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Path: Home | Events | Bibliocom 2003 | Justrell



Italian Semester of Presidency of the European Union

International workshop
Rome, October, 29th 2003, Palazzo dei Congressi, Bibliocom 2003

Borje Justrell
National Archives, Sweden

A Handbook on Good Practice in Digitisation


The objectives of the eEurope 2002 Action Plan, endorsed by the Member States in June 2000, was to stimulate European content in global networks. A number of specific actions were identified; one of them was the creation a co-ordination mechanism for digitisation programmes across Member States. During the Swedish Presidency, representatives and experts from Member States met in Lund in April 2001 to discuss issues involved in this action. The outcome of the meeting was the Lund Principles which contains recommendations how to foster co-ordination and add value to digitisation activities.

In the Lund Principles it is said, that “…it would be desirable if Member States could commit themselves to: /…/

  • accelerating take-up of good practice and of appropriate skills by disseminating across Europe examples of good practice, identified according to agreed features (typology)

It is also recommends that “… the European Commission /…/ should work with Member States to: /…/

  • advance the dissemination of good practice by promoting centres of competence which can provide leadership and support for stakeholders on key issues and technologies…”

The Lund principles were transformed into the Lund Action Plan that identifies four main areas of action, one of them being “Promotion of Good Practice”.

In the Minerva project, which can be seen as the operative part within the framework set up by the Lund principles and the Lund Action Plan, a special work package (WP 6) was dedicated to the identification of good practice and competence centres.

The objectives of Minerva WP 6 are mainly to

  • support the development of skills and increase of efficiency in digitisation by encourage take-up of good practice and promotion of “Centres of Competence”
  • support other Minerva work packages in the selection and identification of guidelines.

For the practical outcome, WP 6 has chosen two complementary action lines: one connected to a so called knowledge database on the web and one in the form of a practical and periodically updated handbook on good practice in digitisation. It is about this handbook that I will talk today.

The Handbook

The handbook on good practice in digitisation should be looked upon as a first harvest from the work carried out to date in the Minerva project. It allows third parties to benefit as soon as possible from the of the Minerva project.

The handbook also includes the result of a survey of best practice examples conducted in connection to a NRG-meeting in Alicante in May 2002 during the Spanish Presidency. NRG stands for National Representative Group, a group created to promote the Lund Principles and monitor the Lund Action Plan.

But why a handbook on good practice? We know that digitisation in the cultural community is well covered by publicly available guidelines and good practice guides. We are also aware of that internationally adopted standards today are available in most areas connected to digitisation.

On the other hand, we know from examples of good practice collected in connection to the NRG meeting in Alicante last year that

  • the target audience for digitisation projects differs widely
  • areas like accessibility, copyright issues, preservation and good quality aspects are in focus for many of today’s projects


  • areas like management, work flow etc. are not that popular
  • many digitisation projects have multi-focusing objectives.

It is easy to interpret the situation as a tendency to act before doing serious thinking on the whole concept that the projects in mind have to deal handle.

Our conclusion was, therefore, that even if there are guidelines, standards etc. available, they are not fully used or even known when it comes to practical work in digitisation. We saw a missing link.

So, one of the action lines of Minerva work package 6 became a handbook on good practice in digitisation with the following objectives:

  • The aim is that it should be an output containing a concrete, pragmatic set of guidelines.
  • It should also be a living document to be updated periodically.
  • The target audience is teams within and across cultural institutions contemplating or already executing digitisation projects.
  • The focus is very clear, archives, libraries and museums in Europe.

The approach during the work with the handbook has been: keep it simple!

A lot of work and thinking has been put in finding a structure of the handbook that covers the subject in mind, is logical and easy to understand for the read, and allows on-going updating. The structure we have chosen is

  • Background
  • Practical guidelines
  • Standards
  • Digitisation guidelines: a selected list

Chapter: Background

If we start with the background, the aim is to give the reader a clear picture of the context in which this handbook should be considered. This sound maybe obvious but, by spending hours reading guidelines and handbooks that after a while appeared to be worthless for my purposes, at least I have learned that a clear picture of the context saves time and energy.

