To Digitize or Not to Digitize

Probably most would agree that digital libraries are a great thing. Digital libraries are created for different reasons. Some of these reasons include the promotion of certain collections within library holdings, insurance for the preservation of sensitive materials, and creating and sharing banks of knowledge for teaching in various disciplines, scholarships, etc.

So, the creation of a digital library can serve many purposes, and can be a wonderful thing, but the idea in and of itself should not be a justification for taking such action. Here are two big things to consider; the first involves considering the realities of creating and maintaining a digital library, and the second is an obvious point, however a point that must be addressed in order to justify the creation of a digital library.

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Digital libraries are involved endeavors, endeavors which do not end with the compilation of items in digital format.  They are long-term projects that are expensive in terms of time, labor, and ongoing maintenance. They require resources and skills of all sorts, from management, to the creation of metadata, to the promotion of the collections through websites, and other avenues.

Once these realities are acknowledged, the most important prerequisite to creating a digital library becomes why. Why are some things being digitized and others not? What is the strategy behind the digitization effort? What is the vision behind the digitization effort? These are some initial questions that must be addressed before taking on digitization projects in libraries.

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