The question ‘why digitise’ is the real strategic one, rather than ‘how would we digitise.’ For our libraries to digitise (and by that we mean become full digital entities, not only sponsors of specific projects), our universities also need to share that vision. One of the myths surrounding the word digitisation is that it is an activity associated with the humanities. To digitise no longer solely means photographing historic materials. To digitise now has meaning for all parts of the library and the university it serves, just as it now means something different to almost all other sectors in the contemporary workplace – the word digitise could be said now to mean ‘acting in the digital age’ .

Christopher Pressler, National Digitisation Review

The digitisation of physical objects offers key strategic benefits to research libraries. The existence of digital surrogates allows for scholars and students who are not able to visit the host institution to access and investigate resources that would otherwise be unavailable to them. Preservation of rare and fragile material may be enhanced as readers who only need access to the contents no longer handle the original objects. If the digital surrogate satisfies the vast majority of users then the original object may be stored off-campus, so liberating key on-campus ‘real estate’ for other purposes. Finally, the existence of large-scale digital and digitised collections allows for new types of scholarship based on text and data mining.

Considering the strategic importance of digitisation to research and researchers it is surprising how little coordinated digitisation has taken place within the UK and Ireland. As part of discussions around the formation of the current RLUK strategic plan, we asked Christopher Pressler, Dublin City University, to prepare a briefing piece on the current state of digitisation in the UK and Ireland and potential futures. We are pleased to be able to publish the paper now and give it the wider audience it deserves.

As part of the current RLUK strategy we will pursue issues raised within the briefing paper, both directly and with national and international partners, and work towards a more strategic view of digitisation.

David Prosser
RLUK Executive Director


Download the NDR paper