NLA Digitisation Policy

National Library of Australia Digitisation Policy
2000 – 2004
The National Library’s role is to develop and maintain a national collection of material and to make
this material available to all Australians. In the past this has meant collecting and preserving print and
other physical objects. While the Library will continue to collect materials in these formats for some
time to come, this approach is now being supplemented with the provision of electronic access to the
collection. Print and electronic sources of information now need to be integrated to provide our users
with seamless access to information.
The Library recognises that Australians, whether located in urban or regional areas, increasingly expect
direct access to information resources using the Internet at locations and times of their choosing.
The Government has also recognised the importance of the Internet as a mechanism to deliver services
to all Australians. The Library has repositioned its services to take advantage of the benefits of this new
technology, and the creation and management of digital collections is increasingly a fundamental
element of its broader strategic directions.
This policy is a guide to both the digitisation of items held by the Library, and the management of these
digital objects. This policy is consistent with the principles underlying the Library’s Digital Services
Project (, PANDORA ( and PADI
( initiatives, which address the acquisition and management of both born
digital and digitised materials.
While online access to parts of the collection has been provided for some time, this policy provides a
framework through which future digitisation activities will be undertaken.
The Library’s digitisation goals
By digitising its collections, the Library will:
Enable users, regardless of location, to directly access and use a range of digitised materials
relating to Australia and Australians;
Promote an understanding of Australia and the Australian experience to those who may access the
collections from overseas;
Collaboratively build with other organisations a critical mass of digital items in particular subjects
and formats that will form a significant component of Australian digital information in these areas;
Increase access to and help to preserve rare and fragile collections by providing digital surrogates.
The following principles will provide a foundation for the Library’s digitisation activities:
The prime purpose of digitisation activities will be to enhance access to the Library’s collections.
In some cases, such as audio collections, digital copying is the only means of providing ongoing
access. Secondary purposes will be to preserve rare and fragile collection items by providing
digital surrogates and to increase the efficiency of Library procedures for producing publicationquality reproductions for library users.
b) The highest priority for digitisation will be materials relating to Australia and Australians.
Digitisation activities will be undertaken as an integral part of routine Library activities, as well as
through special projects.
d) Materials to be digitised as part of special projects will be chosen by applying agreed selection
Digitisation will be undertaken in accordance with the Copyright Act.
The Library will not aim to digitise its entire collection, and the focus will be on unique material.
The Library will, however, endeavour to provide a critical mass of digital information from parts
of its collections, as appropriate.
g) Digitisation and the management of digital objects will be undertaken in the most efficient manner
possible. Materials selected will be digitised once only, and the master copy held in a central
location. Different renderings will be made available via a range of access paths, with the
Library’s catalogue serving as the primary path.
h) In addition to converting materials to digital format for access, the Library will also present digital
material to users by means of online exhibitions and publications, which are readily accessible
with standard PC configurations. These online products will also enable users to discover other
Library materials and services. These online versions may involve interpretation of the content of
these collections
The use and reproduction of items in the digitised collections will be in accordance with Library
policies on access and user charging. This will involve attribution of the work, acknowledgement
of the Library as the source, and identification of any copyright restrictions.
The Library’s digitisation activities will be responsive to the needs of users. Facilities will be
provided for users to request the digitisation of some types of materials, which may be used for
commercial or other purposes such as exhibitions. Online ordering involving electronic commerce
capabilities will be a component of this facility.
k) The digitisation of items in the collection will not diminish the Library’s commitment to the
preservation and care of these items. The digitisation process will not endanger these items, while
the resulting digital surrogates will reduce the need for future handling of the items.
The Library will seek opportunities to work collaboratively with other institutions on digitisation
projects, and the Library will minimise any duplication of the digitisation activities of other
m) Where material is digitised by users through their own digitisation contracts, conditions and
standards will be imposed to ensure that digital copies in an appropriate archival format are
retained by the Library.
n) Digital versions of materials will represent originals as closely as possible. Images will not be
manipulated, except to compensate for defects in equipment.
Material to be digitised
Material will be chosen for digitisation based on a number of considerations.
The Library will aim to digitise a range of material in its collection, including sound and images, as
will encourage use of the Library’s collection by a wide range of users. However, pragmatic
considerations of the cost and level of expertise required to complete projects may initially limit the
range of activities undertaken.
The Library’s digitisation activities will be undertaken in accordance with the Copyright Act. When
possible, permission to digitise material will be negotiated when material is acquired. The Library will
aim to digitise materials for which copyright restrictions have expired, and those for which copyright
restrictions still apply, where these copyright materials constitute an essential part of the collection.
Given the cost of negotiating copyright permission after acquisition, the Library’s digitisation activities
will initially focus on material free of copyright restrictions.
The Library may undertake projects that are thematic or format based. Format based projects would
involve the digitisation of collections of similar materials (such as photographs or pamphlets), although
the subject matter could be diverse. Thematic projects will involve the digitisation of different parts of
collections on the same subject or agent. It is recognised, however, that thematic projects—which
involve a substantial amount of searching for relevant materials in collections—will require a greater
resource commitment than format based projects, and will result in incomplete digital collections.
Digitisation selection criteria
As well as meeting the principles outlined above, all proposals to digitise Library materials will be
assessed using standard criteria based on the following:
(a) Projects that will increase access to the materials. This will include projects to digitise:
Items of key historical or intellectual content, ‘national treasures’;
Collections in medium/high demand;
Material not readily accessible due to conservation or security considerations;
Items that are relatively unknown, for which digital access could be expected to increase demand
for and interest in the items; and,
Projects to digitise new acquisitions in certain formats.
(b) Projects that will contribute to the preservation of Library material. While recognising that
digitisation will not cancel the need to preserve original items, digitisation will assist
preservation goals by reducing the need for originals to be physically handled.
