Pathfinder Repository



This Pathfinder is no longer being actively maintained by ipl.

This guide provides a number of resources to help make decisions about digitizing a collection. There are both print-based and Internet-based resources that provide information about scanning, preservation, copyright, metadata and file formats. This is a rapidly developing area of technology that continues to change every few years. A good understanding of general underlying principles will be the best way to ensure that your project doesn’t become obsolete in just a few short years.
Many of the resources cited are from large institutions with well-funded projects. Although your project may be very small in scope, it is often best to learn the “best practices” from professionals who are working with hundreds of thousands of images and adapt them for your use.

Internet Resources

Glossary and Terminology

Basic Terminology
Key digitization concepts from Cornell University.

Getty Glossary of Imaging Terms
Digital imaging terms with brief definitions from the J. Paul Getty Trust.

Guidelines and Planning

Building Digital Collections: Technical Information and Background Papers
From the Library of Congress American Memory Collection discusses the technology behind this digital collection of over 5 million items.

Colorado Digitization Project

Offers one of the best starting points for thinking about a project. There are even some instances where it may be best not to digitize, and those considerations are available here.

Digital Imaging Tutorial
Cornell University Library provides greater technical detail about the process from selecting what to digitize to managing the final collection.

The New York Public Library provides a broad set of guidelines for creating projects plus a description of how its digital collections are organized.


Caring for Your Collections
A series of guides from the Library of Congress about the care, handling and storage of collections.

Digital Preservation Management Tutorial
Easy to use tutorial covering all aspects of digital preservation.

Library of Congress Digital Preservation
Resources and links to what the Library of Congress is doing to preserve digital information.

National Archives – Frequently Asked Questions
Information from the National Archives and Records Administration about preserving a variety of collections.

NEDCC Preservation Leaflets
Preservation leaflets online from the Northeast Document Conservation Center. Includes information on prioritizing, emergency management, photographs, reformatting, and conservation procedures.


Copyright and Fair Use
An extensive guide to a variety of aspects of copyright.

Copyright Information Circulars and Factsheets
Publications, forms, and explanations of how copyright applies to various media from the United States Copyright Office.

Copyright on the Internet
An overview of how copyright law extends to the Internet from the Franklin Pierce Law Center.

When Works Pass into the Public Domain
A useful table showing the years certain works fall into the public domain from the Cornell Institute for Digital Collections.


CDP – Metadata

A list of resources on how to describe digital objects from the Colorado Digitization Project.

CONTENTdm Cookbook
Recipes for metadata entry for the University of Louisville’s Digital Initiatives. Provides mappings to Dublin Core elements as well as rules and guidelines to follow while creating metadata.

Dublin Core Metadata Best Practices – Colorado Digitization Project

Extensive PDF that covers element descriptions along with rules and guidelines established for the Colorado Digitization Project. Adobe Acrobat is needed to view this document.

Dublin Core Metadata Element Set
A description of standard fields for describing electronic resources from the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative.

A Gentle Introduction to Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML)
An international standard for the definition of device-independent, system-independent methods of representing texts in electronic form.

Library of Congress Metadata Standards
Includes standards for Resource Description Formats, Digital Libraries, and Information Resource Retrieval Protocols. Individual standards include MODS, MADS, EAD, METS, MIX, and more.

Metadata Guide and Standards
Includes resources that a team may consult when developing digital library applications. Coverage includes Dublin Core, Visual Resource Association (VRA), Text-encoding Initiative (TEI), and many others.

Scanning and Storage

File Formats
A table comparing a variety of the most common image file format in use from Cornell University Library.

Selecting a Scanner
An extensive discussion about how to choose a scanner appropriate for the type of project being undertaken.

Storage Media
A table comparing costs and capacities of various storage media from Cornell University Library.


D-Lib Magazine
A monthly online magazine about innovation and research in digital libraries by the Corporation for National Research Initiatives.

Digital Camera
Guide to electronic photography and imaging.

International Journal on digital libraries

(JEP) Journal of Electronic Publishing
Concerns contemporary publishing practices and the impact those have on users.

National Digital Library Periodic Reports Reports from the Library of Congress published 12 times a year.

Mailing Lists and Blogs

A discussion list for librarians, information scientists, and other information professionals to share information about the many issues and technologies pertaining to the creation of “digital libraries.”

Digitization 101
“The place for staying up-to-date on issues, topics, lessons learned and events surrounding the creation, management, marketing and preservation of digital assets.” This blog is maintained by Jill Hurst-Wahl, a digitization consultant and professor of digitization for Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies.
“HangingTogether is a place where some of the staff at RLG Programs, part of the OCLC Programs and Research division, a partnership of libraries, archives, and museums, can talk about the intersections we see happening between these three different types of institutions.” This blog includes a category for digital preservation.

This blog “focuses on digitization and related activities (such as electronic publishing) in libraries, archives, and museums, and is intended to be a source of news relevant to people who manage and implement digitization projects.”

Examples of Digitized Collections

American Memory
A collection of over 5 million items from the Library of Congress.

Arts ConnectEd
A variety of art-related images, sound recordings and videos from The Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Walker Arts Center.

DePaul University – Vincentian Postcards
Postcard collection that covers the mission of the Vincentians. This resource is also powered by CONTENTdm management software.

Greater Rochester (MI) History Online
A collection of 450 post cards and photos of the downtown of a Midwestern town over the past 100 years.

