What worked well, and what didn't? What advice would you give others?


From finding the right people to help you, to preparing your documents for being scanned - what lessons did you learn along the way of your digitisation project? Please share:

  • What worked well? What would you do again next time?
  • What didn’t work so well? What challenges did you run into? How did you overcome them? How would you avoid them next time?
  • What advice would you give to others who are just starting their digitisation project?

Thanks for sharing your experience!


What didn’t work so well? What challenges did you run into? How did you overcome them?

  • Physical documents must be prepared well before they are scanned. This tedious work involves removing page ‘dog ears’, erasing pencil and pen marks, ensuring that there are no missing pages. The aim of this process is to make the document look as original as possible for clarity of use and preservation. If pages are closely bound together, clearscanning may not be possible hence a decision needs to be made on removing andrefixing the spine of the book by a professional binder. The books are now scanned and electronic copies are checked against the hard‐bound.
  • Staff Expertise – new staffs were recruited to the Digitization project without them having much knowledge on Digitization and its processes. Considerable amount of time was spent on training these staff on the various procedures and use of equipment’s.
  • Migrating from a Linux based server to a Windows based server.
  • Funds to purchase high end scanners were limited hence we had to purchase scanners to fit our budget. Surprisingly, after much trial and error the scanners were giving sufficient outputs from scans.

Advice for others
Digitization Best Practices

  1. Mission – any digitization project must be compatible with the organisations mission so that high level support is attracted. For instance, funding needs to be met.
  2. Individual involvement – those with knowledge of the collection as well technical expertise. It helps especially in times when software upgrades occur and you have to make a decision on compatibility issues. It can be that the upgrade is done, but the equipment’s present are not updated yet to handle the new software or vice versa.
  3. Procurement – ensure that enough time is given to acquiring equipment for the work. It can take a long period to acquire scanners, pc’s… etc. Consult with procurement specialists.
  4. Outsourcing ‐ Consider the advantages and disadvantages of doing this. It may mean skills, funds and equipment not for the project, but may be fast, easier and costeffective.
  5. Documentation – good, comprehensive documentation of the whole process to support any staff turnover issue.
  6. Quality Assurance – Retain control of quality over all stages of digitisation process.
  7. OCR – ensure the best and accurate rate of OCR for certain materials especially challenging ones.
  8. Workflows – ensure that these are well documented and staffs are well trained in all areas. Any changes must be made to the team and documentation updated.
  9. Metadata ‐ design a database with the end user’s requirements in mind. Agree on a scheme to follow at the outset.
  10. Intellectual Property rights – ensure that access to materials have been given by the authors; as even the process to acquire this can slow the digitisation process.
  11. Staffing – Do not under estimate the time taken to recruit project staff. It may take some time as this is something new. Give yourself enough time to plan all this.
  12. Web Interface – Ensure that you have the rightfully skilled person to handle this. Acquire feedback from users who will use the database, digital platform. Test this part of the process.
  13. Promotion – Launch the project well and ensure that good coverage is given for promotion.
  14. Evaluation – Review the processes involved in the project as a whole so that you know what changes need to take place.
  15. Communication – Ensure that good communication exists among all project team members. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ensure that you trust them with the responsibility. Train them to problem solve and report to you; also document all findings.


Before considering what materials need to be digitized, a number of pre-requisite tasks needs to be completed before the actual digitization process can take place. The following tasks need to be in place:

Digitization Policy and Guideline

  • Check that the work you are about to proceed on is done in accordance with the Policy and Guidelines of the project.
  • The collection goals, scope and objectives have some rationale which aligns to the goals and the vision of the institution.

Metadata for Digital Collections

  • Ensure that you have made some decision on the different types of metadata that will be used.
  • Descriptive Metadata describes the attributes of a resource such as author, title, date etc.
  • Administrative Metadata describes details about a resource necessary for its management
  • Structural Metadata describes the relationships of a resource’s component parts
  • Preservation Metadata describes information pertaining to the history of a resource, and the digital files that it consists of
  • All digital objects will be based on the Dublin Core Metadata Standards and where a minimum of 6 DC fields will be used for all digital objects

File Formats

  • Determine which formats will be tagged the (1) Master and (2) Derivatives
  • Allocate Master (Tiff formats) and Derivative (Jpeg formats)
  • Ensure that if the goal is to facilitate ACCESS, then use Jpeg formats for image files and pdf’s for textual documents

Search and Display

  • For textual documents, ensure that decisions about search and display have been made
  • Decide on whether full text, by chapter, section or parts of a book will be searchable
  • Decide on whether the displays should be in the full or brief format


  • Ensure that a decision is made on the issue of copyright
  • If Stakeholders are involved i.e. Lecturers; clarify who is to obtain copyright for the materials from the copyright owners
  • Verify who is responsible for managing the issue of permissions

Creating digital content is the initial step leading to the process of digitization. Issues that need consideration include:

  • Deciding on the file formats that documents processed will be kept
  • The resolution (dpi) that scanning documents be at (i.e.) screen and print
  • Deciding on how much compression on an image will be allowed
  • How much documentation needs be done; backups in place both technology and personnel; manuals a must
  • What Metadata protocol will be used that will identify, classify, manage, and describe a document
  • Decide on how images will be edited and identify the software to use
  • Deciding the extent customisation is applied to the platform
  • Compatibility of software application version and updates to customisation
  • Once the conditions above are taken into account, the processes need to be mapped to ensure implementation and continual operation of the project.

What worked well?
o Good leadership – giving direction on what needed to be done and when
o Easy to follow documentation which includes user manual of scanners and procedures of Digitization.
o Hands on Training and refresher trainings
o Communication channels to be followed if a problem aroused
o IT expertise on the Digital platform