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IMLS findings on The Status of Technology and Digitization in the Nation’s Museums and Libraries

A January 2006 report from IMLS on “The Status of Technolgy and Digitization in the Nation’s Museums and Libraries” is very good.
Here are the Key Findings from the IMLS website. I hope that it intrigues you enough to read the full report. They also have specific findings for all types of libraries.
“TECHNOLOGY USE
Small museums and public libraries have made dramatic progress, although they still lag behind their larger counterparts.
The extent of implementation and use of technologies in museums, public libraries, academic libraries, and all state library administrative agencies increased from the 2001 survey to the one conducted in 2004. The most dramatic increases are in small museums and public libraries, more of which have implemented basic office technologies and Web sites. Archives, which were not surveyed in 2001, report high percentages of basic and some advanced technologies in use.
The use of essential office technologies (e-mail, office productivity software, and desktop computers) is pervasive among state library administrative agencies, large archives, museums, public libraries, and academic libraries. Small museums and public libraries have expanded their use of basic technologies since the 2001 survey, but still lag behind the larger institutions.
Internet connectivity is pervasive among all groups, with broadband connections predominant over modem connections, except among smaller institutions. Institutional Web sites are prevalent among institutions in all groups. Use of institutional Web sites has increased in small museums and public libraries since the 2001 survey, but these institutions still lag behind medium and large institutions.
Libraries and museums are putting services and activities online to manage their institutions and provide enhanced public service.
Newer technologies that use Internet-based and other kinds of online services and activities are being widely implemented among all groups.
New technologies include broadband Internet connections, which are easing out modem Internet connections; online catalogs of collections and holdings; local area networks (LANs); intranets; wireless networks; meta- or federated searching in online collections and catalogs; and software to manage public access computers and printing.
Insufficient funding and staff time are barriers to implementing technology.
Lack of sufficient funding and staff time limit the ability of institutions in all groups to implement technologies that will enable them to fully meet their missions.
Technology funds were available to at least a majority of the members of each group over the last 12 months. When asked about the percentage of technology needs that are met by current technology funding, at least a majority of archives, academic libraries, public libraries, and state library administrative agencies report that they have adequate funding. However, almost two-thirds of museums, 31 percent of archives, 50 percent of large academic libraries, and the majority of small public libraries say their technology is less than adequately funded.
Institutions among all groups report that they can maintain technologies currently in use, but they have less confidence in their ability to add new technologies to meet evolving needs.
Technology capacity (equipment, software, connectivity, skills and expertise) to meet institutional missions is more prevalent among state library administrative agencies, public libraries, and academic libraries. The majority of museums and archives report that they have the technology capacity to meet or almost meet their mission. However, more than two-thirds of institutions among all the groups reported that they do not have enough skilled staff to accomplish their technology objectives.
Assessment of user and visitor needs is strongest among academic libraries and state library administrative agencies and weak among other groups.
Almost half of academic libraries and state library administrative agencies conduct assessments of user and visitor needs.
The percentage of public libraries, archives, and museums that conduct them is 25 percent or less.
DIGITIZATION ACTIVITIES
Digitization activities have increased for all groups, with state library administrative agencies and archives leading the way.
Between 2001 and 2004, digitization activities increased in museums, academic libraries, state library administrative agencies, and public libraries. State library administrative agencies and archives reported more digitization activity in 2004 than other groups.
Institutions in all of the groups are digitizing materials and objects, though some groups are more active than others. When asked about materials and images digitized over the past 12 months, archives were the most active in terms of the percentage that digitized. Large numbers of museums and state library administrative agencies also digitized materials during that period. Nearly half of academic libraries were engaged in digitization, as were about one-third of large public libraries. No digitization activities took place in one-fifth of state library administrative agencies and museums, more than one-third of academic libraries, and more than three-quarters of small and medium public libraries.
While more institutions have digitization policies in place than was the case in 2001, many institutions that are digitizing do not have digitization policies.
The extent of digitization policies in place has increased since the first survey. However, while many institutions are digitizing items and materials, most do not have policies in place for digitization activities.
More that three-quarters of state library administrative agencies and archives, the majority of museums and large academic libraries, and one-third of large public libraries make their digital images available to the public. Lower percentages of small and medium academic and public libraries make their images public. Access to digital images via the Web is the predominant method, though many institutions also provide on-site access via LANs.
The extent of digitization policies in place or in development among museums, state library administrative agencies, public libraries, and academic libraries has increased since the 2001 survey. However, the 2004 survey shows that digitization policies are in place in fewer than half of archives and state library administrative agencies, with the other groups reporting lower numbers of policies in place. The survey showed that digitization activities have increased among all groups, but the use of policies on all aspects of digitization is not strong.
With a substantial number of materials left to digitize, institutions are held back by lack of funding, lack of staff time, and other pressing priorities.
More than half of the archives and state library administrative agencies said they have 25,000 or more items still to be digitized, as do some museums, academic libraries, and large public libraries. At the other end of the digitization spectrum, there are institutions among every group that have no items to digitize, including almost half of public libraries and a fourth of academic libraries.
Key digitization findings:
Almost three-quarters of state library administrative agencies and more than half of archives had funds for digitization over the past 12 months. The majority of large museums had funds, as did more than one-fourth of academic libraries. However, the majority of museums, academic libraries, and public libraries did not have funds for digitization during that period.
To undertake digitization activities, all groups reported that training current staff to perform digitization activities is the predominant solution. Volunteers are also heavily used, particularly in museums and archives. Some institutions use outsourcing solutions, including contractual staff, off-site vendors, and digitization centers at other institutions.
When asked about their capability for digitization activities, larger institutions rated themselves more strongly than small ones. All groups rated themselves most capable in the areas of staff skills and expertise, and equipment and software. Across institutions, funding was the weakest capability area.
Among museums, academic libraries, state library administrative agencies, and archives, the three top hindrances to their digitization activities are lack of staff time, lack of funds, and other projects that have higher priorities. Public libraries also included lack of staff skills and expertise, lack of sufficient equipment and/or software, and lack of an established digitization plan as top hindrances. One hindrance that was rated low among all groups was “not having collections worth digitizing.”
While collaborative digitization efforts are underway, they are not yet widespread.
All of the groups reported collaboration in digitization projects with other institutions, although the overall percentages of those collaborate is not high.
The majority of state library administrative agencies provide funding or services to other institutions, including supporting cooperative digitization projects and supporting statewide digitization projects.
Only a small portion of museums and libraries assess user and visitor needs for digitized collections and services.
Three-quarters or more of institutions in all groups do not conduct assessments of user or visitor needs for digitized materials and images in their institutions. Almost one-fourth of state library administrative agencies do assessments, which is the highest level among all the groups.”
Worth a read, and isn’t that last paragraph scary?
Stephen

Posted on: April 19, 2006, 6:18 am Category: Uncategorized