Digitisation: Costs and Sustainability


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Presentation given at Digitisation Doctor, Wellcome Library, 15 April 2013.

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  • Return to Simon’s introduction: IT DEPENDS- what you have, what you are trying to do with itCosts associated with a whole host of activities, well beyond “item on scanner”Management—some one-off, some on-going part of programme of workContent creation—all detail of workflows we’ve heard about todayOnce you have digital content—whole set of other problems (how to provide access, how to sustain that access over time)Approach costs from 3 angles…Digitisation is likely to be a small, perhaps growing part, of any organisation that already funds a wide variety of activities.Digital is emerging as an extension to these activities, so you must be clear about what must be funded that is different, and where you can rely on existing resources.(This might mean people’s time. It might mean IT infrastructure.)But the important point–know what is involved in every aspect of supporting digitisation, and make sure you understand how it is funded.If someone asks the question in the future (why is my staff member working on this? or why is our storage full of all these TIFF files?) the answer “I assumed it was taken care of” may not get the response you are looking for.Of course, this is about pragmatism as well. Presumably it is unlikely that you will be asked to takes things like building or estates costs into account (although it can and does happen).But what about electricity to run servers? Network bandwidth? IT infrastructure? Scanning equipment? Etc. etc.Very important to know what you are relying on, and anticipate how that might change over time. (e.g. storage increases)
  • If working in an environment with multiple funding sources, be very clear about what funding source is paying for what activity.If you are seeking funding (internally or externally) you must be clear about what that will AND WILL NOT pay for.Don’t find your ability to continue a core activity under threat because a funding source expires.What constitutes a core activity is for you to define.
  • Perhaps the most important cost question to consider is: what happens after the project when the money runs out?Incidentally, this is when you really find out who pays for what!
  • Ithaka summarise some of the ongoing requirements in a nice hierarchy.All projects or content will require a baseline of support.There may well be additional activities which will contribute towards the long-term sustainability of the content you produce.
  • A longer list of the kind of activities that may need to be resourced in the long term.Notice that actually producing content is a very small component.
  • To return to the “why” – sustainability is about impact.If you understand your users and deliver value for them then resourcing activities is an easier case to make.This is the flip-side of cost – what you achieve by making the investment.Impact measurement is, I would argue, still relatively immature. There are good resources out there and these are two of the best, but developing your own suite of metrics is important as you think about the longer-term nature of digitisation at your institution.
  • My contention, that the long-term is about an organisational attitude towards digital – how core are these activities to your mission and strategy?To what extent is your organisation willing to invest in skills and infrastructure to support digital?How much will your senior managers core-fund?
  • Building skills and keeping them.Able to focus on a known range of format types.You have time to implement processes and develop efficiencies.You have enough stuff to make this worthwhile.Maybe you are working in new areas and need to do R&D to work out how (probably unlikely).Perhaps it is just easy to make certain kinds of business case in your institution (e.g. staff budget underspends, or IT capital underspends)
  • Capital cost for equipment purchase, high-end equipment often comes with a yearly maintenance contract.Building skills, especially in volunteers, is relatively expensive, until you achieve efficient processes.Are you digitising a range of material that needs different equipment (flat bed, camera, specialist film, large-format, book cradles, etc.)Are you really digitising enough stuff on an ongoing basis to justify the investment in capacity?How will that change over time?
  • You need skills and experience, and you need them now.You have a range of different collections and can’t hope to implement skills and equipment for them all.You have a relatively small amount of time or material. Or, you have a lot (out-sourcing can work in both situations)You can specify the standards for handling and production very clearly, rather than expect a long process of investigation (most likely you will need to do this up front if necessary)Perhaps it is easier to make the case for a capital investment rather than staff and equipment maintenance.PRAGMATICS!!
  • What support do you need to manage the suppliers?Can you write a good spec, if you leave something unclear or non-specific it is not the suppliers fault.Do you have to work with finance dept? How do you locate and assess suppliers?Can you specific quality criteria and how will you measure them?Are you likely to need to source suppliers regularly, how does this work for procurement?How is your collection best divided, and how do you match suppliers?
  • LSE: no space, diversity of content, now making space but still planning to bring in external suppliers to fill it, as that is how we expect to achieve the greatest efficiency.
  • Quick pause, here’s a pretty picture to look at.And now I’ll attempt to summarise all of this in the last couple of minutes.
  • There are as many cost models as people who have ever tried to cost a digital lifecycle with any degree of seriousness.The learning – the models depend almost entirely on local assumptions.The lesson – know your institution, your funding sources, the responsibilities, and the business cases you will have to make.
  • Digitisation: Costs and Sustainability

