Report drafted by: Donna McRostie, Director, Information Management
Edited by Philip Kent, University Librarian including input from CAUL Executive Committee
The University of Melbourne
Version: 5 March 2012
CAUL has advocated the recognition of digitisation as a core component of the national research infrastructure for some time. While digitisation projects have been funded through various sources, they have not been guided by a nationally cohesive vision.
In recent years the Commonwealth’s innovation agenda has provided investment in new areas of research infrastructure and support. The ANDS initiative and the focus on research data management have heightened awareness of infrastructure other than large scientific and medical equipment. New roles and opportunities have emerged for librarians to add value to research processes in our universities.
In responding to the 2011 Strategic Roadmap for Australian Research Infrastructure Exposure Draft, CAUL advocated: a national conversation about the model or models and the framework that should be adopted to meet the Government’s aims for a digitisation capability and richer national digital collections. That conversation is expected to occur over the next year or so. Readiness to engage in this conversation is an imperative and to that end in late 2011 CAUL distributed a survey seeking information about current digitisation activity and capability within universities and especially within libraries. The focus of the questionnaire was on the digitisation of information resources used to undertake or contribute to original research. Excluded at this stage were: information on the digitisation of theses, journal articles, publications for ERA, electronic reserve or for preservation.
In addition to digitisation activity and capability within the library, the survey sought to understand the extent of activity/capability across universities, insofar as libraries were aware of it. In general, the focus is on activity that is undertaken and/or managed centrally either at a whole-of-institution level or by a major organisational unit such as a faculty.
The survey received 25 responses by the close of submission in December 2011. Responses were received from:
This report provides useful analysis of the survey results and highlights some areas of strength.
Some high level observations include:
The survey provides a snapshot of some interesting experiences across a wide range of CAUL members.
For example, UNE was an early adopter of digitisation from 2004 and exhibits the possibilities of untapped resources across the sector, contributing high value regional content.
Distributed models of digitisation prevail – low/medium end equipment predominates and digitisation work is often one of several roles.
Digitisation is often a collaborative activity within the institution.
There is a focus on digitisation for access rather than preservation.
Cost is the biggest barrier to developing or increasing capability/activities.
Copyright concerns are another significant barrier.
There is an eagerness to develop frameworks (policy, procedure and guidelines).
There is a concentration on hard copy digitisation with limited capability in multi-media digitations, although outsourcing is often the solution.
The survey provides a good basis for further investigations and work. Additional details may be pursued to clarify responses, obtain examples that demonstrate depth and breadth of research resources suitable for digitisation and to build the case. At this time the CAUL Executive recommends that we work with the survey results to develop a report for future advocacy with funding sources (e.g. Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education) or potential collaborators ( e.g. National and State Libraries Australasia – NSLA, Academy of Humanities). An important input to further advocacy will be the development of a CAUL Digitisation Strategy that would identify priorities and resource requirements for a national approach. It is anticipated that this work will also coincide with the development of Australia’s new Cultural Policy following on from the public consultations in late 2011.
22 of the respondents digitise or plan to digitise research material with only Ballarat, Canberra and Tasmania reporting no current plan to do so. Of note is the Archives and Heritage Centre which is part of the University of New England’s Library. They were an early adopter and have engaged in digitisation of research material (e.g. weather records 1878-1908) since 2004.
With diverse collections across the sector, a prominent commonality was a focus on rare and special collections and out of copyright material. Governance and local institutional material/publications also featured as a core component of the digitisation effort. The breadth of activity ranged from collections of Australian literary, historical and natural science primary source material to the Cultural Revolution in China, personal papers from prominent political figures, indigenous language materials and plant specimens.
The type of material ranged from photographic material (slides, photos, negatives), loose papers, bound material (books, journals, diaries, reports, etc) and large format sheets (maps, plans, etc) as well as objects (plant specimens, artworks). The survey indicated only a small investment to date in video and audio visual digitisation across the sector.
Policy and Procedures
A third of respondents have a written plan or policy for digitisation. A large number of respondents are in a transitional state moving from established practice to formalising principles, policy or guidelines. These range from those that articulate selection and /or prioritisation principles to those with more comprehensive policies for dealing with technical work, standards and workflows. The following institutions make their policy documentation available online: LaTrobe, Melbourne, QUT, UNE and VU.
Scope of Library Operations
13 of the respondents indicated that they did not undertake digitisation work for others (internally or externally) and 9 indicated that they provided such a service. Those offering this service undertook work primarily for internal areas and academics/researchers. Those that did work for external organisations focused on serving the needs of like institutions, community groups or donors. Specifically Sydney responded that it limited work to external bodies “as long as they align with our interests supporting scholarly study and research”. Melbourne met the needs of external and internal clients by providing self-service facilities which limited the impost on internal resources.
Capability, Resources and Equipment
Charles Sturt, Sunshine Coast and Western Sydney indicated that all digitisation is completed by the Library. All respondents indicated that they may use a mix of internal resources and external providers in certain circumstances. This is primarily when projects have particular technical requirements, time-lines, or are too large for the Library to undertake efficiently. Charles Sturt has also trialled OCR digitisation with an overseas supplier which was not successful. La Trobe, Melbourne, Monash, Swinburne, UWA, VU and Wollongong have used CAVAL’s digitisation services.
