A Review of Digitisation Projects in Local Authority Libraries and Archives

The Library and Information Commission has published its review of digitisation and digitisation projects in local authority libraries and archives as Virtually New - Creating the Digital Collection. On 9th February, 1998 the findings of the Review were presented to an invited audience drawn from the Commission's Research Committee and the International Committee, and, from the Department for Culture Media and Sport and the British Library Research and Innovation Centre.

Virtually New addresses a key issue in the Commission’s 20/20 Vision statement and New Library: the People's Network to support the enabling of a digital library collection in which the UK’s heritage of intellectual property will be available at the local, regional, national and global level. In addition, the national educational policy contexts of the National Grid for Learning informed the research.

Virtually New provides:

It is the KEY RECOMMENDATION of Virtually New that there is a need for a central source of expertise in digitisation in the public library sector. Such a resource would identify current standards and best practice and avoid duplication of effort. The core functions of this central source would be:

The central source could have other operational roles such as:

The central source should operate contractually within the framework of implementation strategies determined for New Library - The People's Network. The core functions need to be co-ordinated on a national level but appropriate functions and services could be delivered on a regional basis. The central source should be public library focused but its services chould be available to other local authority cultural departments including archives and museums, as appropriate.

Other key recommendations highlighted in Virtually New refer to:

Margaret Haines, Chief Executive of the Library and Information Commission, notes that:

"It has been a busy and exciting exercise for the many contributors to Virtually New. It will undoubtedly inform decision making at many levels in creating the digital library collections for the next millennium. Virtually New is an introduction to a number of important issues which surround the digitisation of library content, particularly copyright and standards. Virtually New's Directory of Digitisation Projects, Bibliography and URL list will lead the reader to an informed awareness of how to tackle the digitisation of content."

A Word version of the complete Review is available to download from the Internet. A 4-page summary will be published in March, 1998 for wide dissemination and it will be available, free, from the Commission. The 4-page summary will also be made available on the Internet.

The Executive Summary of the Review is attached as an Appendix.


THE REVIEW began on 15th August, 1997 and the 5 month project reported to the Commission’s Research Committee on 15th January, 1998.

THE STEERING GROUP was chaired by Michael Breaks (Librarian, Heriot-Watt University) and comprised Ian McGowan (Librarian, National Library of Scotland), John Dolan (Birmingham City Library), Stephanie Kenna (Research Analyst, BLRIC) and Dick Sargent (National Register of Archives).

RESEARCH for Virtually New was carried out by Information North, the Development Agency for Library and Information Services in the Northern Region of England.

THE INFORMATION NORTH RESEARCH TEAM was led by Project Director, Bill Macnaught (Director of Libraries and Arts, Gateshead), Project Manager Michael Long (Manager, Information North) and Project Consultant David Parry.


Virtually New - Creating the Digital Collection : a review of digitisation projects in local authority libraries and archives. Final Report to the Library and Information Commission. Prepared by Consultants to the Review, Information North. Report by David Parry. Library and Information Commission. London. 1998. 129 pages. A4 Comb Binding. ISBN 1 902394 00 3. £15.45 (inc. UK post & packaging; international at cost).

Available From: Information North, Bolbec Hall, Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, England NE1 1SE Tel: ++ (0)191 232 0877 Fax: ++(0)191 232 0804 E-mail:

WORD file Virtually New can be downloaded complete from:

4-Page Summary

Available free from the Library and Information Commission, 2 Sheraton Street, London WC1V 4BH. Tel: 0171 411 0059. Fax: 0171 411 0057.


Margaret Haines Library and Information Commission, 2 Sheraton Street, London WC1V 4BH. Tel: 0171 411 0059. Fax: 0171 411 0057.



Michael Long Information North, Bolbec Hall, Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 1SE. Tel: 0191 232 0877. Fax: 0191 232 0804


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