Cornelius Van Vorst, ca.1620; 
Jersey City Free Public Library; Grover Cleveland Political Cartoon; 
Grover Cleveland Birthplace Historical Site Collection Peter Lee, former slave, ca.1880; 
Hoboken Historical Photographs Collection; Farm Map of Hillsboro, Somerset County, 1860; 
Historical Maps of New Jersey Collection; Bathing Beauties, 1890-1930; 
American Labor Museum/Botto House National Landmark Collection; Flag Salute, 1950; 
Seabrook Farms Collection;
Planning the Digital Initiative
There are a number of considerations when starting a digital project. Some of these are described here.
Making the Choice to Digitize Top

Implementing a digital library initiative is a very big step. We live in an increasingly digital society, and many of your users will really appreciate finding the information they need on the web. Even a single, small collection that you might view as a one-time experiment creates an expectation in your users that more and more of your resources will become available on the web. Embarking on a digital library initiative can result in a significant new service to your users that you must continue to support.

The good news is that a digital library initiative is very rewarding. You can expand access to your collections around the clock and build a new user base around the world. You will definitely have a higher profile in your community, and new users will discover and visit your organization.

Chad Leinaweaver, Director of the Library at the New Jersey Historical Society, helps you analyze the reasons to develop a digital library initiative, not least of which is the opportunity to collaborate, learn and share with other libraries, museums and archives in the state of New Jersey:

Why Digitize? PDF File - Chad Leinaweaver, New Jersey Historical Society

Doing Your Homework Top

There are a number of issues to consider before planning a digital library initiative-whether a single collection or an ongoing service. You want to start by doing your homework. There are a lot of guidelines available on the Web, and a lot of organizations building digital collections that will share their experiences.

An excellent overview, providing guidance and examples, is the Framework of Guidance for Building Good Digital Collections, from the National Information Standards Organization.

NISO Framework of Guidance for Building Good Digital Collections

Another good source of information is our Step By Step guide. Read it completely for a good understanding of all the steps involved in digital collection building. NJDH also includes the E-ZStart guide, which describes how your library, archives, or historical society can join the statewide portal to history and cultural heritage materials - the New Jersey Digital Highway - quickly, easily, and at no cost.

Your colleagues, particularly those in comparable institutions, are an excellent source of information. Visits to nearby organizations are a great way to see everything involved in a digital library initiative, and for asking questions that can be immediately answered by experienced professionals. You will find your colleagues particularly generous in sharing not just their success stories, but what they wish they had done differently, so that you don't have to make the same mistakes. The New Jersey Digital Highway is a good place to locate colleagues among the collection partners for a digital library planning site visit.

Local library consortia offer inexpensive training opportunities with topics such as digital library project planning, grant writing, digitizing, etc. In the New Jersey area, the New Jersey State Library, Lyrasis, METRO (Metropolitan New York Library Council) and the New Jersey Digital Highway all offer periodic training opportunities.

There are many things you want to learn through this initial research.

The Technology Top

Digital collections should be built for the long-term. You want to create high-resolution digital objects that are as faithful as possible to the information contained in the originals. However, digital collection building is still an evolving service, with digital standards, display technologies and user expectations changing frequently. Your homework needs to be current. A good rule of thumb is to digitize to the minimum standards that your local consortium requires, so that you can share your resources with a broader audience. The New Jersey Digital Highway posts its minimum required standards in the librarians and curators portal page. You will need a metadata strategy that lets you collect and review information about how digital files were created, what digitizing parameters were established, and what requirements for playback exist, so that as technologies change, you can transform your digital files to newer standards and technologies.

You can gain an understanding of the technology behind digital imaging and learn about the minimum equipment and standards needed to participate in the New Jersey Digital Highway, a collaborative digital repository that supports collection access and long-term collection preservation from Isaiah Beard, digital collections project manager at Rutgers University Libraries:

Digitizing Collections PDF File - Isaiah Beard, Rutgers University Libraries

Understanding the Metadata Top

It is equally important to understand the metadata, or "data about data" that describes the digital object. Metadata enables an end user to discover the object, by providing elements of information, such as title, creator, format, and subject, that the user search through, to find and select digital information objects. Metadata also provides information to manage the object, such as purchase history, condition or technical specifications for the digital file.

Grace Agnew, Rutgers University Libraries, provides an overview of metadata:

Understanding Metadata PDF File - Grace Agnew, Rutgers University Libraries

Staffing Top

The greatest expense, in terms of real costs but also in terms of the tradeoffs to other library services and projects, is staffing. Grace Agnew, Associate University Librarian for Digital Library Systems at Rutgers University Libraries, identifies the different staffing roles and types of expertise needed for a digital library initiative.

Staffing for Digital Collection Building PDF File - Grace Agnew, Rutgers University Libraries

Costs Top

Now that you have a good understanding of the technologies and staffing involved, you are ready to estimate the costs. This will help you decide whether you can absorb the cost within your current budget, whether to do local fund raising, or whether you should apply for a grant. An important question to answer is, should you outsource? Major components of a digital library collection, including digitizing the objects, creating the metadata, and building a website and search engine can all be outsourced. Outsourcing can be a very practical alternative, particularly when the resources are in good condition and can be safely transported to a vendor. However, with outsourcing comes a loss of control and oversight. An organization that outsources its digital collection building will want to have clear, comprehensive instructions, an evaluation plan for quality assurance and a clear understanding with the vendor about remedies, should the vendor's work fail to meet specifications.

Kate McGuire, Office of Information Technology, State of New Jersey, provides guidance on planning and costing your project, including outsourcing the project, in-house production, costs for each strategy, sources and resources:

What Will It Cost? PDF File - Kate McGuire, OIT, State of New Jersey

Selecting a Digitization Provider Top

Jeffrey V. Moy, Archivist at the Newark Museum, provides guidance on selecting a digitization provider, a selective directory of digitization providers and equipment vendors, and sources to consult for more information:

Digitization Providers and Equipment Vendors PDF File - Jeffrey V. Moy, Newark Museum

Sample Requests for Proposals Top

Kate McGuire provides some guidance and links to sample RFPs (request for proposals) to find a digitization provider.

Sample RFPs PDF File - Kate McGuire, OIT, State of New Jersey

Resources Top

Some excellent online guides for digital project planning and development:

Now that you have done the initial research, you are ready to move to the next step.

Back to Step By Step List
  Selecting Collections
Selecting Collections
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