Blog – Document Scanning

Preserving Special Collections with Document Scanning

There is only one Rosetta Stone, but photographs have helped preserve the myriad of languages carved into it. Similarly, libraries across the world are looking to document scanning to preserve historical and rare texts in their collections so that future generations can study and enjoy them. Along with texts, libraries are digitizing audio and video recordings, and transcribing oral histories. With the help of grants and the right equipment, librarians and archivists have the means to modernize their collections and make it accessible to the public.

Libraries Going Digital with Document Scanning

The Library of Congress and other libraries around the world are taking steps to preserve and provide long-term, durable access to artifacts and collections, such as texts, manuscripts, art, photographs and Web content. While preservation efforts give the public access to items they may have never otherwise seen, document scanning serves as a way to retain original collection items accurately and fully in a digital form so that they may flourish beyond their physical lifespan.

Scanning and digitizing historical materials poses unique challenges in regards to file formats, the technologies used, image metadata, content categories, imaging frameworks, project planning, and digitization guidelines. Before scanning, librarians and archivists must consider factors such as:

  • A collection or artifact’s condition and its ability to successfully withstand the digitization project
  • Risk management
  • Staff training
  • Stabilizing fragile content before scanning it
  • Limiting the handling of certain items
  • Unfolding creases in paper
  • Flattening cockled paper
  • Handling torn paper
  • Loose joints and spines in books
  • How to preserve difficult formats, such as oversized items, scrolls and accordion books
  • The type of scanning equipment to use
  • The materials to exclude from the digitization process, such as flaking media or photographs that are separating
  • Navigating the legal challenges of copyrighted publications

The Role of Document Scanning and the Preservation of Libraries

As the world goes digital, libraries are keeping pace. There are already millions of public domain books and publications in digital formats for library patrons and Web searchers to view. In many instances, readers can conduct searches within a digitized text using key words.

Digital technologies are a growing part of library systems. While it may seem as fewer patrons use library services, digital technologies allow libraries to serve more customers than ever before. Reference desks, for example, now use live chats and emails to assist digital patrons with finding accurate, through and reputable information online and at the library.

The Library of Congress warns that disasters pose several threats to collections in the process of being digitized. It points out that preparedness is the best way to mitigate damage and losses, and reminds readers that the best plans can’t eliminate all threats. For this reason, the best emergency preparedness plans always include recovery and business continuity plans.

Libraries don’t have to face the challenge of stabilizing damaged and wet collections on their own. With Polygon’s Code Blue program, archivists work with recovery specialists to create a response and recovery plan that includes the best ways to stabilize, dry and clean affected collects using the safest, most technologically advanced methods available. Contact Polygon to learn more about Code Blue and getting your library priority access to document recovery services after a disaster.

[Photo from aehdeschaine via CC License 2.0]

Photo from aehdeschaine

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