ContentsSelectionIntroConversionQuality Control-definitionMetadata-definitionTechnical-digitization chainPresentation-introDigital Preservation-introManagement-in-house vs outsourceContinuing Education
Management-in-house facilityManagement-project life-cycle

9. Management

Key Concepts

project life cycle
in-house vs. outsource
in-house facility
project budgets
project monitoring
looking beyond

additional reading



There are pros and cons to outsourcing or creating in-house capabilities for digital imaging efforts. Even when the decision is made to outsource certain functions, the institution must support many aspects of the digitization chain as defined in the technical overview. For instance, if digitization is outsourced, an institution still needs to establish an in-house inspection program.


  • Cost containment and limited risk; institution pays for deliverables, usually a set price/image, which facilitates project planning and budgeting
  • Costs typically lower than in-house figures, although prices vary widely
  • Vendors can handle large volume and high throughput
  • Expertise, training, technology obsolescence costs absorbed by vendor
  • Broad range of options and services available, including imaging, metadata creation, enhancements, processing, encoding, derivative creation, printing, storing and backup, database development

  • Institution removed one step from imaging functions; services most often performed offsite or even off shore
  • Vulnerability due to vendor instability
  • Hard sell for existing products and services that are typically designed for business market
  • Vendor inexperience with needs of cultural institutions
  • Lack of standards and best practices with which to define requirements or negotiate for services
  • Challenges in communication, from RFP development to contracting, to production and quality requirements
  • Security, handling, transportation issues

Outsourcing is viable if an institution has a good understanding of the near- and long-term goals of an imaging initiative, and can fully specify imaging, metadata, and derivative requirements; locate reliable vendors; evaluate products and services; adopt policies and procedures for various functions; and define institutional and vendor responsibilities. Some service providers offer a questionnaire or checklist for institutions to clarify project requirements as well as determine products and costs.

The Colorado Digitization Project provides a list of US service providers. You can also search the AIIM Products and Services Guide by service required. Vendors of film scanning and COM recording are listed in an RLG DigiNews FAQ.

Note: if you know of similar Web-accessible lists for other countries, drop us a line.

A detailed Request for Proposals (RFP) must be developed, which clearly outlines content and requirements. A good starting point is the RLG Guidelines for Creating a Request for Proposal for Digital Imaging Services. In addition, the Library of Congress has posted its RFPs for digital conversion.

The evaluation process must represent a consistent and well-documented methodology for three important reasons:

  1. to assist the institution in choosing the right service provider
  2. to justify the selection to institution purchasing agents especially if the lowest bidder is not chosen
  3. to defend the choice to losing bidders and protect the institution against potential suits for unfair practice.

In-House Approach

  • Learn by doing
  • Define requirements incrementally rather than up front
  • Retain direct control over entire range of imaging functions
  • Provide for security, proper handling, and accessibility to materials
  • Ensure primacy of library/archives requirements
  • Maintain consistent and high quality assurance requirements

  • Large investment and ramp-up time
  • No set per-image cost
  • Institution pays for expenses instead of products, including costs of downtime, training, and technology obsolescence
  • Limited production capabilities and facilities
  • Range of staffing expertise required

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Management - project life cycleManagement - in-house facility

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