Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Large-scale digitisation: the £22 million JISC programme and the role of libraries - Jean Sykes, London School of Economics and Political Science

The JISC digitisation project came out of a HEFCE £10 million underspend in 2004. An advisory group was set up and proposals considered. Initially extant proposals considered but community consultation exercise was also undertaken including and leading to a unique community open ranking exercise. This resulted in a mix of extant and new proposals.

6 projects funded:

  • 18th Century British Parliamentary Papers - all existing 18th century papers (over a million pages) digitised using first robotic scanner in the UK.
  • Medical Journal Backfiles - joint project with Welcome Trust
  • Online Historial Population Reports - 200,000 recordings
  • British Library Archival Sound Recordings - a panel of users helped select items to archive to around 3000 hours.
  • British Newspapers 1800-1900 - expert panel selected items
  • Newsfilm Online - this is the only phase 1 project not to have been launched yet. This has been one of the most difficult projects but will bring ITN and Reuters news archives to the web.
Phase 1 of this project has already been one of the largest digitisation projects in Europe with an advanced integrated programme covering a broad range of formats and subjects. IPR frameworks have come out of these projects (especially Newsfilm Online) These projects are exemplars for increased interoperability including open source. This whole series of work has also helped a JISC digitisation strategy to emerge.

Lessons have already been learned as the project heads into phase 2:
  • User consultation ("do it!" is the main lesson), procurement, metadata (very important from the start)
  • IPR, quality assurance, indexing
  • Project management, risk register
  • User interface is very important.
  • Evaluation must take place throughout the project (capturing lessons learned as you go)
  • Impact assessment desirable so projects should build in, from the start, neccassary licences and arrangements - especially for web log analysis
  • Expert panel for selection works best

In phase 2 there are 16 new projects (out of 48 proposals, half were in long list). The guidelines and criteria for phase 2 draw on experience from phase 1. Again community ranking used along with expert rankings.

Phase 2 Projects
  • 19th Century Pamphlets Online - Polemical voices from the past on the great debates of the 19th century - phase 1 (1 million images from 30,000 pamphlets)
  • A Digital Library of Core e-Resources on Ireland - Visit a one stop shop for Irish studies e-resources
  • Archival Sound Recordings 2 - A critical mass of rich audio material from all over the world, at your fingertips
  • British Governance in the 20th century – Cabinet Papers, 1914-1975 - In its own words: the British government at peace and war
  • British Cartoon Archive Digitisation (BCAD) project - Browse the largest online archive of cartoons in the UK
  • British Newspapers 1620-1900 - Read the first three centuries of newspapers from all regions of the British Isles
  • Digitisation of the Independent Radio News Archive - From Callaghan to Thatcher, a contemporary audio archive from the only UK radio news archive outside the BBC (led by Bournemouth University) - 7000 reel to reel tapes
  • The East London Theatre Archive - Putting the spotlight on East End music hall heritage
  • Electronic Ephemera – Digitised Selections from the John Johnson Collection - Discover hidden treasures of everyday life from the 16th century to the 20th
  • First World War Poetry Digital Archive - Preserving and sharing memories of the Great War through the words of its poets (led by University of Oxford)
  • Freeze Frame – Historic Polar Images 1845-1960 - Making historic Polar exploration resources accessible to all
  • Historic Boundaries of Britain - Mapping the past: a digital library of Britain's borders
  • In View: Moving Images in the Public Sphere - Watch the key social, political and economic issues of our time unfold (led by British Film Institute)
  • Pre-Raphaelite Resource Site - Trace a movement that changed the face of English art
  • UK Theses Digitisation project - Opening access to over 5,000 of the most popular British research theses
  • Welsh Journals Online - Free online access to the best Welsh periodicals – past, present and future (co-funded with Higher Education Fund of Wales, led by National Libary of Wales)


All phase 2 projects underway (started 2007) and will be completed in 2009. Very tight timings. No detailed usage stats as yet for some of the phase 1 projects so a wider impact analysis will be used in next bit to HEFCE. WIll take evidence from July 2007 Conference (held in Cardiff) and also from phase 1 and phase 2 evaluations. Government initiatives and strategies also fit with the type of request to be made.

Phase 3
Underspend from Phase 1 will be used to signal some thinking. This will include an updated JISC standards catalogue as well as a gap analysis into what the community needs and the availability in the comunity of relavent large or significant collections (outside HE that is as well as within). Also some of the underspend will go towards capturing some of the IPR guidelines formulated in the project. Investigated will also take place into the development of thematic portals to make resources more comparable and usable, possible extended to cover JISC Collections. Could be great if combined, cross-searchable etc. The group also think a UK Forum for Digitisation should take place.

Wider landscape and implication for libraries
  • All Phase 1 and 2 projects will be free at the point of use to UK, HE and FE (via authentication)
  • Some will also be available to schools and public libraries (via authentication)
  • A few will be on completely open access
  • Thematic portals will be a great step forward for enhancing user experience
  • Major challenges re: access and sustainability
  • Even finished/finite projects will need to develop to stay
  • Many projects will want to continue adding content
  • Programme may be able to attract income from wider access overseas
  • Ultimately librarians will probably have to be prepared to pay for licensed access (as with JISC collections)
Jean Sykes concluded that the programme had put the UK at the forefront of global digitisation. HE and FE users will benefit from phase 1 projects already available. But librarians but be ready to promote and at some point subscribe to this type of content.

Q: how do you decide which resources are open access and which are authorized?
A: generally decided by owner of the content not by JISC.

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