Retrocon or Digitisation?

Added by Sally Curry on 28 January 2008 12:40

Opinion seems to be divided about retrocon. The recent RIN report on Retrocon in the UK ?Uncovering Hidden Resources? indicates that librarians estimate that a staggering 50% of material in research collections is NOT visible in online catalogues. More retroconversion is planned but it is an expensive process and funding is difficult to come by despite the value researchers place on the results as is shown by their comments, eg: ?It simply makes all kinds of ?discovery? possible: connecting materials ? to scholars all over the world who understand immediately their significance and the need to consult them?

Alternatively funding for digitisation is comparatively easy to find. Its an exciting process that makes not only the record of an item available to remote researchers but also the item itself: a huge step forwards. But the digitisation process is far more expensive than retroconversion and/or new cataloguing and it reduces the backlog of bringing hidden items into the daylight for discovery far more slowly and at far greater cost.

So where do libraries go from here? Do they invest money in converting old print card catalogues or abandon that process and plough their time and their funding into digitisation? … and which would be the preferred outcome for researchers?

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