National Library of Wales orchestrating efficiency and quality with Zeutschel’s high-end scanning solution

Productive mass digitisation 

It is the most ambitious digitisation project in the history of The National Library of Wales. It took around 3 years for the copyright-free stocks of Newspapers and journals to be electronically recorded, indexed and placed on the internet for the general public to enjoy free of charge. In the process, the project leaders demonstrated that quality and process efficiency are not at odds, in fact the opposite is true: Both objectives can be combined in one.

The National Library of Wales regards itself as the world’s foremost institution for research materials on Wales, the Welsh people and the Celtic nation. Historical newspapers and journals provide an important source collection.

In order to preserve this for future generations and to greatly broaden its range of possible uses, the library began a large-scale digitisation project in 2009. All issues published up to 1911 should be accessible at www.llgc.org.uk by the end of 2012 – this is more than 700 different titles from the most diverse regions of the country. “Researchers and anyone interested in history will then be able to search through more than 2 million pages for words, terms and dates” says Scott Waby, Digitisation Unit Manager at the National Library of Wales.

New system for new ways

The use of book scanners was previously restricted to the digitisation of manuscripts, graphics and photographic materials. “The existing technical equipment did not allow large-scale productivity gains, a crucial pre-requisite for entering into mass digitisation of newspapers”, clarifies Scott Waby.

This explains why the issue of “process efficiency” was given high priority in the selection of a new digitisation solution. The catalogue of demands stipulated a speed of under 20 seconds for an A0 scan at 400 ppi-greyscale and a maximum of six seconds post-scanning time (the period between two scans). However, at the same, the library managers in no way compromised on image quality. “The aim was to have a faithful digital reproduction of the original while protecting the original copy as much as possible,” says Scott Waby.

The new system was determined by means of a comprehensive and detailed list of criteria in the course of an open invitation to tender . The final decision was made in favour of the Zeutschel book scanners from the OS 14000 series and the accompanying Omniscan scan software OS 12. These systems were supplied and are supported by Best-Tec Ltd, the exclusive distributor for Zeutschel in the UK and Ireland. “The Best –Tec, Zeutschel solution”, says Scott Waby, “was the only one supplier who met all the requirements”.

With its high scanning speed and a patented LED-lighting system minus UV/IR radiation, the OS 14000 is designed for gentle and fast capture of even the most fragile of material. The National Library of Wales have a total of three machines in use, in addition to a A1 version there are also two A0 models.

Software ensures high productivity

The perfect combination of high-end book scanners and more powerful scanning software with their manifold features for process optimisation were critical in fulfilling the project’s goals. “A large proportion of the productivity gains were down to the software”, confirms Scott Waby.

Scanning, editing and saving run in parallel processes. Digitised images can be edited on a monitor without loss of speed while new images are simultaneously being captured. This means that unproductive periods of waiting at the scanner and PC are a thing of the past.

The option for automatic page separation proved to be a boon to the digitisation project of the National Library of Wales. This scanned, separated and stored an entire newspaper page under different file names in a single action.

By means of the ROI function (Region-of-Interest), the scan area can be precisely defined and, if necessary, reduced. This saves scanning time. Adjusting the contrast curve after scanning assisted in the OCR process at a later stage. If necessary, this could improve the legibility of the text.

The close integration of the scan software with the workflow tools used for management of the scanned elements by the National Library of Wales also proved to be extremely beneficial.

“We were able to integrate some important features of the Zeutschel software into our existing workflow, thereby establishing an entire scanning and quality assurance system in one”, reports Scott Waby.

File validation provides an example of the benefits this brought. As Scott Waby points out, a crucial factor for the efficiency of digitisation processes is that the specified images are completely captured and in the correct order. The number of scans, the issue of the newspaper together with the page numbers are imported into the workflow tool as a CSV file. If the process intends to create 1,000 scans, the workflow tool checks whether the destination folder also contains 1,000 valid scans. By means of the pagination on the book pages, the Omniscan OS 12 software determines whether the images are in the correct order and were fully captured. “This way, we have created a new and improved form of quality and completeness control”, clarifies Scott Waby.

Equipped for the future

Digital capture of the 2 million newspapers and journal pages has been completed successfully. OCR detection is currently taking place externally as well as preparing the different images for zoom display. These steps are soon to be completed so that the newspaper portal will be available on the internet from the end of 2012.

“The Zeutschel scanning solution has exceeded our expectations, especially regarding the increase in productivity”, Scott Waby draws a positive conclusion.

And the next digitisation project has already been scheduled. The year 2014 will mark the first anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, the greatest tragedy in 20th century Europe. The National Library of Wales is dedicating this day of remembrance to the project ‘The Welsh experience of the First World War”. In the next 18 months more than 200,000 items of material, such as archived documents, personal records of the soldiers and more than 70,000 newspaper pages will be scanned and made freely available online.

The National Library of Wales

The National Library of Wales looks back on a history spanning more than 100 years and numbers amongst the most prestigious libraries in the world. Established in 1907, the impressive building houses a large collection of books, newspapers and journals, photographs, maps and paintings as well as videos and music. The library has a right to a statutory copy of every book published in the UK and Ireland and holds more than 4 million books, including many rare specimens such as the first book printed in Welsh in 1546 and the first full Welsh translation of the Bible from the year 1588. Located in the Welsh town of Aberystwyth, the National Library of Wales employs around 315 people.

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