Expanding Audio Digitization Capacity: Introducing PAADS

In 2012, the UMD Libraries Digitization Center expanded from three Epson 10000XL flatbed scanners and one Zeutschel OS12000 to include one more Epson 10000XL, an Epson V700 Perfection, and the beginnings of an audio digitization station. Two years later, we have two operational audio digitization workstations and one video digitization workstation nearing completion. Over the last several months, we have been planning the next stage in developing digitization capacity at UMD Libraries–reorganizing, updating, and staffing the former digitization lab in the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library (MSPAL), now known as the Performing Arts Audio Digitization Studio (PAADS).

Under the management of DCMR, PAADS will be an extension of audio digitization efforts in the UMD Libraries. The studio is located within MSPAL and will primarily serve the digitization requests and projects for collections within MSPAL, including the International Piano Archives at Maryland (IPAM) and Special Collections in Performing Arts (SCPA). With the increasing volume of requests from these collection areas, we realized the value of expanding digitization operations into the library. The studio will allow DCMR to digitize these collections without coordinating the transfer of physical materials between libraries, and will provide faster access to digitization-on-demand for requests.

Creating a digitization studio in this space is a smart decision for increasing access to collections and is a good financial option for expanding our operations. The space was originally designed as an audio studio with optimum sound absorption and minimal vibration interference, making it an ideal space for preservation-level digitization work. Most of the legacy media players are already housed in the space (though a few pieces will need to be repaired). We will update the digital convertor, interface, and a few auxiliaries. We also plan to update the wiring and connections to reflect a more streamlined audio digitization workstation, which relies on multi-purpose equipment and more flexible software. The proposed PAADS configuration is very similar to the configuration of the audio workstations in the Hornbake Digitization Center; the similar setups will enable us to train students more quickly.

Project Timeline
After a conversation with MSPAL staff, Robin Pike, Henry Borchers, and Eric Cartier met to discuss expanding audio digitization in October 2013. Over the next two months, Borchers and Cartier documented and assessed the equipment in the digitization studio. Borchers delivered an analysis report to Pike in January 2014, which she integrated into the Analysis and Proposal sections of a larger plan. Pike delivered this plan to MSPAL staff in February and they collaborated to complete it throughout March. The Associate Deans of Public Services and DSS recently approved this plan.

Parts of the Plan
The plan addresses the business case and operational need in the Introduction. Borchers’s Analysis includes a list of the equipment and their operational status, and the overall operational and functional status of the studio in its current configuration. The Proposal features a list of new equipment to purchase, a budget, and details of the plan to reconfigure the space. The Installation Timeline follows the Proposal, and is based on the hours Borchers estimated it took him to set up one audio digitization wotkstation in the Hornbake Digitization Center. It also includes a list of dependencies or restrictions on the timeline, such as the availability of new equipment and unforeseen issues with legacy equipment currently in the studio. Pike also included a Staffing Plan, stating who would be in the workspace, when, and that DCMR’s goal is to staff the space approximately 20 hours/week, if budgets permit. It concludes with a plan for staff hours and access, a communication plan between MSPAL and DCMR during the setup phase and during production operations, and a commitment to maintenance of the space.

We ordered the new equipment this week and hope to start installing it at the end of April. Borchers and Cartier plan to photograph the progress of the space so we can share the phases towards completion on this blog.

Project Planning: Rate of Digitization

Staff in the Hornbake Digitization Center have been carefully tracking digitization statistics for several years. Over the last two years, I have used and expanded the collection of statistics so we can calculate an average rate and cost of digitization, including preparation, digitization, metadata creation, and ingest for our two major format types: “image” (including still images and text) and “audio.” My overall goal is to use these statistics to plan an annual, complete-able queue of projects for the level of staffing we can provide.

In January 2014, we digitized 896 images. Knowing the amount of digitized assets in one month is helpful, but that alone cannot determine a rate of digitization, which is needed to plan projects. Dividing the total number of assets created by hours worked during that period, and then dividing the average hourly student salary by the above total results in the cost of digitization. Knowing 8 students digitized and created metadata for 896 images in 190 hours at $10/hour is infinitely more helpful when planning digitization projects and requesting staffing for the next fiscal year. Using established rates, we can:

  • Calculate the hours needed to complete specific digitization projects
  • Create an in-house project timeline for all proposed projects in one year
  • Request enough student hours (and money) to complete the list of proposed projects
  • Provide guidance to donors who wish to provide money for in-house digitization of specific materials

For example, a librarian has proposed that we digitize 50 pamphlets at 15 pages each. We can estimate that it would take our students about 160 hours to complete the project at our current rate of digitization. From there, we can estimate that if we assign the project to one student who works 20 hours a week, that the project will be completed in approximately 8 weeks. If the project is a greater priority, we can assign it to more than one student for more than 20 hours per week.

Now that we have well-established rates, over the next several months, as I solidify fiscal year 2015 projects, I will be able to compile a projected production timeline for all in-house projects in a queue, considering projects not solely in the number of pages or hours of audio, but in in the hours it will take to digitize them.

Creating a Digitization Infrastructure

Otari open reel player
An Otari open reel player that will be integrated into the audio digitization station.

The Digital Conversion and Media Reformatting Department specializes in digitizing textual, paper-based, photographic, audio, and moving image UMD Libraries materials for use by patrons and inclusion into UMD Libraries Digital Collections. These requests and projects are digitized either in the Libraries in-house Digitization Center or through vendors.

Over the past year, we have been expanding our capacity to digitize more types of formats in the Libraries Digitization Center. In fall 2012, Henry Borchers started to create the first preservation-level audio digitization station for ¼” audio open reel tape. Over the next few months, he added the cassette tape and ADAT formats, based on the needs of the WMUC Digitization Project. We later added DAT and are working to add LP digitization capacity to better meet the needs of digitization requests. We will be aiming to add additional legacy machines for these formats to allow for parallel digitization (digitizing more than one item of the same format on the same computer), as the Libraries’ needs increases.

With significant progress made on the audio digitization stations, we have shifted our focus to developing video digitization and conversion stations. While the audio digitization stations were developed around a specific project, the video digitization stations will be developed over a year on an ambitious schedule; the targeted formats were determined by surveying collection manager needs and priorities, and what equipment is readily available. Over the past month, Borchers has been researching and experimenting the first of at least five families of video formats–DVCam and MiniDV—with the goal that this station will be online by the end of October. Other upcoming formats will include VHS/S-VHS, U-Matic/U-MaticSP, Betacam/BetacamSP/Betamax, and Digital Betacam, with the potential inclusion of Video8/Hi8 and Laserdisc.

Digitizing additional formats is more complex than testing, calibrating, and plugging in a few more machines—it requires setting and testing new digitization procedures, as well as researching and establishing internal technical and metadata standards. Some of these processes will be documented in future posts.

Audio Digitization Station Configuration
Audio Digitization Station Configuration