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Verk av Maxine K. Sitts


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“A Handy Handbook for Digital Projects”

Erin Royal

LIS 649

Preservation of Documentary Materials

Dr. Rodriguez-Buckingham

Hattiesburg, Mississippi

University of Southern Mississippi

Spring 2005

Sitts. Maxine K. Handbook for Digital Projects: A Management Tool for Preservation
and Access. (first edition). Andover, Mass.: Northeast Document Conservation
Center. 2000.

ISBN: 0-9634685-4-5

This hard-back edition is eight and one half inches wide and eleven inches tall. The volume is gray with white lettering. Most of the text is printed in 12 point font, although some sectional titles are larger and emboldened. The handbook has a one page preface and 179 pages in all. The illustrations are in black and white. The handbook has a table of contents, but not a list of charts, tables, illustrations, or figures. The handbook has ten chapters and a seven- page, subject index. The editor placed all bibliographic references at the end of the chapter to which they pertained, rather than present a cumulative bibliography. The subjects in the index are arranged alphabetically.
In her preface, Sitts states the handbook is a resource for managers of digital projects. She notes that digital projects are growing more popular among institutions around the world. The stated audience of the book consists of diverse professionals like librarians, archivists, curators, and other types of cultural or natural resource managers. Sitts also uses the preface to thank institutions that supported the writing and publication of the handbook like the Melon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. She also notes that a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services funded the project.
The chapters of the handbook present various aspects of digital projects and case studies of completed projects in a textbook fashion with bold section titles, topical text boxes, and sample forms. Chapter one, “Introduction,” explains that the handbook is the result of presentations at the School for Scanning Conferences (1996-2000). The handbook was published to deliver the guidance of conference professionals to a wider audience of librarians, archivists, curators, and information professionals who could not attend the conferences, but needed advice on planning digital projects for their institutions. The introduction notes that the handbook is designed to inform digital project managers so that they can make good decisions regarding selection, preservation, capture, and developing indexes and navigation tools. The book also gives advice on providing network access, maintaining quality control, and working with outside vendors. It also provides justifications for digital projects and notes that planning checklists are included in some authors’ chapters. In “Overview: Rationale for Digitization and Preservation” (Chapter two), Conway explains that the success of a conversion project depends on the relationships between 1) the goals of the project, 2) the characteristics of the source documents, and 3) technological capabilities that bear on the conversion process. He lists three reasons for preservation and discusses source characteristics that should be taken into account when selecting materials for digitization. He also chronicles past approaches to preservation and access. The purpose of Chapter three, “Considerations for Project Managers,” is to clarify decisions faced by managers in the process of designing, directing, and funding their projects. In Chapter three, Chapman provides lists of questions that managers must ask about their projects. The questions consider the collections, the digital reproductions, and the potential benefits of the project to the institution. He also provides a list of planning documents needed to design a digital project. “Selection of Materials for Scanning” (Chapter four) provides selection guidelines for digital archive projects. Vogt-O’Conner asserts that good selection decisions allow wise resource allocation by weeding out material that is common, useless, copyrighted, offensive, or in poor condition. The chapter details the selection process in three stages: nomination of materials, evaluation of materials, and prioritization of remaining materials. This chapter includes sample forms for nomination, deselection, and evaluation of source materials. In “Overview of Legal Issues for Digitization” (Chapter five), Levine explains basic copyright concepts and legal issues that managers of digitization projects need to keep in mind as they design, execute and evaluate their projects. The scope includes the earliest copyright protection and recent online copyright puzzles. The chapter has a chart on page 71 titled “When Works Pass into Public Domain”. Levine gives web addresses where readers can find samples of ownership statements and other kinds of notices that a digital project manager will have to create. She also includes web addresses relevant to copyright legislation research. Puglia’s chapter (6), “Technical Primer,” explains basic technical information related to the digital preservation of archives, library collections, and other cultural materials. This chapter contains a lot of definitions of technical terms. Pages 88 -101 include charts, tables, graphs, and screen layouts that explain the digital imaging process in detail and recommend proper settings for image quality with regards to the software and hardware the project has available. Chapter seven, “Developing Best Practices: Guidelines for Case Studies,” is comprised of six digitization project case studies. They are designed to demonstrate the actual practices of planning, executing, and evaluating projects to the reader. Each case study has its own “sources” section at the end. Topics of the case studies include: manuscripts, OCR, maps, microfilm, and cooperative imaging. The purpose of Chapter eight, “Vendor Relations,” is to address questions about project goals, human resources, and when outside vendors should be considered. Gertz provides guidelines for choosing vendors and explains important parts of the process like Requests for Information (RFI) and Requests for Proposals (RFP). Besser’s “Digital Longevity” (Chapter nine) is concerned with the long-term preservation of material in digital form. He notes that files deteriorate, hardware changes, and file formats evolve making access of digital information a problem in the future. He points out six different types of preservation problems that occur due to the rapid evolution in computer hardware and software. Chapter ten, “Scholarly Commentary: an End-user Speaks Up,” notes that the most successful digitization project prototypes have focused on the particular needs of the end-users of the design. Rhyme encourages the use of end-user critiques to identify and strengthen project problem areas.


