Re my original query posted on the 15th January:
"For those who have undertaken digitisation projects in the past 5 years or so, I'm interested in surveying the extent to which archival bodies decide to outsource versus undertake digitisation in-house. It would be much appreciated if you could please respond off-list and indicate which option you chose and, if agreeable, a brief reason as to why outsourcing or in-house means were preferred."
While I'm very grateful for the helpful comments received, I didn't collect extensive enough feedback to make a generalisation about the highly preferred method for undertaking digitisation. [Some links to useful mapping reports about 'Digitisation in the UK' are however included at the end of this posting].
As promised, please see below, an anonymised summary of the comments received:
"For bigger projects, XXXXX has generally preferred to outsource -
a) uses expertise already available;
b) quicker/simpler to organise than doing it internally;
c) can use existing budget or one off project funding
For ad hoc low-number jobs we scan in-house, but try to use the professional photographers XXXX employs because get a better quality end-product than an archivist only doing scanning work occasionally."
"I'd recommend doing it in-house. You then have the equipment to use as you like. We received a grant to buy the equipment and now have an enthusiastic band of volunteers who keep the project going. We can also provide digital copies to users on demand. This way probably requires more supervision than outsourcing, but having the equipment in-house is so useful we're confident we made the right decision for us. "
"[Decided on] out-sourcing - ... on the basis of major projects, not small scale digitisation.
It avoids capital investment (and problems with obsolescence) and the assets are worked harder by bureaux than they would be by archive services; we don't have space; out-sourcing saves us management time and is more readily susceptible to gaining grant aid.
By way of example our proposed xxxx digi project would be out-sourced at 25% of the cost of in-house.
PS: The point about working assets hard is, I think, one of the key things archives haven't got to grips with. If you look at a typical archive service with (say) a conservation workshop and a digitisation suite, I bet any given piece of equipment is only working 30% of the time, absolute maximum, over a period of time. Generally it's high cost kit designed to work 24/7 so the unit costs of conservation and digitisation are loaded with unnecessary costs to amortise the investment - and even if this isn't how it's accounted for it's what's happening ... "
"For our xxxxxx project we worked in-house. I wasn't here at the planning stages, but I suppose it was for the security of material; many of the [items] were fairly large, therefore difficult to transport and susceptible to damage; the material was fairly voluminous (between 10 and 15,000 [items]).
"I recommended that we do the digitisation in-house. The main reason for this is the cost, which depends on the size of the project. Ours will be 30,000 [items], which will take around 2 years. I have suggested a set up and running costs budget of £150,000, but it would have cost a lot more to out-source it. But also, after our project is complete, we will still have the equipment, skills and resources to put into other projects, so I suppose that was a major factor too."
"We decided to out source digitisation for a HLF funded project to catalogue and digitise a proportion of XXXXX collection, since the project length was initially only two years, with no provision for further funding of the archivist post. It was decided to out source the digitisation to cut the cost (i.e. rather than buying expensive equipment that would be un-used after two years), and to allow more time for other elements of the project. We used [an external provider], who brought their equipment to work on site, rather than transporting material. However, it was subsequently possible to extend the length of the project, and further funding is currently being applied for, which would include the purchase of a scanner for further digitisation. This would allow more flexibility in digitisation (rather than having to select everything in advance), and would also mean that scanning could be done on request when enquiries are received."
I recently came across two key reports funded by JISC that colleagues may also be interested in viewing:
"Digitised content in the UK research library and archives sector" (study carried out between 1 November 2004 and 7 March 2005)
For example, this report includes a statistical results table titled 'Reasons: outsourcing or digitising in-house'
"Digitisation in the UK: the case for a UK framework" (2005) -
For example, this report notes: "Commercial collaboration is also evident in the digital landscape and most frequently takes the form of outsourced digitisation. Loughborough found that outsourcing was often done because the expertise, equipment and staff were lacking on site."
"Digitisation: To Outsource or Not?" - helpful guidance note produced by the Technical Advisory Service for Images (TASI)
Best wishes in your endeavours!
Digital Archives Group
University of London Computer Centre
20 Guilford St.
London WC1N 1DZ
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7692 1353
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7692 1234