Historic American Sheet Music
Digital images of over 3,000 pieces of sheet music published in the United States between 1850 and 1920 by Duke University.

History and Politics Out Loud
A searchable archive of significant audio materials from Northwestern University.

Kansas City Public Library – Missouri Valley Special Collections
An extensive collection of photographs, maps, biographies, post cards, architecture and more.

Making of America
A digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction featuring 8,500 volumes and 50,000 journal articles from the collection of the University of Michigan.

University of Louisville’s Newton Owen Postcard Collection
Powered with CONTENTdm management software, this collection includes numerous postcards and greetings cards.

Valley of the Shadow
A project offering search and retrieval on a geographic basis to show how things relate change over time using a geographic information system.

Sound Recordings

Association for Library Collections & Technical Services, & American Library Association. (2004). Lots of copies keeps stuff safe (LOCKSS) a solution for archiving and accessing web materials. [La Crescenta, Calif.]: Content Management Corp.
Overview of LOCKSS, including philosophy, technology, current development, and participation opportunities.

Hixson, C., & May, C. (2006). Pioneering the transformation of technical services librarians into digital librarians. Valencia, Calif: Mobiltape.
From the American Association of Law Libraries

Kriegsman, S., Conway, P., & Puglia, S. T. (2002). Digital preservation image quality and project development. St. Petersburg, FL: Convention Recordings.
Decision making for digital preservation

McClure, R. R. (2007). Organizing scanned images. Arlington, Va: National Genealogical Society].
Explores what to do with images once they are scanned.

Micham, L., Rhind-Tutt, S., & Redmon, S. (2004). Telling our stories now women’s archives in the digital age. [La Crescenta, Calif.]: Content Management Corp.
American Library Association Conference

Pedini, J. W., Stock, J. C., Dupont, J., Evans, M., & Reich, V. (2007). Electronic preservation does losing the past challenge the future? Valencia, Calif: Mobiltape.
From the American Association of Law Libraries

Society of American Archivists, Maher, W. J., Townsend, E., & Besser, H. (2005). Archivists, copyright, and digitization. St Petersburg, FL: Convention Recordings International.
Discusses copyright status of digitized materials in the public domain as well as the impact on archivists in the “information commons” movement.


Cole, B. (2004). Digitizing newspapers and historic preservation. West Lafayette, IN: C-SPAN Archives.
An effort to digitize United States newspapers.

Films for the Humanities & Sciences (Firm). (2004). Digital dark age? Gambling with humankind’s knowledge. Princeton, NJ: Films for the Humanities & Sciences.
Assessment of the rapid explosion and impact of data lass on cultural identity.

Nocera, J., Farnon, B. E., Jackson, M., Bishoff, L., Stout, C., Williams, B. F., et al. (2003). Digital treasures for teaching and learning. [Glen Ellyn, Ill.]: College of DuPage.
Video teleconference on projects in Colorado and at the Library of Congress.

Nocera, J., Kuhs, E., Jackson, M., Dougherty, R. M., Barillari, J., & Fradkin, B. (2006). Google book search its impact on scholarship and libraries. Library challenges & opportunities. [Glen Ellyn, Ill.]: College of DuPage.
Covers the future of mass digitization

Smith, B. C. (2005). Digital future. Meaning of digital. West Lafayette, IN: C-SPAN Archives.
Explores the various meanings of digital.

Print Resources

The following print resources offer good advice about the digitization process.

Archives New Zealand. (2007). Digitisation standard. [Wellington, N.Z.]: Archives New Zealand. (ISBN: 0478182201).

Galer, M., & Horvat, L. (2005). Digital imaging. Essential skills. Amsterdam: Elsevier/Focal Press. (ISBN: 60320022).

Groen, F. K. (2007). Access to medical knowledge: libraries, digitization, and the public good. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. (ISBN: 0810852721).

Handbook for Digital Projects: A Management Tool for Preservation and Access: Northeast Document Conservation Center. Andover, MA : Northeast Document Conservation Center, c2000. (ISBN: 0963468545). (

Kenney, A.R. and Rieger, O.Y. (2000). Moving Theory into Practice: Digital Imaging for Libraries and Archive. Mountain View, CA : Research Libraries Group. (ISBN: 0970022506)

Kresh, D. (2007). The whole digital library handbook. Chicago: American Library Association. (ISBN: 0838909264).

Lee, S. (2001). Digital Imaging: A Practical Handbook. New York : Neal-Schuman Publishers in association with Library Association Pub. (ISBN: 1555704050)

Rieger, O. Y. (2008). Preservation in the age of large-scale digitization: a white paper. CLIR publication, no. 141. Washington, D.C.: Council on Library and Information Resources. (ISBN: 1932326294).

Smith, A. (1999). Why Digitize?. Washington, D.C. : Council on Library and Information Resources. (ISBN: 1887334653).

Additional resources can be found at public and university libraries under call numbers in the 025.17 of the Dewey Decimal Classification System and in the Z 681.3 section of the Library of Congress Classification System. Useful resources may also be found under the following Library of Congress Subject Headings:

  • Archival materials’ Digitization
  • Digital preservation
  • Image processing’ Digital techniques
  • Library materials’ Digitization

This pathfinder was created by Larry P. Neal and updated by Ami Regnier for Dr. Eileen Abels Info 780 Course at Drexel University, Spring, 2008.