- Know your project aims and stakeholder needs
- Selection questions to ask
- Are the records used regularly?
- Is the information in these records already available?
- Is digitisation the most cost effective solution to your problem?
- Are the records suitable for digitisation?
- Do the records have physical characteristics requiring specialist digitisation techniques and equipment?
- Are you choosing the records because you want to save space/costs of storage?
- Have the records been appraised as being required for long term retention?
- How will your stakeholders view or access the digital images?
- Are there any legal impediments to digitisation, the destruction of original paper records or access to the digital images?
- Are the records a coherent and complete set?
- Do these records require indexes and/or registers to be accessible?
- Is the equivalent information in the records now captured digitally?
The purpose of this section of the guidelines is to discuss how to make good selection decisions for records to target in back-capture digitisation projects.
One of the most important decisions you need to make about your back-capture digitisation project is what to digitise. It can be complex and expensive to digitise records well, and it should only be undertaken when substantial and realistic benefits can be realised. If you choose the wrong records you will be wasting your organisation’s precious resources and preventing the funds being directed to other, more worthy projects.
Your selection decisions should always be closely aligned with your business need and project aims, the intended use of the digital images and identified stakeholder needs. Consider carefully what you want to achieve. See Why digitise? for more information.
Before you proceed with a project you should be able to know and justify:
- which records you want to select for digitisation and why digitisation is the best method to reproduce the information in the records
- which stakeholder demands will be met by digitisation
- priorities for digitisation.
In addition, you should consider the benefits, risks and costs involved. In some cases the risks or costs may outweigh the benefits and make your project unviable. See Costs and risks of digitisation for more information.
Your organisation's business case for digitisation should clearly define the project's goals, selected records, identified benefits, risks and costs. See Planning for digitisation for more information.
Once you have ideas about the records you want to digitise, ask yourself these questions:
Are the records used regularly?
The records may be a rich information source for current business processes or they may be popular with internal or external stakeholders for other reasons.
If there is constant or continuing access to the records, you will need to consider how you manage this when it comes time to withdraw them for digitisation. You will also need to consider who is requesting the information and whether digital images instead of originals will meet their needs.
An organisation planned to back-capture records which were used very frequently. While they chose to digitise anyway, they ensured that records required for urgent action could be scanned immediately on request even if this was out of sequence. Their procedures were designed to ensure that these exceptions were managed effectively and integrated into the project.
If you do not use the records regularly, it is important to understand why. Some common reasons and further questions are in the table below.
|The records are not used regularly because...||Ask yourself...|
|They have little business value to the organisation or interest to stakeholders||In most cases this is unlikely to change when they are digitised. Why are they worth digitising?|
|They are still highly sensitive and are restricted to certain users||Access and security regimes that apply to original paper records should also be applied to digital images of the same records. Therefore, they will still be restricted to certain users. Why are they worth digitising?|
|They are difficult to access e.g. they are not located close to the staff that need them, they are difficult to retrieve from storage etc.||Is it the location that makes the records difficult to access or is it that the records are poorly listed or described? Is easier access to these records likely to increase their use enough to justify the cost of a full digitisation project?|
They are in poor condition
Note: If the records are required as State archives then you should contact State Records to assess what conservation is needed.
|Is it suitable to digitise them? (i.e. will digitisation cause them to deteriorate further? Will the existing damage prevent the image from being captured well?) Do they need conservation treatment first? If so, is accessibility important enough to justify the costs of conservation and digitisation?|
|There are no indexes or registers to help staff gain entry to the records||This will not change if they are digitised unless you plan to include indexing in your project (eg. in the metadata collected) or use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology to make them searchable.|
Is the information in these records already available?
If the purpose of your digitisation project is to make the records more widely available, then it is important to check that they are not already available digitally or in another accessible format.
An organisation decided that they wanted to digitise a collection of photographs to make them available online. When they investigated further, they discovered that many prints from the collection were already online in digital format! The initial photographs had been taken as part of a joint project with another organisation. That organisation had also recognised their value to the community and had established their own digitisation project a few years earlier.
Another organisation wanted to digitise a set of index cards. On further investigation, they realised that the information from the index cards had already been entered into a searchable database.
Is digitisation the most cost effective solution to your problem?
You should consider the nature of the problem and if digitisation is the best solution. If the focus of your project is to make the information in the records more accessible, but you don’t need to reproduce the ‘look’ of them and are not intending to destroy the original paper records, you could consider less expensive alternatives to digitisation.
Consider the following when making a decision:
- Will the digital images be more searchable than the original paper records? In many cases they can be harder to search unless appropriate indexes and metadata creation are included in the project e.g. you may have very large digital files to scroll through
- Will you need to include data entry as part of the digitisation project? If so, is a copy of the original paper record necessary? Data entry may be a sufficient solution.
An organisation wanted to digitise some old volumes that arerequired as State archives to make the information in them more accessible. Each volume contained a limited number of entries. They decided that the work required to unbind and digitise the volumes was excessive for the benefit gained. Instead they created a small database and keyed in the information.