    1. 1. Digitisation DoctorWellcome Trust, 13 April 2013Ed Fay, Digital Library Managere.fay@lse.ac.uk | @digitalfayDigitisation: Costs andSustainability
    2. 2. Costs of Digitisationwhat will it cost you?nature of the originalstypes of contentpurpose and user needs…it depends!
    3. 3. Costs of DigitisationManagementplanning, fundraising, procurement, user studies, copyrightContent creationhandling, preparation, scanning, metadata, workflowsAccess provisionuser studies, system maintenancePreservationstorage replacement, format management
    4. 4. Costs of DigitisationMain questions:Who funds what.Short-term vs long-term.In-house vs out-source.
    5. 5. Who funds what?Be explicit.“Many projects draw some formof host support, but it is notbudgeted or guaranteed.”(Ithaka, 2013)
    6. 6. Who funds what?GrantsContributions from partner organisationsCore budget from your institutionIn-kind supportEarned income (revenue from sponsorship,advertising, subscriptions)Donations or individual philanthropy(Ithaka, 2013)
    7. 7. Short-term vs long-termWhat happens afterthe project?Budget spent.Skilled staff leave.No money, thousands of images.
    8. 8. Sustainability(Ithaka, 2013)
    9. 9. SustainabilityProject managementMarketing and outreachContent selectionLegal servicesContent production (eg scanning, metadata creation)Financial and accounting servicesInformation technology and support services (eg serverspace, tech support, upgrades, etc)Indirect costs (eg office space, supplies)Digital preservationOther (please describe)
    10. 10. Sustainability= impactUnderstand your users.Demonstrate value.
    11. 11. Sustainabilityis about how far youare willing to integratedigital attitudes intoyour organisation
    12. 12. In-house vs out-sourceReasons for in-house:Skills retention.Few format types.Long timescales.Very small or high volume.Research and development.Can fund staff and/or equipment.
    13. 13. In-house vs out-sourceThings to think about:Equipment purchase and maintenance.Skills development (training).Diversity of content.Capacity and throughput.Future demand (or lack of it).
    14. 14. In-house vs out-sourceReasons for out-source:Skills recruitment.Variety of format types.Short or long timescales.Low or high volume.Known specification.Can fund capital spend.
    15. 15. In-house vs out-sourceThings to think about:In-house support.Spec writing.Tendering or procurement.Quality criteria.Recurrence.Diversity of format types.
    16. 16. In-house vs out-sourceLast few years at LSE:19thC and 20thC bound volumes. 19thC manuscripts (looseleaf and bound). 20thC newspapers. Glass plate negatives.Nitrate/acetate/35mm negatives. Photographic prints andalbums. Large format maps. Posters. Pamphlets. Badges andpostcards. 3D objects (plates, purses, boxes).Worked with around a dozen different suppliers,each bringing the right equipment and experience.
    17. 17. Quick pause.
    18. 18. (LSE)Funding Function SkillsProject Content creation Out-sourceLibrarySystems/UXIn-houseCurationServers/StorageInstitutionNetworkEstates/Electricity
    19. 19. (Wellcome)Funding Function SkillsLibraryContent creationOut-sourceSystems/UXCurationIn-houseInstitutionServers/StorageNetworkEstates/Electricity
    20. 20. Short-term Long-termUser studies Requirements gathering On-going engagementCopyrightNoneNoneRights clearanceMetadata Description Technical/PreservationImage capture Scanning (+ conservation?) None (rescan)WorkflowAutomated (e.g. batch OCR)None(reprocess)Manual (e.g. transcription)StorageInitial capacity (incl backups)Maintenance/cloud accessCapacity increaseReplacement cycleOnline access Commercial or open-sourceUX updatesSystem replacementDigital preservation Planning (e.g. standards) Actions (interventions) ???Costs of digitisationLow Medium High
    21. 21. Cost models17 different cost models for digital preservationhttp://wiki.opf-labs.org/display/CDP/Home“We worked hard to tackle this particularchallenge in LIFE3, and based on theevaluation project that followed, we almostcompletely failed.”(Wheatley, 2012)
    22. 22. Costs of DigitisationThe golden rule for costreduction is to look at everystage that requires humanintervention and either removeit, reduce it or make it asefficient as possible.(Minerva, 2006)
    23. 23. Costs of DigitisationMethods to reduce cost:1) Reduce the cost of labour;2) Automate to reduce levels of human intervention in digitalconversion and metadata creation;3) Select and prepare originals to enable higher volumes andreduce variation in the workflow;4) Increase overall performance and throughput to make themost efficient use of capital expenditure; and5) Continuous improvement and optimisation through rigorousquality assurance.(Minerva, 2006)
    24. 24. “Stewardship is easy andinexpensive to claim; it isexpensive and difficult tohonor, and perhaps it willprove to be all too easy tolater abdicate.”(Lynch, 2003)
    25. 25. Cost everything.Even if you don’t have to cash fund it now, youmay have to make the case in the future.Plan for the long-term.Think about what happens after the project.At the extreme, this is about repositioningthe organisation to make digital part of yourbusiness-as-usual.Final thoughts
    26. 26. ReferencesSustaining our Digital Future: Institutional Strategies for Digital Content(Ithaka, 2013)Handbook on Cost Reduction in Digitisation(Minerva, 2006)Rapid Capture: Faster Throughput in Digitization of Special Collections(OCLC, 2011)Toolkit for the Impact of Digitised Scholarly Resources (TIDSR)(Oxford Internet Institute, 2011)Balanced Value Impact Model(Tanner, Kings College Digital, 2013)
    27. 27. Ed Fay, Digital Library Managere.fay@lse.ac.uk | @digitalfay?