Digitization Policies and Procedures

Why: Mission

The personnel in the Gladys Marcus Library Special Collections and College Archives at the Fashion Institute of Technology | SUNY (FIT | SPARC) are responsible for arranging, preserving, and making accessible its holdings to the extent that resources allow and to as wide an audience as possible. SPARC personnel are cognizant of the growing demand for digitally-reformatted material and the many benefits to be enjoyed by all parties from acquiring and creating digital resources and making them available over the long-term.

Both in terms of policy and principle, SPARC personnel adhere as closely as possible to the standards and best practices established by such authorities as the Library of Congress and its National Digital Library Program; the Bibliographical Center for Research; the Western States Digital Standards Group Digital Imaging Working Group; and the New York State Archives. Indeed much of the language below is largely that of the above-mentioned authorities and edited where necessary.

SPARC also strives to exemplify the traits of trusted digital repositories as defined by the Research Libraries Group. To be trusted as a repository that can meet the needs and expectations of its users, a digital repository must:

  • Accept responsibility for the long-term maintenance of digital resources on behalf of its depositors and for the benefit of current and future users;
  • Have an organizational system that supports not only long-term viability of the repository, but also the digital information for which it has responsibility;
  • Demonstrate fiscal responsibility and sustainability;
  • Design its system(s) in accordance with commonly accepted conventions and standards to ensure the ongoing management, access, and security of materials deposited within it;
  • Establish methodologies for system evaluation that meet community expectations of trustworthiness;
  • Be depended upon to carry out its long-term responsibilities to depositors and users openly and explicitly; and
  • Have policies, practices, and performance that can be audited and measured.

What: Digitization Selection Criteria

Digitizing with Purpose

If an analog image or collection meets one or more of the following criteria, then it is a strong candidate for digitization; once captured, it should be added to the digital repository including required descriptive and technical metadata. Add as much optional metadata as resources allow.

  • Use/demand for access: high frequency of demand or high retrieval costs
  • Size of original, unusual or unwieldy dimensions
  • Format: Maps, Photographs, Prints, Drawings, Paintings, Scrapbooks, Postcards, etc.
  • High intrinsic value
  • Clear ownership of material and copyright to it or ease of granted permission
  • Visual impact
  • Physical instability: items that are not serviceable because of damage or fragility; items stored on unstable media
  • Representative example of document type
  • Historical significance: high-value research materials
  • Seminal items or collections

These criteria also provide guidance when selecting material for digitization grant proposals and online exhibition initiatives.

Digitizing on Demand

If a researcher asks for digitized images, and as long as resources allow (time, human, monetary, etc.), then add the files to the digital repository including required descriptive and technical metadata. Add as much optional metadata as resources allow. Consider and document where the requested material fits into a larger context and let that be a guide for additional programmatic digitizing.

How Act 1: General Principles as recommended by LoC

  • Retain an analog version of digitally-reformatted items until there is confidence that the life-cycle management of digital data will ensure access for as long as, or longer than, the analog version. The analog version may be the original item, paper facsimile, or microfilm copy, and may be restricted for use after the digital reproduction is available.
  • Ensure the appropriate handling and treatment of originals, and work with curators, recommending officers, and other personnel to make decisions about disbinding, housing, and related matters.
  • Minimize handling of originals in the digital reformatting work to assure the best digital capture of an undamaged original, as well as the longevity of the original item, especially if it is to serve as the analog version.
  • Ensure that the digital master file will allow a broad range of future use, including planned phases of delivery, by employing appropriate standards and best practices.
  • Capture the highest quality digital image technically possible and economically feasible for large-scale production, while optimizing the potential for longevity.
  • Archive a digital master file that is free of, or minimizes, artifacts introduced by the reformatting process, whenever possible.
  • Ensure the completeness of all materials being digitally reformatted to a standard comparable to that employed for preservation microfilm.
  • Optimize digital images of paper-based text materials for use in creating a new paper facsimile, when appropriate.
  • Employ economical, automated methods to create machine-readable text with minimal encoding to provide access with searchable text and allow for future expanded use and encoding, when appropriate.
  • Employ standards and best practices for structural, administrative, and descriptive metadata that will optimize interoperability and facilitate the life-cycle management of the digital objects.
  • Document digital master file contents with MD5 checksums (or a similar tool) and use them to ensure the data integrity of master files through back-up and migration. FIT|SPARC employs an MS Excel database to record relevant documentation of all digital repository assets.

How Act 2: Life-Cycle Management of Digital Data

Creating digital images is only the beginning; they require long-term management that must be multi-pronged to ensure legibility and integrity over the long-term. Important points to consider include:

  • Media longevity - media on which digital data are stored;
  • Environmental conditions - conditions in which holding media are stored and used;
  • Storage and handling of media on which digital files are held;
  • Software and hardware requirements - tools needed to ensure longevity and usability of digital data and metadata; and
  • Workflow requirements - policies and practices needed to ensure longevity and usability of all digital data, metadata, and tools.

How Act 3: Technical Standards and Processes

General Principles

  • Digitize at the highest resolution appropriate to the nature of the source material.
  • Digitize at an appropriate level of quality to avoid re-digitizing and re-handling of the originals in the future.
  • Digitize an original or first generation (i.e., negative rather than print) of the source material to achieve the best quality image possible. In the case of art prints, the developed print is considered the original piece. Conservation concerns may prevent digitizing original negatives.
  • Create and store a master image file that can be used to produce surrogate image files and serve a variety of current and future user needs.
  • Use system components that are nonproprietary.
  • Use image file formats and compression techniques that conform to standards within the cultural heritage community.
  • Create backup copies of all files on servers and have an off-site backup strategy.
  • Create meaningful metadata for image files or collections
  • Store digital files in an appropriate environment.
  • Monitor data as necessary.
  • Document a migration strategy for transferring data across generations of technology.
  • Plan for future technological developments.
  • Evaluate routinely all preservation elements for accessibility/readability; document findings
  • Store identical copies of all Masters off-site (Work on reciprocity agreement; local institution or not in NYC?)