Next part is the practical guidelines, in other words the core of the handbook. They consist of the most important practical lessons learnt and information collected so far by Minerva work package 6.

Chapter: Practical guidelines

The practical guidelines are focusing on a number of “rules of thumb” and divided into areas reflecting the stages in the life-cycle of a digitisation project. These areas are

  • Digitisation Project Planning
  • Selection
  • Preparation for Digitisation
  • Handling of Originals
  • The Digitisation Process
  • Preservation of the Digital Master Material
  • Meta-data
  • Preparation for Publication
  • Online Publication
  • IPR and Copyright
  • Project Management

Each guideline description is made up of the following elements:

  • A Guideline Title
  • An Issue Definition (sets the scene and introduces the problem addressed)
  • The Guideline Text (a set of pragmatic suggestions on relevant aspects)
  • Notes/Commentary (additional information when needed)
  • References broken into two parts:
    • Online references
    • References nominated by Minerva partners and other Member States

These nominated projects may or may not address a particular area explicitly. The references are provided either because a project can be expected to have experience in a particular area, or because it addresses this area in detail. More information about the nominated projects is found on the Minerva website (see Good Practice).

Neither the guidelines nor the references are exhaustive. However, they provide the most important information needed by a project addressing a particular task – or tasks – within the lifecycle of a digitisation project.

Chapter: Standards

Concerning standards the handbook on good practice gives an overview of relevant technical standards covering only the most important ones. Standards in the following areas are included:

  • Imaging
  • Audio
  • Digital Video
  • 3D
  • Meta-data
  • Taxonomy and Naming

The major focus is on technology standards which impinge on the decisions needed to be made during a digitisation project.

Chapter: Digitisation guidelines: a selected list

The aim is here to give an overview of the most important guidelines published by different public or private institutions, projects etc.

The list is limited to guidelines for digitisation of paper based material like manuscripts/records, printed books and photos, and not for digitisation of multimedia materials. Toolboxes and tutorials are included too, because as learning resources they are just as valuable as guidelines.

The criteria for selection have been that the guidelines in mind should be of general interest for professionals worldwide.

Each guideline is examined and described in a standardised way:

  • Author (for example the British Library)
  • Contribution (if someone) is mentioned. For example
    • Author: CUL Columbia University Library
    • o Contributor: by Anne R. Kenney and Stephan Chapman
  • Title (for example Digital Imaging for Libraries and Archives)
  • Description (short overview of what the guidelines focus on)
  • Date which could be when the guidelines were published or updated last time. If neither of these days are known the day when the information is captured from the website is noted (for example visited May 2003).
  • Format (normally HTML but some times PDF, RTF etc)
  • URL (for example http://www.library.cornell.edu/preservation/dila.html)

The presentation on the list is in alphabetic order by authors.

Next step

Firstly, the dissemination of the handbook will be finished. A discussion forum about the handbook was opened this spring on the Minerva web site. The first reactions we got showed that we where on the right track.

The dissemination then continued during summer and early autumn, based on a revised version of the text. However, all comments on details and all additional information we got has not been digested in this revised version. This will be done in the following weeks. Everybody on this work shop are welcome to give comments up to next week when the discussion forum will be closed.

Secondly, a final version (1.0) will be presented at the next NRG meeting which takes lace in Parma in November.

Thirdly, the final version of the handbook will be distributed though several channels. We have the Minerva website and there are also plans for a print-out version. I believe, however, there are needs for a distribution on national level in the Member States that cannot be satisfied only by a handbook in English. To be fully used the handbook has to be put into a national context, which means

  • a translation to the national language, like you have done in Italy
  • identification of national competence centres that on this rather “raw” material, which the handbook is in its present form, can put new layers of knowledge and skills that suits each Member State.




Copyright Minerva Project 2003-11, last revision 2003-11-06, edited by Minerva Editorial Board.
URL: www.minervaeurope.org/events/bibliocom03/papers/justrell.htm
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