries, March 1997

SP222 Electronic Resource Sharing, June 1997

SP223 Electronic Scholarly Publication, June 1997 (Transforming Libraries 3)

A Support Service on the Web: Sun SITE

The Berkeley Digital Library SunSITE ( is a library of digital texts, images, and other content as well as a support service for digital library, museum, and archive developers worldwide. It gathers and publishes information about digital library projects, gathers and provides access to digital content, provides a platform for research and development, promotes discussions on topics related to digital libraries, museums and archives, and provides current awareness services.

As its name implies, it is sponsored by both Sun Microsystems, Inc., and the library at the University of California Berkeley campus, which is one of dozens of servers worldwide. Its purpose is to facilitate the rapid deployment of technologies that will enhance access to information in a variety of formats for anyone on the Internet.

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