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DiSCmap: digitisation of special collections: mapping, assessment, prioritisation. Final project report

Birrell, Duncan and Dobreva, Milena and Dunsire, Gordon and Griffiths, Jillian and Hartley, Richard and Menzies, Kathleen and , JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) (Funder) and , RIN (Research Information Network) (Funder) (2009) DiSCmap: digitisation of special collections: mapping, assessment, prioritisation. Final project report. [Report]

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Traditionally, digitisation has been led by supply rather than demand. While end users are seen as a priority they are not directly consulted about which collections they would like to have made available digitally or why. This can be seen in a wide range of policy documents throughout the cultural heritage sector, where users are positioned as central but where their preferences are assumed rather than solicited. Post-digitisation consultation with end users is equally rare. How are we to know that digitisation is serving the needs of the Higher Education community and is sustainable in the long-term? The 'Digitisation in Special Collections: mapping, assessment and prioritisation' (DiSCmap) project, funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and the Research Information Network (RIN), aimed to: - Identify priority collections for potential digitisation housed within UK Higher Education's libraries, archives and museums as well as faculties and departments. - Assess users' needs and demand for Special Collections to be digitised across all disciplines. - Produce a synthesis of available knowledge about users' needs with regard to usability and format of digitised resources. - Provide recommendations for a strategic approach to digitisation within the wider context and activity of leading players both in the public and commercial sector. The project was carried out jointly by the Centre for Digital Library Research (CDLR) and the Centre for Research in Library and Information Management (CERLIM) and has taken a collaborative approach to the creation of a user-driven digitisation prioritisation framework, encouraging participation and collective engagement between communities. Between September 2008 and March 2009 the DiSCmap project team asked over 1,000 users, including intermediaries (vocational users who take care of collections) and end users (university teachers, researchers and students) a variety of questions about which physical and digital Special Collections they make use of and what criteria they feel must be considered when selecting materials for digitisation. This was achieved through workshops, interviews and two online questionnaires. Although the data gathered from these activities has the limitation of reflecting only a partial view on priorities for digitisation - the view expressed by those institutions who volunteered to take part in the study - DiSCmap was able to develop: - a 'long list' of 945 collections nominated for digitisation both by intermediaries and end-users from 70 HE institutions (see p. 21); - a framework of user-driven prioritisation criteria which could be used to inform current and future digitisation priorities; (see p. 45) - a set of 'short lists' of collections which exemplify the application of user-driven criteria from the prioritisation framework to the long list (see Appendix X): o Collections nominated more than once by various groups of users. o Collections related to a specific policy framework, eg HEFCE's strategically important and vulnerable subjects for Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics. o Collections on specific thematic clusters. o Collections with highest number of reasons for digitisation.