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FAQ: Montana State Library Digitization Project


Scanned by Internet Archive
Scanned by Internet Archive

Why is MSL digitizing its state publications?
The majority of state employees and Montana citizens live and work outside of Helena. Digitization makes state publications accessible to everyone with Internet service, anywhere, anytime from any place. Digitization increases awareness of the rich information contained in state publications and opens up new research possibilities. Also, digital access reduces wear and tear on print versions of state publications. Digitization also protects the information in state publications from loss should an earthquake, fire, or water damage the print collection housed at the library.

What if I prefer to use the print publications?
All online state publications may be printed, saved, emailed, etc. Use them as you prefer. Once digitized, printed state publications of historical significance are available at the Montana Historical Society Research Center. The Montana Historical Society staff has the expertise to insure proper care of these historical documents. The MHS Library is located in the Historical Society Museum one block west of the MSL.

What is digitization?
It is the process of converting information from an analog format like print, VHS, microform, or audio cassettes to a digital format. Print state publications are digitally photographed page by page. These photographed images are then subjected to optical character recognition (OCR). OCR is a type of software that reads text from print images. The text is then used to make the document searchable by keyword.

How many print publications need to be digitized?
There are an estimated 37,000+ items in the MSL state publications print collection. Some items are second copies or already exist in digital format. Therefore, not all 37,000 items need to be digitized. During this process, MSL also expects to identify and acquire missing print publications that were never received from state agency publishers.

How long will it take?
A minimum of five years is anticipated.

In what order are the state publications being digitized?
Our pilot project digitized the 200 oldest publications from the 1870s and the 200 most circulated publications. The ongoing digitization project is moving from the beginning of the collection to the end in Dewey decimal classification order.

Other than scan-on-request, who is performing the digitization?
Montana State Library has contracted with the Internet Archive Indicates External Site to digitize the majority of print state publications collection. No publications are destroyed in the digitization process. Publications are returned to MSL in the same condition as they were sent.

How are digital state publications preserved from loss?
The Internet Archive permanently stores the files for our digital state publications on their web servers at sites in San Francisco, California, Amsterdam, Netherlands and Alexandria, Egypt. The MSL downloads these same digital files from the Internet Archive and stores them on our SAN (storage area network) which is backed up on magnetic tape. Furthermore, the MSL uploads these same files to our digital repository called the Montana Memory Project on web servers located in Ohio, which are also backed up. This digital repository meets an ISO (International Standards Organization) archiving standard called OAIS (Open Archival Information System). MSL is working to develop our own local archive for digital masters. Possibilities include LOCKSS or the OCLC Digital Archive. The purpose of this archive would be to enable staff to restore publications lost or damaged through public access.

How does MSL assure quality control for its digital objects?
MSL contracts with the Internet Archive Indicates External Site. The Internet Archive is an internationally-recognized digitization leader. They guarantee that each scanned publication is checked by their staff through a rigorous quality control process. This process was recently vetted in a white paper published by the Council on Library and Information Resources Indicates External Site and the Internet Archive are found to be among the best scanning resources available. See that article here: Preservation in the Age of Large-Scale Digitization Indicates External Site. Additionally, MSL staff checks the scanned files at random. Problem digital files are rescanned.

  • Montana State Library
  • P.O. Box 201800, 1515 East 6th Avenue
  • Helena, MT 59620-1800
  • Phone: (406) 444-3115
  • Fax: (406) 444-0266
  • msl.mt.gov