The Welsh Government’s Library holds a unique collection of library materials and publications. This includes documents dating back to the inception of the Welsh Office in 1965 and almost everything published by the Welsh Government since. As such the library provides a valuable service to Welsh Government staff as well as enabling the public to access Welsh Government publications. So, as you can imagine digitising our library collection was no mean feat.
What do we mean by digitisation?
Well, digitisation is the process of converting from hard copies into electronic copies. This is done by scanning the paper documents and creating electronic versions.
There were a number of reasons why we decided to digitise our library collection. Digitisation makes the invisible visible, by ensuring that information is accessible to those that need it, when they need it, no matter where they are. Also digitising Crown copyright documents meant there was a considerable space saving which was important due to us moving our library to a smaller space.
The Digitisation Project
In January 2018 work started to move towards a digital library service. This involved rethinking the future design of the physical library space and the digitising (scanning) of some 80% of our current hard copy collections to create electronic copies. However, not all publications held by the Welsh Government Library were suitable for scanning for a variety of reasons such as copyright laws or because their physical size (e.g. maps) did not lend itself to scanning. So all of this needed to be taken into consideration during the planning phase of the project.
There are a lot of challenges when digitising a library collection. Firstly, digitisation is a time consuming and expensive endeavour which requires plenty of planning and monitoring. Add to the fact we had only eight months to undertake the digitisation project and to vacate the old library space this was no small task.
Other challenges included the need to access high quality scanning equipment, a lack of digitisation technical-know-how and the procurement of a digitisation service. Luckily our current storage provider was able to undertake the physical scanning activity.
The work didn’t stop there
To ensure everything was easy to find we needed to allocate unique identifiers to each electronic record. This involved a fair amount of data entry which can be very intensive and expensive. Whilst it was easier and cheaper to make use of, or re-use, existing catalogue entries on our Library Management System (LMS), a considerable amount of work was still needed to make sure that the scanned images were attached to our existing cataloguing records.
We got there in the end
We managed to digitise around 80 per cent of our hard copy publications (Crown copyright material) and, with the help of our Library Management System provider, the scanned images were successfully attached to our catalogue meaning that a significant number of these are now available via our online publications catalogue for reuse – https://welshgovernmentpublications.soutron.net/publications/.
Posted by Marlize Palmer – Head of Information, Library & Archive Services