For just over ten grand, you can buy an open-face book scanner that will allow you to photograph and process pages from rare books all in one go (ScanTastik, n.d.). If ten grand seems too much, you could scan the image on the university’s MDF printers and risk damaging a priceless item or take a photo of the page with your phone and contend with distorted, grainy text. If none of these options sound appealing to you, you could build your own digitization tools like we have done here at Thomas Library.
Digitization has become an important concern throughout the library world. Whole departments in libraries and library systems are dedicated to transforming physical books, photos, and documents into digital objects that can be viewed and downloaded almost infinitely. These physical items are prepared using standards set by organizations like the Association for Library Collections and Technical Service (2013), which specify the digital object’s characteristics like the resolution, color scheme, and file format. With digitization, items that were destined to stay in dark archive storage rooms or locked behind display cases are now accessible to the general audience. For this reason, some libraries are willing to outlay thousands of dollars to be able to digitize their collections.
Thomas Library’s digitization tools cost less than $100 for the basic parts you would need to transform a book page or document to a digital object, including the cradle, acrylic platen, and overhead light. Additional tools like the professional-grade camera or image-editing software can either be reserved at the library or downloaded for free. Although rudimentary, these tools would allow you to take images from looking like one in Figure 1 to the one in Figure 2.
Figure 1: Original of article, Hundreds of Books of the late J. S. Crowell were presented to the library by the widow of J. S. Crowell (1922)
Figure 2: New version of article, Hundreds of Books of the late J. S. Crowell were presented to the library by the widow of J. S. Crowell (1922)
Already these tools have been used in an ongoing project to digitization a select number of Torch articles. As we encountered new challenges, we have adapted our tools and methods. Although much improved, Figure 2 has irregular lighting. To resolved this, we have a purchased a lamp with adjustable settings. We hope that these tools will be used in many projects in the future.
Association for Library Collections and Technical Service (2013). Minimum digitization capture recommendations. Retrieved August 8, 2023 from https://www.ala.org/alcts/resources/preserv/minimum-digitization-capture-recommendations#basis
ScanTastik (n.d.). Bookeye book scanners. Retrieved August 8, 2023 from https://www.scantastik.com/hardware/bookeye-scanners/bookeye-scanner-index.html
Wittenberg Torch (1922, February). Hundreds of Books of the late J.S. Crowell were presented to the library by the widow of J.S. Crowell. p. 1.