The Handbook for Digital Projects is well-organized and provides useful and timely advice for professionals in many different preservation fields. The handbook is timely because many libraries, archives, and museums are currently launching or hope to begin digitization projects. The handbook also keeps its stated audience in mind at every turn. It assists project managers in making decisions and writing grant proposals for digital projects. The way the sources are referenced at the end of each chapter makes the handbook especially suited for grant writers who want to use these sources in their proposal. The handbook also does digital project managers a huge favor by publishing sample forms that will be used in many practical aspects of the project. The presence of ready-made forms allows project managers to skip the initial step of developing these documents and begin using and adapting them right away.
The size and quality of the volume is well-suited for library shelves or personal reference sections. The text size is adequate and the differential sizes of section titles make the page layout more attractive and accessible. The black and white illustrations are quite handy, but one wishes that the editor had included lists of illustrations, tables, charts, and other figures with page numbers for reference. The inclusion of individual bibliographies for each chapter, rather than one, cumulative bibliography aids the reader in locating the resources pertaining to a particular topic. The subject index is helpful in searching for certain terms or topics within the text. The fact that alphabetical order is used makes it easy to find the page on which a subject is covered quickly. Sitts’ preface is clear and informative as it states the aim and audience of the handbook. The mention of the grants and scholarships that funded the project alerts the reader to the prestige with which the funding institutions view the handbook and its editor.
The textbook fashion in which the chapters are presented is excellent as it facilitates self-instruction. This is important considering that the target audience is comprised of librarians, archivists, curators, and other cultural resource managers who will be designing and implementing digitization projects at their current job, rather than library science students learning the philosophies for preservation. Chapter one introduces the book well by explaining how it was compiled and general aspects of the digitization process. It also provided justifications for preservation that are really helpful for professionals writing grant proposals to gain funding for their digitization projects. Chapter two, ““Overview: Rationale for Digitization and Preservation,” provides more excellent citations and theoretical approaches that professionals can use to write grant proposals about the specific projects they wish to pursue. In addition to providing a nice review of preservation and digitization theory, it also draws attention to aspects of the digital project like good source materials and clear project goals that are essential for project success. The questions raised by Chapman in Chapter three about collections, digital reproductions, and institutional benefits are very useful in moving from a general description of the project to a detailed description of project goals and tasks. The information in this chapter is excellent for fleshing out the details of a project for implementation or for developing a grant proposal. The list of planning documents and list of project staff requirements save digital project managers a few steps and keep them from leaving anything out of their plans. This chapter also includes a sample budget for a digital project that would be extremely helpful in projecting a budget for a first –time digitization project. Chapter four is an excellent chapter on selection. Vogt-O’Connor’s advice on selection for digitization is very practical. The chapter's forms for nomination, deselection, and evaluation save digital project managers early steps by presenting recording forms that can be adapted as the project continues. Chapter five, “Overview of Legal Issues for Digitization," is good because it is thorough. Levine covers basic legal concepts in a way that an audience reading for self-instruction can comprehend and gives an excellent chronology of United States copyright legislation. The chart on page 71 sets aside copyright guidelines in an attractive and concise way, and the web addresses Levine provides are a blessing for readers who seek further resources for copyright legislation issues that arise pertaining to their project. The "Technical Primer" (Chapter six) breaks down technical terms and concepts in a manner that is easy for archivists, librarians, curators, and other cultural resource managers to understand. The visual aids that accompany this chapter are spectacular in that they are miniature images of computer screens. The screen images either give information in chart form or display particular functions of common digital software. These images really add to the ease with which this book imparts project knowledge in printed form. This is an especially important aspect of the book as the majority of the audience for the handbook will be teaching themselves how to run a digital project, rather than learning in a more practical apprentice setting. The case studies in Chapter seven are also important in this respect as they allow readers access to the practical experience of others who have attempted digitization projects. The choice in case studies for inclusion in this chapter was excellent as they span a range of different source mediums. "Vendor Relations" gives wise recommendations on how to decide if one's digital project would be best completed in-house or by a vendor. Gertz's inclusion of information on RFI's and RFP's and vendor evaluation is very helpful to those project managers who do decide to hire a vendor to cover aspects of the project. It is very important that Besser points out longevity concerns of digital material in Chapter nine. He does a good job of pointing out that digital files are no more permanent than the materials they are intended to preserve. A digital project manager would find this chapter useful, because it illustrates the types of preservation problems digital files have and what amount of the project budget to use to ensure future access to files created by the project. Although Chapter ten did not offer much more useful information, it summed up the handbook in by pointing out that planning is everything. Rhyme notes that successful digital projects stick to their goals and design the project with the final product in mind. This is good advice for such a large and expensive undertaking as a digitization project.


I recommend that academic libraries, historical societies (or archives), and digitization specialists purchase this book, because its assistance is invaluable to individuals who plan digital preservation projects or may consider one in the future. This book is especially pertinent for academic libraries with archives and special collections or very large academic library systems like those at Harvard and Yale. University libraries often contain popular sources that would be easier for patrons and staff to access if they were online. Also, many universities or foundations will grant funding to academic departments or special collections managers to preserve useful or rare materials if a concise plan for digitization is delineated in a good proposal. The handbook would make a useful shelf reference for historical societies or state archive depositories. There it would serve as a guide to project managers working on preserving and providing better access to cultural materials. It would also be an excellent book for a digitization specialist to have in his or her personal library to assist in planning projects. Also, library or museum professionals who oversee digitization practicum students could use it as a teaching tool. This book would receive little use in small public libraries and school libraries. The audience is not large enough or the demand for information on digitization projects great enough for this book to be used in public or school library settings. I would not recommend that most public libraries or school libraries purchase this book with one exception. A large, urban public library would have enough patrons seeking reference materials for grant proposals to make purchase of the book worthy. However, under most circumstances I would not recommend that public or school libraries purchase this book.
… (mer)
redclover | Apr 15, 2007 |

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