This statement is something that I’m hearing a lot lately and it’s troubling. Once again, I’m forced to rethink a few internal processes that my institution has and try to implement some basic ones that should’ve been here from the beginning. Having worked for one of the largest university library systems in the country, one of the smallest, and perhaps one of the best funded, my experiences have been varied to say the least. At any rate, to quote Yogi Berra, “it’s deja vu all over again”.
I remember when Shifting Gears came out a few years ago. I was working as a digital production developer in Duke University Libraries’ preservation department and it certainly made for some interesting reading for those of us involved with digital collections. The take away was that the entire process should be a bit faster, but that did not mean that we need to cut corners to increase our speed. I’ve always said that you can this sort of work efficiently (smartly), but you cannot do this sort of work quickly - at least that can’t be a goal. As soon as you make an effort to speed up existing processes then you either damage your equipment or damage the materials you are working with. Neither of those options are acceptable.
To be honest, it didn’t take Shifting Gears for me to realize that some of our digital production processes where needlessly laborious and time consuming. However, the article did give a bit of legitimacy to my argument that a little upfront materials prep work, combined with a clean work environment could save loads of time in the “quality control” phase.
Although I can’t remember precisely, I think that our average scanning time per object at Duke was around 3 - 4 minutes. That’s pretty good until you get to the next step. The real time consuming part of the process came from the quality control stage. Very few items that were checked were passed on. Most were being edited heavily in Photoshop. I’ve been using Photoshop for a very long time and know the program pretty well, but spending 10, 15, and 20 minutes editing out dust/debris, and correcting for a warped/soiled scanner cover seemed like a colossal waste of time. Especially when all this could be avoided with comparatively little time spent before the scanning stage begins.
I think that this is where my experience as an archivist came into play. I worked as the visual materials archivist at Arizona State University Libraries from 2005 to the beginning of 2008. I inherited an amazing collection of fully processed materials. My predecessor worked tirelessly to ensure that virtually all of our photographic holdings were cleaned, housed in Mylar-D sleeves, and numbered. The materials were ready for scanning straight off the shelf. Of course, not all archives and special collections departments are the same and ASU Libraries was just very lucky. Zero time was spent editing out dust/debris because it just wasn’t there. The white background on the scanner cover never really got soiled either because both the materials and workspace were kept clean. I’ve since decided that a piece of grey/white board makes a great background.
This was a very rambling post and likely just one of many to come on digitization. Don’t get me started.