Meeting the Needs of Cultural Heritage Communities for In-house Digitization Solutions

By Katy Klettlinger

As you may already know, LYRASIS has a long history of expertise with digitization, including through the LYRASIS Digitization Collaborative, made possible by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, creating the program in 2008. This led to excellent and established ongoing relationships with top experts and industry leaders, such as George Blood Audio, Creekside Digital and Digital Solutions for cost-effective digitization and preservation outsourcing for items ranging from bound books to moving images. By working with LYRASIS staff, libraries and other cultural heritage institutions were able to maximize savings: not only in terms of cost, but also staff time and resources. However, we recognize that we cannot continue to meet the needs of our members by remaining static with our services and programs, especially in a field that is as technology-focused as digital preservation. Therefore, in late 2017, we began a comprehensive evaluation of the needs of cultural heritage communities regarding digitization, as well as a review of our service offerings in an effort to identify new ways we can serve members at their point of need.

Internally, our conversation began with these 2 questions: Would there be value to our members in exploring and creating partnerships with high end equipment providers? How can we also impact our members at their point of need and practice if they are doing in-house work?

Based on our ongoing dialog and feedback with our member through our site visit interviews and some small sample surveys, we began to see a shift in practices. The 2017 National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA) Report on Staffing for Effective Digital Preservation Survey discovered that respondents no longer consider digitizing materials as their top outsourcing activity.[1]  Many libraries now prefer to use both a hybrid approach of outsourcing and in-house scanning to lower costs, accommodate preservation needs of materials, and scan different sized collections.[2]  And while offering new services to better serve our membership is important on a transactional level, the LYRASIS mission is focused on supporting enduring access to knowledge resources worldwide, which means it is critically important that we support our members at their points of need. The LYRASIS Licensing and Partnerships team decided to expand their work to meet the digitization needs of LYRASIS members who are performing high-end in-house scanning. This resulted in an agreement with Digital Transitions for discounted pricing. provides end-to-end scanning solutions with an understanding of the stringent preservation requirements and other concerns that libraries, archives and museums face when digitizing large and varied collections. Digital Transitions has an excellent reputation in the archival community and many years of digitization work and experience.

To further understand the needs of our members regarding digitization and preservation, LYRASIS conducted a member survey. The feedback from this survey allowed us to ensure we are aligned with our membership’s needs and are continuing to meet our mission mandate of being an impactful partner.  The survey provided valuable feedback from both members and non-members, who are considering joining LYRASIS.

Here are some highlights of what we learned: 58 institutions from across the country participated in the survey and represented academic, public, archival, and museum settings.  Twenty-two questions were asked covering topics such as current program resources (budget, staffing, etc.), preferences for outsourcing and in-house scanning of materials, and considerations when purchasing equipment.

  • 33% of respondents actively practiced hybrid digitization
  • 33% of respondents solely outsourced their materials
  • 33% of respondents only digitize in-house.

The survey supports our premise  that members can benefit from high-end, FADGI (Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative)  compliant digitization equipment options as an addition to our suite of services and pre-vetted relationships. With two-thirds of respondents digitizing some or all of their materials in-house, it is clearly a needed service for LYRASIS members.

Other findings from the survey were surprising.  83% of libraries surveyed have budgets of $20,000 or less to spend per year.  This budget is well below the cost to purchase most types of digitization equipment, apart from the flatbed scanners which are used by nearly all institutions surveyed.  The interesting data point here is that, despite this low budget reported, 47% of the respondents indicated that they owned at least one piece of digitization equipment that exceeded $20,000. This seems to reflect that equipment purchases may be funded using end of the year funds or with grant money. Have you experienced this at your institution? If you’d like to share your story, please feel free to comment to this blog post.

The big question for us that came out of the survey is how can we at LYRASIS meet the needs of member institutions with lower budgets in purchasing new equipment once their existing equipment becomes obsolete?  At least one-third of institutions surveyed who digitize in-house report having obsolete equipment now. Also, one-third of participants who stated that they do not plan on purchasing digitization equipment noted lack of funding was their reason for this decision.  If lack of funding is the main motivator for not moving forward with increasing in-house digitization operations, then more needs to be done to make attaining equipment easier.  What can our profession do to solve this problem? Please comment with your thoughts and ideas.

LYRASIS plans to further its commitment to cultural heritage programs by further promoting and evaluating our archival, digitization, and preservation offerings to our membership as part of a large scale archival and preservation resources marketing campaign this Spring. To spread awareness of our discounts, we plan to create a listserv dedicated solely to cultural heritage professionals.  We are also developing another survey for our membership to provide input on current products in order to learn which additional discounts would be valuable to one-stop shop for archives and museums.  This will include receiving input on digitization equipment to look for a solution to assist digitization programs with lower budgets who need to replace obsolete equipment. We are excited to bring these new opportunities to the library community and assist LYRASIS members with digitization programs.

[1] “Staffing for Effective Digital Preservation 2017: An NDSA Report.” Open Science Framework. September 13, 2017. Accessed January 31, 2018. p. 4.

[2] Annie Peterson et al., “Preservation Statistics Survey Report FY2015,” Preservation Statistics Survey Report FY2015, December 2016, , accessed January 31, 2018,

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