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Streamlining Photography and Scanning


This working group addressed workflow and policy issues arising from digitizing (and copying) materials from special collections. Specific focus was on scan-on-demand workflow in reading rooms, integration of patron-initiated scans with large-scale digitization and digital library workflow, recommendations for minimum levels of scanning and metadata, and policies for hand-held cameras in reading rooms.


Users of archives and special collections often want copies of original materials after discovering relevant content. Preparation of digital scans, photocopies and photographs can, however, consume a great deal of staff time. Policies and practices vary widely across institutions; these local practices can be both frustrating and confusing for users to understand. In recent years a particular flash point has been the unwillingness of some institutions to allow users to use digital cameras in the reading room in order both to facilitate immediate acquisition of reproductions and to reduce the costs associated with conducting research. In some cases, libraries and archives continue to charge for copies in order to offset lost revenue from duplication services.


Revisiting policies and methods for scanning and other reproductive services can encourage improvements, both in efficient use of staff time and in more effective use of special collections. The images themselves, whether made by staff or by patrons, can populate a digital library and be reused, further improving delivery of collections for use.

This project was created by members of the RLG Partnership. The group surveyed policies, practices and experiences providing surrogates of original research materials. Outcomes include recommendations for best practices for scan-on-demand services, exemplary policies for patron use of digital cameras, and strategies to streamline workflow for patron-initiated reproduction of rare books, archives and special collections.


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Related projects:

Team Members

  • Jennifer Schaffner (lead)
  • Anne Blecksmith (Getty Research Institute)
  • Eleanor Brown (Cornell University)
  • Paul Constantine (University of Washington)
  • Gordon Daines (Brigham Young University)
  • Tiah Edmunson-Morton (Oregon State University)
  • Cristina Favretto (University of Miami)
  • Steven K. Galbraith (Folger Shakespeare Library)
  • Susan Hamson (Columbia University)
  • Rebekah Irwin (Beinecke Library, Yale University)
  • Sue Kunda (Oregon State University)
  • Jennie Levine Knies (University of Maryland)
  • Suzannah Massen (Frick Art Reference Library)
  • Dennis Meissner (Minnesota Historical Society)
  • Elizabeth McAllister (University of Maryland)
  • Lisa Miller (Hoover Institution Library and Archives, Stanford University)
  • Timothy Pyatt (Duke University)
  • Jon Shaw (University of Pennsylvania)
  • Shannon Supple (Robbins Collections, University of California, Berkeley)
  • Francine Snyder (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum)
  • Mattie Taormina (Stanford University)
  • Cherry Williams (Lilly Library, Indiana University)
  • Dennis Massie (OCLC Research)

Most recent updates: Page content: 2012-07-12

For more information

Merrilee Proffitt
Senior Program Officer