Digitization of Library Collection in Developing Countries: The Hezekiah Oluwasanmi Library Experience

Article excerpt

Introduction

Libraries worldwide, especially university libraries are increasingly becoming digital conscious. Hundreds of libraries and allied institutions have been launching projects designed to digitize their collections in response to the global information exchange and for wide outreach. However, the process in the developing countries, Nigeria inclusive, has been very challenging. The digitization project has been slow and expensive. The world over, electronic resources are becoming preferred because of their inherent benefit of wide outreach. As a step forward in making prints in hard copy format available online for our teeming users, it becomes essentially necessary to digitally scan our library materials especially the newspapers, theses and court cases so that many users can gain access to a wide variety of information online.

Digitization refers to all of the steps involved in the process of making collections of historical and other materials available online. In the world of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and globalization, digitization of materials is fast becoming the norm among libraries as each seeks to contribute its quota to the world information resource. Libraries embark on the digitization of their materials for various reasons. Digitization makes library's resources available electronically thereby providing a wider access to its collections. In a networked campus, users can access the library's digitized resources from their offices and halls of residence even when the library is physically closed. Also, as many people as possible can gain access to as much material as needed at any given time, a difficult situation with a text resource.

Furthermore, digitization offers a solution for theft of items especially in developing countries where libraries have no electronic security systems to prevent theft of their collections. It is also a way of preserving aging materials which could have otherwise gone into extinction. It further allows users to search collections rapidly and comprehensively from anywhere at any time. Northwestern University, for instance, uses this to renew and replace on shelf their heavily-used, old and tattered books. The books are digitized, printed, bound and placed back on shelves. And when digitized materials are put on the web, they tend to increase the library's visibility as the users all over the world access the materials. Apart from the machines that act as interfaces, it is now possible to have most library resources stored virtually.

The choice of materials to be digitized depends on the priority of each library but there are widely accepted criteria which are normally applied. These include materials that are on high demand by patrons especially when such materials are available in limited copies or are on restricted access; local and unique materials; items that are of immediate and curricular importance; aging materials that are on high demand by patrons; useful materials that are out of publication; and materials that are difficult to handle (1).

Several websites exist which bring to light the reports of digitization efforts by several libraries all over the world. In the developed world, digitization appears to be moving towards collaborative efforts. The Portal to Texas History (2) reveals contributions to the project by several libraries including academic libraries, public libraries, museums and archives. The site also brings to focus the range of digitized materials such as weekly newspapers, historical materials, photographs of artifacts, maps, photographs of events, businesses and proceedings of the legislature of the State of Texas etc. There is also the Higher Education Resources On-demand (HERON) project which provides a national service for the UK Higher Educational Sector for copyright clearance, digitization and delivery of electronic articles and book extracts and build up a national database and resource bank of electronic texts (3). …