Digitisation priorities Funding UK Medical Heritage Library workshops

Developing new approaches to digitising special collections

We recently ran a workshop after a long period of consultation about out future approach to digisation. The resulting workshop report: Summary Report: New Business Models for Digitisation sets out a direction of travel for us and our key partners and stakeholders.

Jisc has a long history of undertaking digitisation initiatives. Back in 1993 the Joint Funding Council commissioned Follett report proposed that Jisc should undertake large scale digitisation initiatives to shift the balance from hardcopy collection delivery to electronic provision. Since then we have conducted a number of large and smaller programmes with mixed results in terms of the long-term sustainability of the resulting resources.

In recent times we have worked in partnership with Wellcome Library and nine institutional partners to jointly deliver the UK Medical Heritage Library. This project delivered content through three digital libraries: Jisc’s own Historical Texts, Wellcome’s digital library and the Internet Archive. We took this approach to ensure that the material will be sustainably delivered over the long term. This was the last big digitisation project funded by Jisc in its old incarnation. From our point of view, it was most successful because of this partnership approach and more recently we have been exploring how such partnerships might allow us to continue our support for digitisation.

We know, both from desk research and anecdotal evidence, that there is still a strong desire for more digitisation, especially to tackle the black hole of content produced over the last hundred years or so. We had been thinking a lot about this and how, in an era of dramatic changes in the funding landscape, we could continue to support digitisation activities. The idea that we should seek to develop a new business model for digitisation was strongly endorsed by our Digital Archival Collections (DAC) advisory group, a subgroup of the Jisc Collections Content Strategy Group (JCCSG).

We also engaged and garnered support from our co-design partners SCONUL and RLUK, and knowledge sector partners the British Libary and The National Archives; all strongly interested or active in the digitisation of collections. So, to effectively explore ideas about future digitisation activities, we jointly designed a workshop around finding and developing aspects of one key business model. On 20 November 2017 we brought together librarians, academics and archivists to explore the opportunities for joint action. The key message we heard was that there is a great need for a flexible approach to address multiple needs, rather than a single solution. Big themes should be addressed, but not through a single approach. Rather, we should seek to harness our collective knowledge and resources to address such themes.

The report suggests that there is a need for coordination at a national level, to enable the effective involvement of knowledge organisations in the delivery of digitised content. How can we share resources, knowledge, and potentially infrastructure to both digitise and deliver content more strategically?

We will explore these questions further over the coming months in the hope that we can establish a new way of working with all our partner to achieve efficiencies, undertake joint funding bids and ensure we are implementing best practice. This work is still exploratory, and the results will need to be carefully considered to determine if there is a need for further action and, if there is, exactly which course it should take.






By Peter Findlay

Subject Matter Expert, Digital Scholarship, Content and Discovery, Jisc

Working with Jisc's Higher Education members to improve access to to their special collections in the age of data-centric arts, humanities and social science research.

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