With COVID-19 effectively shutting down most public institutions to visitors, libraries have especially come under significant strain. The keystone of libraries’ success is the reliance on patrons utilizing materials for personal use or research, as well as leading community-oriented classes and workshops--both of which require in-person attendance. However, some libraries have turned to digital technologies to conquer such challenges. Specifically, many libraries have begun to digitize and distribute high-demand materials for online access. One of the many ways that libraries are adapting to fit new norms is through the digitization of content. This provides many benefits for patrons and institutions alike.
Functioning as a free public space, many libraries are frequented by many people daily--making them a hotspot for potential COVID transmission. And with many people furloughed, working from home, and self-quarantining, demand for books has vastly increased. To handle the vast swathe of library content requests, and an ever-growing demand for materials, many libraries have turned to digitization as a means of distribution.
The capturing and digitization of content is incredibly important to preserving the history and individual stories of world events, cultures, and personal lives of those living through each moment. Libraries are tasked with storing and preserving history for future use, but physical archives do have a shelf life. However, digital documents can be passed on, converted, and replicated as much as needed to preserve history and its events.
Libraries can utilize microfilm and book scanning equipment to create digital replicas of physical content, and publish it to their websites or Document Content Library (DCL) hosting sites. To prevent digital piracy and illegal distribution of content, libraries may create digital ‘checkouts’ or waitlists (such as Hennepin County’s OverDrive), limiting the amount of PDF’s that are already in circulation. Additionally, library staff may be able to create request sites or lines, where customers can request certain films or fiches to be scanned and digitized for at-home access.
Image Access’ Bookeye 5 Book Scanner can be utilized by library staff to efficiently scan and convert books into digital versions. The scanner comes equipped with a digital interface for easy settings adjustment, laser-assisted fold correction for accurate scan quality, and a customizable v-shaped book cradle for the highest-quality scans. In addition to these features, the scanner’s imaging hardware is capable of up to 600dpi, full-color scans at up to 25 pages a minute. Once scanning is complete, the scanner can export digital content via onboard USB ports, file transfer protocols, printers, or email for convenient access. It even features a Scan2Pad app-compatible interface, which allows scans to be viewed and altered within Image Access’ mobile app, Scan2Pad. Utilizing an FTP process can greatly expedite uploading and distribution of files to a DCL cloud service.
For large-scale prints of maps, blueprints, newspaper archives, and other general oversized media, both Canon and Image Access also offer wide-format scanning systems. Image Access’ WideTEK range offers scanners in a variety of sizes, ranging from 36” to 60” wide documents. WideTEK systems offer similar features as the Bookeye 5, including high-resolution scans, USB ports for export, and digital FTP and email file distribution services via the Scan2Net or Scan2Pad apps.
Libraries looking for a shared DCL platform that can quickly provide users with content should consider enrolling in OverDrive. OverDrive hosts library content within their site, and provides content to patrons of enrolled libraries, so long as they hold a library card at that institution. They also offer audiobooks, newspapers, and magazines--just as a physical library would. So long as the library holds the book on their shelf, they are allowed to host a digital version of that book. Certain limitations apply, such as format standardization and limited availability of certain content.
However, institutions that would like to create and supply patrons with firsthand content scans and specific editions of materials should choose to utilize their own DCL, rather than assimilate with systems such as OverDrive. Some institutions, such as the University of Minnesota, opt to create their own DCL hosting platforms to manage and distribute their personal digital content, as to provide students with specific digital content (such as scientific papers, legal briefs, schematics, etc) that may not be readily available on places like OverDrive.
Libraries are one of the remaining spaces that keep microfilm available for the public access. With the inability for many to visit their public library at the moment, this makes browsing through microfilm and distributing it digitally a difficulty. Luckily the ScanPro Microfilm scanners can be used with Remote Access software. These microfilm scanners can be implemented for in-person use by library staff for quick and accurate film scanning or controlled remotely by patrons and researchers using the ScanPro Remote Access software.
The software is a free, at-home solution that allows users to connect to open scanner systems within institutions and control the scanning and viewing of microfilm/fiches. This alleviates the need for patrons to attend in-person, further reducing the chances of COVID transmission between patrons or staff.
While in-person attendance to library institutions has been significantly limited by COVID-19, administration teams have still found ways to provide for patrons virtually. By harnessing the power of products like the e-ImageData ScanPro, and accompanying Scanpro Remote Access software, digital visitors can utilize the archives to their best potential. Providing quality access to free information retains significant importance to the wellbeing and education of a community, and thankfully technologies can be implemented to further assist in overcoming the COVID pandemic. Even though physical library access is limited, library staff have still found effective ways of retaining important roles within the community and providing for the public.
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