If there are other accessible formats that satisfy the needs of stakeholders, then digitisation may not be necessary.
Are the records suitable for digitisation?
If records are damaged or fragile, the digitisation process may put them at risk of further deterioration. With some records the bindings may be just as valuable as the records and should not be removed in order to digitise. Very faint inks and pencil may not faithfully reproduce. Damage may also affect the integrity of the digital image.
If you still wish to digitise, you may need to have the records conserved first.
If the original paper records are not too fragile, digitisation may be a means of reducing the physical handling of the originals and protecting them from further deterioration.
If you intend to increase record searchability using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology, be aware that documents containing handwriting, serif fonts, halftones and background text or images or those that are damaged or dirty may not always be suited to OCR processes.
Do the records have physical characteristics requiring specialist digitisation techniques and equipment?
Some records may require specialist digitisation techniques and equipment e.g. photographs, large maps and plans, technical drawings and volumes. Other records, such as records on coloured paper, may need to be treated differently e.g. separated in a different batch and scanned with modified settings. While this may not prevent their selection, it may add to costs and training needs.
Are you choosing the records because you want to save space/costs of storage?
If you want to save space/costs of storage of original paper records check the following:
|Records required as State archives in a current retention and disposal authority||Records not required as State archives in a current retention and disposal authority||Records not subject to a current retention and disposal authority|
Note: As an alternative, you may decide to digitise and transfer the original paper records to State Records.
Note: You will need to contact State Records before digitisation takes place.
Note: Where original paper records can be destroyed after digitisation, the digital images will become the official records. The images need to be managed accordingly and kept for the full retention period specified in retention and disposal authorities. While cost savings may be made in terms of storage, you will need to factor in costs of managing the digital images for as long as required. See Managing digital images as records for more information.
Have the records been appraised as being required for long term retention?
Records that are required in the long term or as State archives may still be able to be digitised. However, it is important to be aware when selecting such records that they will have requirements that will impact on the standards and costs of your digitisation project.
For example, to ensure the long term retention and accessibility of the digital images you will need to:
- ensure that you digitise with sufficient quality and in suitable formats
- store the digital images in ways that protect and preserve them
- ensure that the digital images are managed well over time and migrated when technology changes.
See Managing digital images as records for more information.
Note: If you are intending to digitise records required as State archives you should contact State Records to discuss your project in more detail.
How will your stakeholders view or access the digital images?
Stakeholder needs should be a consideration in selection decisions.
If you are digitising to increase accessibility for staff, are staff members comfortable accessing the records in digital form? If not, although this may not prevent you from digitising, it could mean that training and change management for staff needs to be considered as part of your planning.
If external users are to have access to the digital images you may need to consider the best modes of delivery to encourage them to access the images.
If you are intending to charge for access to the digital images and you are transferring the original paper records to State records as State archives, you will need to discuss access options with State Records.
Are there any legal impediments to digitisation, the destruction of original paper records or access to the digital images?
You will need to consider these issues in light of the particular records and plans for digitising them and making them accessible.
There may be legislation that requires some records to be held in their original format.
Often copyright of records held by NSW public sector organisations is vested in the Crown. However, there may be particular records, particularly plans or photographic collections, where copyright lies elsewhere. While copyright issues may not prevent digitisation they may need to be considered when looking at increasing accessibility.
In some cases organisations may have records that were created by other bodies, gained through machinery of government changes or administrative change. It may be necessary to clarify with the creating organisations if there are any impediments to digitisation.
Privacy or other access considerations may also prevent making some records available after digitisation. For example, Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander peoples may need to be consulted before publishing certain photographs.
You may need to obtain relevant permissions to digitise some records and make these images available. If you cannot obtain these, it may not be viable to digitise the records.
See Disposal of original paper records after digitisation to help determine if original paper records can be destroyed after digitisation.
Are the records a coherent and complete set?
If the records are not a coherent and complete set, you will need to consider if they are still worth digitising. You will also need to manage expectations.
If you are intending to digitise client files and their index, but only a sample of files exist, you may need to make it clear to your intended audience that not all the files have survived.
Do these records require indexes and/or registers to be accessible?
If there are indexes and/or registers that are required to make these records accessible, you will need to consider whether these too should be included as part of your digitisation project or if other methods of ensuring accessibility may be adopted. If indexes/registers are missing then you may need to factor indexing into your metadata specification or consider Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology (if suitable to the records), which allows full text searching.
Is the equivalent information in the records now captured digitally?
In some cases you will be back-capturing groups of records which were created in paper but are now captured digitally.
One organisation has embarked on a project to back-capture the existing personnel records of all current employees. All personnel records regarding these employees are now created digitally.
In these cases you may need to consider how the business processes have changed, why the records are needed in current business processes and whether digitisation will add value to current business processes. Understanding the role of the records can help you make decisions like the degree to which the images need to be integrated with new systems.
|Has the suitability of records selected for digitisation been analysed?|