Working with Vendors When Digitizing Newspapers

Choosing the right vendor for the job can save a lot of headaches. When you are planning either the creation of duplicate negative film from microfilm masters OR scanning from original paper or microfilm, please keep in mind that all vendors are not equal.   Time spent finding the one that meets your requirements at the beginning of the process will save you a lot of trouble down the road.

Select a Vendor Who:
  • Is technologically proficient in the work you nee
  • Will follow your specifications   (file types, metadata, quality, turnaround, etc.)
  • Will deliver on schedule
To Determine Which Vendors Can Do the Above, Choose One Who:
  • Has references
  • Will send you samples demonstrating that they can meet your specifications
  • Can tell you exactly how your materials will be handled, transported, stored, safeguarded, etc.
To Protect Yourself, Be Sure to Actually Contract: 
  • Quality Control Processes      
  • Consequences for Failure to Deliver that Quality
  • Safe handling of your papers or film, including types of packaging, mode of shipment, insurance, etc.
Business Models Regarding Costs, Access, & Final Ownership of the Digital Images:

A. The model provided by commercial publishers of digital content who sell subscriptions to digital aggregations to libraries.  If they think that your titles will contribute to the attractiveness of a large package of digitized newspapers and will increase the value of product that they want to sell to libraries, they may offer to digitize at no cost to you, give you a set of images on a hard drive that you can use in-house at your library, and allow you—after an embargo period of 3-5 years—to mount those images on the open web. That is, you retain ownership but must refrain from using the images in a way that interferes with the publisher’s ability to recoup their expenses and make a profit for a stipulated time period. This model may be undergoing changes unfavorable to libraries due to market pressures, so do not assume anything when approached by such a company.

B. The model used by vendors whose main business is performing the film duplication for digitization for you in return for direct payment.  A vendor may offer to digitize your newspaper(s) for a price per page and, as part of the contract, agree to mount the images on a server that you and your patrons can access freely on the web. You pay out of pocket. You retain ownership and can immediately have the images available on the open web. Please keep in mind, however, that very low prices per page might mean that the type of digital files you receive in return may not be adequate for preservation purposes. They may not have enough data to insure that successful migration to new formats by a digital repository in which they are held.  Make a point to know for sure what kind of files you are receiving and if they meet preservation standards.

The publishing market and digitization industry is under a great deal of financial pressure so you might find that these models are being modified. Don’t assume anything! 

Copyright & Permissions

Specifications for Digitizing Newspapers

Selecting Microfilm for Digitization

Sources of Grant Funding