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Better Practice Checklist - 18. Digitisation of Records

May 2004 (organisational details updated January 2008)

Introduction

The use of new technologies by Australian Government departments and agencies provides opportunities to deliver better services and information and streamline administrative procedures. Not only have cultural agencies such as libraries, archives and museums used new technologies to digitise their collections in order to provide their clients with access to these collections wherever they live or work, but other agencies also have digitised records and other materials to facilitate streamlined online processes.

A key role of the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO), Department of Finance and Deregulation is to identify and promote 'Better Practice'. This checklist has been created to help agencies optimise their use of new technologies by effectively digitising materials. The items in the checklist are, however, not mandatory. The checklist focuses on the creation of digital versions of material, not the management of 'born digital' items.

This checklist has been created for staff responsible for managing processes to capture, copy, store or provide access to digital material. This checklist focuses on non-technical issues.

It should be noted that the checklist is not intended to be comprehensive. Rather, it highlights key issues for agencies. The checklist is iterative and draws on the expertise and experience of practitioners. The subject matter and issues are reviewed and updated to reflect developments.

Download PDF of Checklist 18 - Digitisation of Records [PDF Document - 759 KB]

Acknowledgements

This checklist was developed with the assistance of Australian Government agencies. In particular, we would like to thank Screensound Australia, the National Archives of Australia and the National Library of Australia.

Why digitise?

Creating and providing access to digital copies of material give an agency's clients and customers the potential to pursue educational, cultural appreciation and commercial opportunities wherever they live or work. Digitisation also enhances the potential for synergies with other digital collections through shared descriptive information in consolidated or federated online databases.

For audiovisual materials, digitisation minimises the generational loss inherent in older analogue and compressed digital audiovisual formats, and it reduces the costs of migration required to manage rapid changes in formats.

Note that this checklist focuses on the digitisation of print and other materials. The checklist does not directly cover issues associated with imaging, which involves the creation of an image of the item. While there are numerous differences in the processes, a key difference is that digitisation means that all the information within the item is available in electronic form and can be searched. Imaging provides a copy of the original, but elements within the item cannot be searched unless the copy is further processed by Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software.

Summary of Checkpoints

Before you start

Check box Identify the business case for digitisation

Check box Consider the digital content value chain

Check box Consider general principles for digital preservation

Check box Consider appropriate technical standards

Check box Consider the equipment to be used

Check box Consider resource allocation

Check box Consider rights and permissions management

Managing digital items

Check box Apply metadata to the digital item

Check box Consider using a collection management system to manage digitised items

Check box Determine a delivery method for the information

Infrastructure issues

Check box Estimate collection growth and storage requirements

Check box Develop a backup strategy and disaster management plan

Check box Future-proof the system

Checkpoints

Before you start

Check box Identify the business case for digitisation

A business case should be identified to ensure that key issues have been considered and that the decision to proceed is based on sound reasoning. Issues to be considered would include the required services, stakeholders' interests, resourcing, interoperability, risk assessment, privacy and recordkeeping requirements.

Further details on developing business cases for ICT projects can be obtained from the Australian National Audit Office's Internet Delivery Decisions Better Practice Guide www.anao.gov.au/uploads/documents/Internet_Delivery_Decisions.pdf [External Site].

Check box Consider the digital content value chain

The digital content value chain represents the value that is added to digital content through key stages, from conception to use. Consideration of the value chain will inform the development of any business case.

There are numerous models for the digital content value chain. The following diagram provides a commonly understood model for digitisation programs in Australia.

Figure 2.6.5 from Dr Roger Clarke and Peter Higgs. 'Economic value from cultural content: digitisation programs, standards and flow-on effects', p. 11. Creative Industry Cluster Study, 2003. © Commonwealth of Australia. www.cultureandrecreation.gov.au/cics/benefits.pdf [External Site] [resource no longer available]

Digital Industry Content Diagram

Check box Consider general principles for digital preservation

General principles that have been identified by agencies with experience in digitising materials for preservation purposes include:

The International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (IASA) has developed a set of principles covering the digital preservation of audiovisual materials. These principles cover the management of errors in digital copies, technological obsolescence, migration to different formats and preservation of originals. Further information is available from IASA www.iasa-web.org [External Site].

Check box Consider appropriate technical standards

Selecting the appropriate technical standards ensures the efficient acquisition and storage of collection items, reduces the risk of format obsolescence, improves audience reach, and allows the sharing and exchange of data across agencies.

While there are a number of technical standards for other formats, the following technical standards for digitising audiovisual formats are offered as a guide.

