Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Digitization vs. Microfilm

Late in Double Fold Baker addresses the issue of digitization of library materials as a replacement for microfilming. He does not give this subject as lengthy or detailed a treatment as he does microfilming, perhaps because digital reformatting was not yet as important as it has since become. Double Fold was published in 2001, the same year that the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections (UWDC) were established.

Given Baker's opinions on microfilm, how do you think he would feel about digital reformatting today? How do YOU feel about digital reformatting today? Does it have any particular strengths or weaknesses when compared to microfilm, or to print-and-paper books?

If you don't have much experience with digital collections, visit the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections and see what the UWDCC has put online.

Full disclosure: I've worked for the UWDCC for about a year and a half. I'll be talking a bit more about this on Thursday.


Brendan said...

I think digital collections have numerous advantages over microfilm, chief among them being the ability to actually read the text. Obviously, Baker would not have the knowledge of what digitizing means to us today; that technology simply wasn't available even five years ago. Digital collections are frequently searchable and OCR readings are getting better and better. Plus, materials can be copied in full color (I believe), whereas microfilm basically ruined any pictures that may have been in newspapers.

As another post mentioned, newspapers aren't really meant to last forever. Their flimsy paper tears easily and fades over time. If accurate representations of newspapers can be created through digitization, it would help libraries save greater quantities of them. But it is nice to have the actual papers and books as well. nobody likes reading off a computer screen for too long.

Kacie said...

I think digital reformatting is wonderful. While I can see Baker's points on microfilm, digitization, I feel, is completely different, specifically in its quality. I agree with Brendan that the searchability of digital collections is also a huge benefit. While I can see the benefit some people see in preserving the actual paper (you could argue you aren't getting the true newspaper reading 'experience' unless you are physically holding the paper) I think the content should be considered most important and if digitizing it works and lets us preserve years and years of information, let's do it.

Eileen H. said...
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Eileen H. said...

I agree with what Brendan wrote in terms of the advantages of digital collections. I would add that often digitizing items and putting them into a digital collection can reunite items that are related, but are held by different libraries. Also, given that more and more people rely on electronic sources for their information and are used to obtaining information quickly, digital collections have the advantage over print collections in terms of speed of access.