Texas Digital Library Conference System, 2017 Texas Conference on Digital Libraries

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I Am Not a Photographer: One Librarian’s Journey Toward Understanding FADGI, Image Quality, and Digitization Best Practices
Shannon Nicole Willis

Last modified: 2017-03-22


In digitization labs that have grown out of library departments, it has become common place for librarians to be tasked with overseeing the imaging and digitization of cultural heritage collections.  While librarians are well trained in library and information science, there can frequently be a gap in their imaging and photography knowledge, making the task of establishing imaging workflows and judging image quality a challenge.  While guidelines for imaging exist, they are not always clear and how best to apply them is not always apparent.  In September of 2016, The Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative (FADGI), the organization who has historically established guidelines for imaging in the United States, issued a new version of their guidelines including a star-rating system for image quality.  But questions still remain as to who is using these guidelines, and how do they apply them if they do.

To attempt to bridge the imaging knowledge gap, and in light of the new FADGI guidelines, the Digital Projects Lab Manager at the University of North Texas (UNT) conducted site visits at over a dozen digitizing institutions across the country.  Institutions included in the study were the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, Crowley Company, Northwestern University, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the University of Maryland, New York Public Library, Yale University, Boston Public Library, MIT, Harvard University, Stanford University, San Francisco Public Library, and the University of California at Berkley.  Funded by an internal grant, the Lab Manager was able to tour each institution’s digitization space and speak with its head of imaging.  In viewing a range of digitization labs and observing a variety of approaches to digitization work, several common threads between institutions became apparent.  From how to best apply FADGI guidelines, to common tools used, to how the best-of-the-best do imaging, many lessons were learned from this research.  With the information gleaned from these institutions, the Digital Lab Manager was able to better outline for her institution the ways imaging at UNT could be improved and offer a number of options for potential future paths forward.  This presentation will illuminate much of what was gleaned from an investigation of various top digitization labs and how it can be applied.


FADGI; image quality; guidelines; digitization; best practices; imaging; quality assurance