A majority of the respondents indicated that they did not have dedicated staff for digitisation. The skills and expertise were generally spread across the library and digitisation activities were incorporated into a broader role. Only Melbourne, Queensland and Sydney indicated they had dedicated staff for digitisation activities. However Queensland will reduce its staffing in 2012 due to budget constraints. Respondents indicated that staff undertook the end to end processes ranging from project management, digitisation and metadata creation to repository deposit. Those that are undertaking digitisation work have primarily acquired skills from ‘on the job’ experience and vendor training. Risks identified were the need for more skilled people and the use of contract staff, volunteers and students often means that valuable experience and knowledge is lost.
A range of equipment is used, including photocopiers, multifunction devices and desktop scanners. This equipment limits the type of digitisation undertaken to access rather than preservation projects, and may not be suitable for large, complex projects. A number of institutions, including Adelaide , La Trobe, Melbourne, Monash, Queensland, QUT and Sydney have invested in or been provided funding via a grant for specialist equipment. Examples include Bookeye, Kirtas and Zeutschel scanners. Predominantly the equipment is for digitising hard copy material, i.e. bound material, loose documents and large format material, as well as scanning slides and negatives. Very limited resources exist for digitising multi-media and the survey seems to indicate most of this work is outsourced. Libraries tend to invest in building capability for hard copy and object based digitisation.
18 respondents indicated that the digitisation equipment is funded and updated from the Library budget and 7 indicated that the University provided this funding. Some of the initial equipment purchases have come from one off grants ie ASHER, ARC-LIEF but generally the commitment to maintain and upgrade is undertaken by the Library or University.
An overwhelming proportion of respondents indicated that the digitisation programme was a collaborative activity (19 of the respondents). Only 4 respondents indicated that this was not the case. Primarily this collaboration occurs within the home institution with researchers/academics or departments around the selection of material for digitisation. Although the nature of the collaboration with external partners was not always explicit in the responses, it is deduced that this involved seeking funding for digitisation projects. One respondent had a formal partnership with a state government department that includes training and support.
Broader Institutional Digitisation Activities
16 of the respondents did not have any knowledge of a centralised digitisation capability outside the Library. CQU, Murdoch and QUT responded that such a facility was located in the “print unit” or under consideration for development with printing services. Melbourne, Newcastle, Sydney and UNE indicated that small pockets of expertise and infrastructure are spread across the University in departments like Geography, Architecture, Archives and Records offices. UNE has a central facility that undertakes AV digitisation.
Newcastle responded “The Library has developed the expertise to undertake complex digitisation projects so we do not think the central facility (not totally sure what this means) is a suitable alternative. It would not be possible for them to do this work for Cultural Collections. With regards to archival collections digitisation depends upon the nature, format and condition of the original material. It is a specialist enterprise”.
Regarding the identification of research material for potential future digitisation, 21 respondents indicated that they are only limited by monetary resources and available capability. Demand exceeds capacity for both current and retrospective materials. CSU, Edith Cowen , Sunshine Coast and Tasmania had limited forward plans or were still considering the possibilities.
When asked to determine priorities for a national research project, respondents indicated material unique to their institutions and institutional research agendas would be a priority. In addition primary source Australian and indigenous material, newspapers, statistical, government publications and literature were identified. It was also highlighted that such decisions need to be made in partnership with the research community.
In general most respondents agreed that potential barriers related to funding (equipment and staff) and copyright issues (in terms of identifying owners and then gaining permissions). The time taken from identification to exposure is often long and at times delayed due to complications with copyright or other issues. Sydney noted “Vision, funding and agreed strategies (content and partnerships) for large scale projects to create adequate critical mass of content to ensure wide benefit for research. Current approach through universities is piece-meal often driven by individual projects rather a coherent approach which will provide national benefit. Collaboration with the NLA and State Libraries is important” When asked if your institution would participate in a national digitisation programme if Government funding was dependent on co-contributions, 8 respondents said yes unconditionally. The remaining respondents said this was possible under certain conditions which related to relevance, type of program and nature of agreement.
SUMMARY OF RESPONSES TO SURVEY 1. Does your library digitise, or plan to digitise, research material? 22 of the 25 respondents digitise or plan to digitise research material with only 3 with no current plan to do so.
Planned or in the Process
Australia National University
University of Newcastle
University of Ballarat **
University of New England
University of Canberra
Central Queensland University
University of Queensland
University of Tasmania***
Charles Darwin University
University of the Sunshine Coast*
University of Sydney
Edith Cowan University
University of Western Australia
La Trobe University
University Western Sydney
University of Wollongong
Queensland University of Technology
Swinburne University of Technology
University of Adelaide
University of Melbourne
* has previously undertaken digitisation of one research collection but no further plans at this stage
** response was “No – not in a systematic way”
*** Library does not digitise in most cases material is digitised by school/centres and delivered to UTAS research repository
Those institutions in process or planned by State: