In the context of mass digitization, BnF outsources digitization to specialist service providers by way of procurement contracts.
BnF has changed its approach from one of systematically checking the quality of digitized materials before they are placed online to one of managing the quality of the service providers with whom it partners.
Digitization at BnF involves multiple operators working on heritage collections mainly characterized by their great diversity and heritage value.
Original documents are processed via one of three distinct channels:
- Printed materials: current or more rare printed materials. This channel covers monographs and periodicals (books and journals).
- Press: daily, national, and local press. Scientific periodicals are processed with printed materials.
- Graphic materials: this channel covers iconography in its true sense (prints, photographs, maps, coins and medals, etc.), together with printed materials held in BnF’s Rare Books Reserve (Réserve des livres rares) and particularly precious printed materials held by other departments, as well as manuscripts.
A channel refers to a set of processes attached to the physical constraints associated with the original medium of a digitized document; these constraints impact the choice of digitization equipment and associated quality rules.
For these three document types or channels, digitization is undertaken by service providers which are either internal
(studios) or external
(subcontractors). More than 80% of documents are digitized by external service providers.
Studios and subcontractors are tasked with digitizing documents and structuring data. Optical character recognition (OCR) and the inputting of tables of contents and indexes are undertaken exclusively by subcontractors.
The process that begins with a document being selected and ends with its being consulted via Gallica (or in the library’s reading rooms only) involves a wide range of operators:
- fourteen collections departments which select and scientifically monitor the library’s digitization programs
- the Cooperation Department, involved in partnerships and the editorial promotion of digital collections (records, current events, etc.)
- the Preservation Services Department, and in particular the Digitization Service, which incepts, implements, monitors, and controls all projects and makes recommendations on document preservation; it also has three internal digitization studios
- the Information Systems Department, which places documents online, is responsible for technical management of the Gallica site, and operates the long-term preservation system for digitized documents (SPAR)
- the Bibliographic and Digital Information Department, which is involved in instructions relating to metadata and archiving systems
There are also external service providers.
The operating methods and procedures arising from this wide variety of operators, channels, and projects are made all the more complex by the fact that the volume of printed materials (monographs and periodicals) digitized has risen in the space of a few years from 5-6,000 a year to 100,000 a year over the period 2008-2010.
Methods and procedures laid down for the project to digitize 100,000 printed materials over three years are in the process of being adapted to suit all channels, thus enabling the library to significantly increase its efficiency without any corresponding increase in resources.