Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Considerations before weeding print in favor of digital

Government Documents librarian James Jacobs has posted a reminder on the govdocs website that all libraries should bear in mind as we are pressured to weed our print collections.  He says please take these four things into account:
 1. Do you actually have access to a digital copy? Note, for example, that some documents in the HathiTrust are fully available only to HathiTrust members. http://www.hathitrust.org/help_digital_library#Download
 2. Are the digital copies you expect to rely on complete and accurate? Many are not. See the article in D-Lib: "The Digital-Surrogate Seal ofApproval: a Consumer-oriented Standard." by James A. Jacobs and James R. Jacobs. D-Lib Magazine, 2013, 19(3/4).
 3. Do the digital copies you intend to rely on match the needs of your users? Not all digital copies are created or delivered equally. For example, Have they been OCR'd? Is the OCR text searchable? Can you copy the OCR text? Are numbers in tables preserved in the OCR text? Was the original a large-format or did it contain images, color, fold-outs, maps, etc., and are those as legible and as easy to use as the original? Do your users expect to use digital books in a different way from paper (textual analysis? convert to ebooks? read on tablets? use text-to-voice? etc.) and do the digital copies you intend to rely on meet the needs of your users?
 4. Finally, providing digital copies for enhancing access and use is a good thing, but please do not assume that it is necessarily a good idea to discard paper copies once digital copies are available. Print copies were made to be used in print (size, layout, accessibility, visual context, etc.). Digital copies of those may or may not adequately preserve that same usability and accessibility and few digitization projects take the time to remake the paper into a fully functional digital object designed to be consumed digitally. The preservation of these valuable paper copies will continue to be important unless and until many questions can be adequately addressed (http://freegovinfo.info/node/3961). Discarding paper prematurely, without ensuring the long-term preservation of these historic documents would be contrary to the spirit of the FDLP and would not serve either your constituents or the nation.

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