Sunday, 17 April 2011

Experience with LAC's New Digitization Project-by the Public, for the Public

I blogged the basic information about this Library and Archives Canada pilot project on March 26. Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to try it.

On Monday I ordered a file to be produced by LAC relating to British children evacuated to Canada during the Second World War. I was informed the record was available at noon on Tuesday and made an appointment to meet with Carol-Ann McColgan, the Project Officer, on Wednesday morning.

It took a few minutes to retrieve the file box, complete the normal LAC paperwork involved with making copies using digital cameras, and to find the dedicated project area. A work area was already set up with a digital camera and tripod. I found the specific file I was interested in, about 200 pages, and removed the metal binding. The process of placing an original, aligning it properly, zooming in or out as necessary, and pressing the button to take the photo with a short time delay to avoid movement of the camera in doing so, proceeded quite quickly once I got accustomed to it. The major problem was the lighting. Standing in front of the camera put me between the window and the original. I was advised to move to one side to obtain a better image. That was an inconvenience, and only mildly aerobic!

I completed the imaging process in under two hours. The images in jpg format were loaded onto a Mac computer and I was given a copy on a USB flash drive I brought with me.

On examination a few of the images were out of focus and had to be redone.

The most tiresome part of the exercise was rethreading the metal binding.

The system definitely has potential. It's convenient not to have to bring your own digital camera and to know that [one-day] the images will become available on the LAC website.

Any pilot project it's expected to reveal problems. The biggest is the physical setup of the scanning station and the need to move so as not to obstruct light from the window. If the project gets beyond the pilot stage LAC should invest in properly ergonomic scanning stations so you can remain seated without obstructing the light source, have a large screen to align the document and ensure it is in focus, and conveniently placed controls instead of having to reach up to the camera.

Not being familiar with Mac equipment there's also a learning curve in transferring the images from the camera to the computer. Hopefully a proper scanning station would have that step built-in.

However, even with the present setup I wouldn't hesitate to take advantage again should the need arise.

A final comment, LAC call this a digitization project. It is if by that you mean photographing with a digital camera. Digitization also means to make the text computer searchable which this project does not aim to do. Am I the only one confused by the twin uses of the terminology?


Pamela Wile said...

What was the charge for the document that you photographed? Is it the same as ordering a paper copy?

JDR said...

No charge Pamela. Assuming the document meets LAC criteria you can take digital photos without charge anyway. That's one of the things we did achieve through LAC's Services Advisory Board.