Media Purpose Format Resolution Other details

Audio

Preservation surrogate

BWF

96 kHz 24bit

- 48 kH 24 bit from low-quality tapes

- Digital-born items keep their original format

Browsing

MP3

44.1 kHz 16bit

Still images

Preservation surrogate

TIFF

300 dpi

- Colour: 24 bit

- Greyscale: 8 bit uncompressed

Browsing

JPEG

72 dpi

- Cropped and/or improved for online viewing if appropriate

 

Video

Preservation surrogate

.mxf .601 or .YUV

Uncompressed or original format

- MXF used for exchange purposes

- Soundtrack digitised as WAV file

Broadcast or distribution

MPEG-2

50 Mb/s I-frame to 5 Mb/s long GOP

Browsing

MPEG-1 or MPEG-4

1.8 kb/s to 500 kb/s (typical)



Check box Consider the equipment to be used

If the digitisation process is to be undertaken in-house, the selection of appropriate equipment will be a significant issue. Business cases, the agency environment and other considerations will determine the equipment to be used.

Check box Consider resource allocation

Apart from the resources needed to acquire content in digital form and/or to actually digitise existing items from the collection, agencies should consider the potential resource requirements for a range of supporting tasks. These tasks may include:

Check box Consider rights and permissions management

The Copyright Act 1968, including the Copyright Amendment (Digital Agenda) Act 2000, may affect items held in agency collections. Agencies may be required to obtain permission prior to copying items or providing access to them. Agencies should consult the Acts to determine how these laws affect their collections and, if necessary, obtain legal advice. The Australian Copyright Council may be able to provide advice www.copyright.org.au [External Site].

Social, cultural and religious sensitivities may also need to be considered. For example, the copying of material relating to Indigenous groups may be unacceptable to some groups.

Some agencies may find it necessary to implement an electronic rights and permissions management system. Depending on the size and breadth of the collection, these systems can be expensive to implement and maintain.

Managing digital items

Check box Apply metadata to the digital item

Metadata is broadly defined as 'structured data about data'. Metadata about digital items may describe content to enable users to discover, locate and retrieve required items, but it can also (most significantly to audiovisual archiving) describe the format and technical nature of the work.

There are many standards governing metadata, depending on context. Dublin Core (DC), Australian Government Locator Service (AGLS) and Metadata Object Description Schema (MODS) are three metadata standards that can be used to describe resources. The attributes of the collection and the digital format may require modifications or additions to these schema.

Further information about the Australian Standard for Preservation Metadata is available from the National Library of Australia www.nla.gov.au/preserve [External Site].

Further information about general metadata issues is available in Better Practice Checklist 6, Use of Metadata for Web Resources [external link icon].

Check box Consider using a collection management system to manage digitised items

A collection management system can facilitate the storage, location, retrieval control and access to collection items. Systems can range from a simple management system using a spreadsheet or listing to a fully integrated and automated database application.

Systems used can record physical and intellectual descriptive information, provide a unique number or code for each item, and track the movement of physical items. Other desirable functions can include acquisition, client and rights management.

Data that can be recorded in a collection management system might include title, copyright owner, file format, file size, primary source information, copy history and other factors. The collection management system is itself a record and will need coverage in an agency's recordkeeping system. In addition, if original records are disposed of, access copies need to be managed appropriately.

Check box Determine a delivery method for the information

Budget, infrastructure, collection and business drivers will determine how agencies may provide access to the digitised materials. Agencies may choose to provide access to the collection online via their own website or a collaborative repository, or via an FTP server or email, or offline by copying the item to a physical format, such as CD or DVD.

Agencies should also determine whether they will serve clients best by allowing access to all parts of the collection, or by presenting selections. Many agencies find it necessary to provide both forms of access.

Infrastructure issues

Check box Estimate collection growth and storage requirements

Storage requirements can grow considerably due to digitisation programs. Collection growth and storage requirements will depend on many factors, including acquisition strategy, copying programs and technical specifications.

Check box Develop a backup strategy and disaster management plan

The creation of backup copies of digital items is essential to ensure the long-term preservation of the collection in case of systems failure or other disasters. Agencies should determine the level of risk they can afford and implement a policy to meet these requirements.

Agencies may find it appropriate to hold two backup copies for digital items. Each copy can be stored in a different location, in correct storage conditions. Suppliers should be able to advise on the best storage conditions for particular digital media. Regular backing-up of the collection management system will also assist in disaster recovery.

Check box Future-proof the system

Survival of digital content in the long term depends on having stable, sustainable file formats, and systems that will manage content through regular cycles of technological change. Key strategies to consider in future-proofing systems include:

Other resources

Metadata Object Description Schema: www.loc.gov/standards/mods [External Site]

Dublin Core metadata schema: www.dublincore.org [External Site]

Open Archives Initiative: www.openarchives.org [External Site]

Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA): www.amianet.org [External Site]

International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives:
www.iasa-web.org [External Site]

Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers: http://www.smpte.com.au/ [External Site]

Preserving Access to Digital Information (PADI): www.nla.gov.au/padi [External Site]

Preservation Metadata for Digital Collections: www.nla.gov.au/preserve/pmeta.html [External Site]

DIGIPRAC-L Discussion List: www.nla.gov.au/nla/listserv/digiprac-l.html [External Site]

Download PDF of Checklist 18 - Digitisation of Records [PDF Document - 759 KB]

Other Better Practice Checklists[external link icon]


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