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Why Outsource? Digitizing In-House vs. Outsourcing

Struggling to digitize your collection in house?
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By Team Lead Andrea Glazer

It can be tempting to see the photocopier in the corner of your office and imagine digitizing your collection over time, if only to avoid the costs associated with finding a vendor to handle it. However, in-house digitization is rarely that simple.

Digital preservation is no longer the future of archiving but the current standard to make collections more accessible and ensure they are protected for years to come. Before starting a digitization project in-house, consider the costs and benefits of hiring an outsourced digital preservation team. The non-monetary costs involved in a digitization project might just make outsourcing to a professional digital preservation vendor a more appealing prospect.

Resource Drain vs. Resource Gain

A digitization project performed in-house costs an organization far more than just money. Time, equipment, and training can eat away at the precious resources an archival department has to offer.

Just because a scanner is available to use, it doesn’t mean you have the time to commit to doing the work. Even committing to a small part of the collection can feel like you aren’t making much progress year over year. While some institutions have the benefit of hiring interns or volunteers to perform the scans, training this staff takes time too!

Outsourced digital preservation firms like Anderson Archival have both the dedication and the necessary equipment to preserve your collection in a lasting way. Instead of making your current systems work for your entire collection, or worse, buying new hardware to get the job done, an experienced digital preservation firm already has these resources in place.

In-house would look like… Fragmented or piecemeal scanning of your collection, with little progress over time while also incurring costly training or equipment to get it done.

Outsourcing would look like… A team with the time and equipment to capture and care for your collection the way it needs for proper digital preservation.

No Clue What to Do vs. Seeing It Through

You may have big ideas about how digital preservation could make your collection more accessible, but do you even know where to start? It can be daunting to decide what needs to be done if you’ve never worked on a digitization project before, or if the collection is so large that the planning alone requires a significant time commitment. Learning about digital preservation while starting a project can lead to mistakes that might require entire sections of the collection to be rescanned or discovering too late that the equipment used is not up to par.

A professional digital preservation team like Anderson Archival can give you the guidance you need to not only start a digitization project but also see it through to the end. With a trained team, the correct equipment, and tested processes, you can explore the aspects of digital preservation you don’t even know to ask about. Every collection is unique and requires customized solutions. Anderson Archival works with you to ensure your collection is not just digitized but can be used by you and your community in the way you intended.

In-house would look like… An overwhelming, expensive, and time-consuming task that could result in a collection that’s not as useful or functional as you envisioned.

Outsourcing would look like… A well-organized and customized digital preservation plan that benefits you and your collection for the long term.

Getting Stuck vs. Going Pro

A typical office scanner can be a good starting point if your collection includes standard 8.5 x 11” or smaller pages in good condition, but you’re likely going to run into documents that can’t be scanned in such a one-size-fits-all way. Fragile items, oversized documents, books, and other materials that need more care will prove challenging at best, requiring a new solution for every type of asset you find. Many organizations purchase new equipment and eventually see the equipment as a costly paperweight—heavy, unusable, and obsolete.

If your collection does manage to get completely scanned, you may think it’ll be smooth sailing from there, but there are still decisions to be made and work to be done. Do your images need cropping or other digital clean up? How will you organize and store your digitized images so they’re useful to you? Will your documents be searchable? Do you know what Digital Asset Management (DAM) software is or which one you’d want to use? Is your organization bound to meeting FADGI standards? Did your equipment or team meet those standards?

Thankfully, the team at Anderson Archival has the experience and equipment to digitize your unique collection safely and efficiently. Our equipment is capable of capturing a wide variety of materials to produce images that meet FADGI 3-to-4-star standards without damaging the original documents. Acting as true partners, we suggest the best organization and storage solutions to guarantee your digitized collection will actually be useful.

In-house would look like… Putting your work on hold to research solutions every time there’s a new question or roadblock and ending up with equipment, software, and a collection that aren’t the perfect fit for your organization.

Outsourcing would look like… Letting a team of digital preservation experts with access to an array of advanced equipment safely digitize your collection and deliver you a high-quality and useful final product.

Repeat Investments vs. One-Time Price to Get It Done Right!

One of the biggest hidden costs to poor digitization is the need to do it again. Poor-quality scans will stop being useful quickly. Even if they meet your current needs, it’s important to think about how you may want to use the digital collection in the future. Will those same low-quality scans work for your next project, or the one after that? What might you want to do to improve access or engagement with your audience? The only way to know that your digital collection will work for any project you have in mind is to get high-quality archival master files that can be turned into any type of production file you will need.

If you don’t have the equipment or expertise to produce high-quality scans in house, outsourcing can fill that gap. What might it cost your organization in time to perform ad-hoc scanned copies upon individual requests or dig through barely organized digital files that then don’t have the quality for reprinting or publication? The price of creating files that won’t be useful in the future and needing to rescan the collection will be far greater in the long run. Finding the money now is easier than searching for more money in the future to do the same project over again.

In-house would look like… Mismatched scans that need to routinely be redone due to quality issues or digital decay.

Outsourcing would look like… An entire set of organized, high-quality scans that allow you to use your collection to its fullest potential.

Though scanning your collection on your own can be tempting, don’t forget that the unexpected costs of digitization add up. It’s more cost-effective in the long run to partner with a digital preservation firm to have confidence in your investment—and only need to do it once.

Curious about what other digital preservation services Anderson Archival can provide? Give us a call today!

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