(c) Projects that will increase the utility of the items. This will include projects to digitise:
Items that are easier to navigate and handle in digital form;
Collections for which digitisation would add to the ways in which the material can be used; and,
Collections which will complement other digital collections by allowing materials to be compared
and contrasted.
(d) Projects for which there is an institutional imperative, including:
Projects which will result in efficiency gains for the Library by reducing the cost of maintaining
and providing physical access to heavily used items;
Projects that have the potential to attract funding or to generate income through marketing; and,
Projects that have the potential to attract or promote additional digitisation activities.
(e) Projects that will provide context to other collections, including projects that will supplement
or complement existing digital collections.
(f) Projects or ad hoc requests where the full cost of digitisation is born by another agency or
Access to digitised collections
The Library will use established and new approaches to ensure that the widest possible levels of access
to its digitised collections are provided.
Digitised collections will be arranged in ways that are easy for users to access and navigate. Items
within collections will be linked to catalogue records, the National Bibliographic Database, and/or
other finding aids, as appropriate. Facilities to allow cross-collection searching, browsing and searching
according to material type will be provided.
Simple and advanced search interfaces will be provided to cater for both infrequent users with
straightforward information needs and more advanced researchers who may require sophisticated
search facilities.
In order to obtain the highest cost-benefit from digitisation initiatives, the Library will address
indexing, medatada and digital object delivery issues at the beginning of the process of planning for the
digitisation of collections or the production of multimedia publications.
The Library’s catalogue allows users to specify that their search be for particular formats. When
technologies permit, the Images1 records and thumbnails may be merged into the Pictorial catalogue
subset to enable users to discover the full content of pictorial collections with a single search.
Approaches to digitisation
The following strategies will be used to support the Library’s digitisation activities:
Where possible, digitisation activities will be integrated with routine, mainstream activities, and
will be ongoing;
Special projects involving the digitisation of specific materials will be undertaken;
Scanning will be undertaken in-house by Library staff or outsourced, depending upon the nature of
the project; and
Expertise to support digitisation activities will be drawn from different parts of the Library as
required, and staff will be supported to further develop this expertise.
Management of digitised collections
Digital collections will be managed in the most effective and efficient manner possible. Tools to
facilitate this management, including a new collecting system for PANDORA and an Object
Management System to store management and technical metadata about digital objects, are being
developed as a part of the Library’s Digital Services Project. The priorities guiding the development
and/or enhancement of systems to manage digital collections will be consistent with those outlined in
the Library’s Information Technology Plan.
The Library is committed to maintaining appropriate standards for managing information materials
( Access, use and long-term preservation of digital items
depend on the use of suitable standards. Accordingly, the Library will adhere to established,
internationally accepted standards. Where such standards do not exist, the Library will identify and
adopt international best practice. In cases where business priorities demand it, the Library will also set
best practice and contribute to the development of standards (for example, in the area of preservation
metadata and persistent identifiers). The priorities guiding the Library's standards development
activities will be consistent with those outlined in the Library’s Standards Activity Group Workplan.
Materials will be digitised to a resolution deemed appropriate to the material and the type of use it is
likely to attract. Access technologies will be used that allow both the greatest levels of current access,
and flexibility in the future to exploit new technologies as they emerge.
10. Preservation of original materials
Practices and procedures for digitisation will be developed that are consistent with the conservation
requirements of the original materials. For example, contractors will be trained in the appropriate
handling of materials and monitored. Additionally, digitisation practices and procedures will be
examined in order to identify opportunities to work collaboratively with Preservation Services in order
to increase the physical preservation of objects. This would be expected to include activities such as
preservation treatment prior to scanning and rehousing which will extend the life of the original
11. Provisions for public consultation
The Library recognises that its users—both current and potential—should be involved in decisions
concerning the materials to be digitised and the most useful presentation and access mechanisms.
Accordingly, the Library will consult, as appropriate, with a range of representative groups in relation
to its digitisation activities.
12. Marketing and promotion
The Library recognises that digital collections, like other Library services, need to be marketed in order
to ensure that the largest possible range of user groups are aware of the collections, and the greatest
possible return for the cost of digitising is achieved. Accordingly, a range of strategies will be
developed to raise awareness and use of the Library’s digitised collections.
13. Coordination and reporting
A Digitisation Steering Committee, chaired by the Deputy Director-General, will provide advice to the
Library’s Corporate Management Group.
The Library’s digitisation activities will be reported in the Outputs and Outcomes Specifications in
Output 2.2.
14. Policy implementation and targets 2000 – 2001
This policy will be implemented as soon as practicable. While budget funds for 2000 – 2001 have not
yet been allocated, key steps to be undertaken in this time are expected to include:
Establish the Digitisation Steering Committee;
Conduct a stocktake of existing digitisation projects in the Library and other institutions;
Evaluate existing Library digitisation expertise and facilities. Develop options to enhance these
resources, if necessary;
Formulate a tool to assess and prioritise possible digitisation projects;
Identify possible projects;
Assess and prioritise projects in consultation with user groups;
Develop a marketing and sponsorship strategy;
Identify and consult with possible project partners;
Draw on results of previous digitisation projects to identify technical requirements and the most
effective and efficient digitisation strategies and processes for high priority projects;
Develop plans to ensure that digitised items are appropriately preserved, and that appropriate
access mechanisms to the collection are provided;
Scope resource requirements of high priority projects;
Prepare budget bid for 2001 – 2002; and,
Forward strategies to ensure systems are in place to manage digital objects (OMS and shorter-term
strategies such as enhancing Pictorial Manager.)
15. Policy review
A review of the effectiveness of this Digitisation Policy will be undertaken annually.
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