Scanning Your Digital Future
by Dick Kaser
The special collection: Once relegated to a library alcove, a library’s unique holdings are being increasingly seen as a core library asset. This is especially true given the prevalence of digital surrogates and easy electronic access to most books, serials, and other published content in the library’s main collection. By digitizing a special collection, libraries set the stage for better exposure and use of their unique materials and for preserving them.
As Marshall Breeding points out in his column this month, grant funding may be harder to get for such digitization efforts these days, since digitization projects have become so commonplace. But this does not mean that digitization efforts are not challenging.
As with most subjects we cover in Computers in Libraries, digitization projects require tech know-how. There are lessons to be learned from those who have carried out such projects, and we have two case studies to share in this issue—one by a library with a $10,000 budget and the other by a consortia attempting to build a digital archiving platform to support the libraries in its network.
The digitization projects discussed in this issue focus on photo, document, and media archives, with most authors noting such efforts expand beyond the digitization process itself. Terence Huwe makes an interesting case that data-rich collections—which may take extra-special handling—are vital for supporting today’s data-driven research initiatives.
As you consider your digitization strategy, don’t forget the back office, because digital processes have also become a characteristic of 21st-century library workflows. Take radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging, for instance. It’s great for inventory control and check-in/check-out purposes in all kinds of library settings, but so far, it’s been adopted by only a relative few. Want to know how to decide to do it? Read the article by Stephanie Handy.
And if you’re not concerned about unauthorized electronic access to your library’s digital assets—including patron records—you might want to perk up your ears, because data breaches are becoming as commonplace in our world as digital content collections. Jessamyn West shares her tips about two-step user authentication in this issue.
Bottom line: Digitize your special stuff, and stay safe.
Dick Kaser, Executive Editor