Digitisation Policy

The Chinese University of Hong Kong Library

Digitisation Policy 2015 – 2017

1. Introduction – Context and Vision
2. Goals and Drivers of Digitisation
3. Selection and Prioritization of Content for Digitisation
4. Digitisation Strategies
5. Access and Discovery
6. Digital Curation
7. Digital Archiving & Preservation
8. Promotion and marketing of digital collections
9. Governance and Implementation
10. Measurement of Success
11. Review of the Policy

1. Introduction – Context and Vision

The Chinese University of Hong Kong Library (the Library) has started its digitisation program in as early as 1995. It has already built a substantial mass of millions of images in various subjects and disciplines ranging from religious, political, social, cultural, to literature. They are valuable digital collections for researchers and scholars of the University community and the public alike. To build on the acquired expertise over the past decades and to expand the Library’s digital collections in a sustainable manner, the purpose of this policy is to formalize the Library’s approach to its digitisation activities over the next three years in order to achieve the following goals as set out in the Library’s Strategic Plan 2013-2016.

  • Further realizing the potential of the digital collections already developed by the Library
  • Support research, teaching and learning programs of the University, in particular digital scholarship of the Library
  • Facilitate discovery and easy access to digital collections
  • Set the framework to evaluate, select and prioritize its digitisation activities


2. Goals and Drivers of Digitisation

Digitisation brings myriad of advantages to library users. By developing our digital collections, the Library aims to:

  1. Open up and improved users’ access to the Library’s collections – digitising the Library’s collections, especially those fragile or rare materials not fit for physical access, enables fast and convenient online access;
  2. Inspire new audience to access the Library’s collection;
  3. Enable further exploration of the content of the Library’s digital collections by new technologies such as data-mining and text-mining to facilitate researchers and scholars both in the University and worldwide to utilize the digital collections for research and teaching purpose and to support new research methods such as digital humanities;
  4. Provides better preservation of unique, rare and fragile materials by migrating them into digital format;
  5. Uncover the hidden treasures of the Library to enhance the discoverability and visibility of the Library’s collections to increase its use and research impact;
  6. Collaborate within and beyond the University community to create more digital collections that align with the mission of the University in particular; and,
  7. Continue to develop current digital contents by applying emerging digital technologies where applicable.


3. Selection and Prioritization of Content for Digitisation

a. Selection Criteria

Not all content of the library collection can / should be digitised. Where applicable, the Library’s collections that meet the following principles should be prioritized for digitisation [1] :

  1. Current and potential research value – Consideration will be given to whether the collection has active research being carried out or has potentials to support new research projects, and whether the collection has intrinsic value that attracts interests of the academic community.
  2. Relevance to the research, teaching and learning programs of the University – Consideration will be given to how far the collection will meet the needs of students, faculty and researchers or support the research and curriculum of the University.
  3. Access needs – Consideration will be given to whether the collection is in great demand or anticipated to have high demand or whether digitisation will significantly enhance its access and use.
  4. Rarity of the collection – Consideration will be given to whether the collection is unique.
  5. Fragility of the collection – Consideration will be given to whether the physical condition of the collection is fit for digitisation or it is deteriorating at a speed that digitisation at a later stage is not possible or more expensive.
  6. Donor’s wish – Consideration will be given to whether donors have requested digitisation of their collections donated to the Library or whether donors will give consent to the Library to digitize their collections.
  7. Copyright clearance or out-of-copyright – Consideration will be given to whether the materials are out-of-copyright so that it is easier and cheaper for digitisation to be carried out or whether the rights and permissions for digitisation and electronic access securable or easy to be secured.
  8. Availability of technology – Consideration will be given to whether the collection requires specific digitisation technology that is not yet available to the Library or whether the current digitisation technology is able to yield image quality adequate enough to meet the requirements of the project such as Optical Character Recognition or how easy it will be to digitize the collection.
  9. Cost of digitisation – Consideration will be given to whether the cost of digitisation and its post-processing work supported by the Library’s budget or whether resources are available elsewhere to keep digitisation work sustainable.

It should be noted that the importance of the above selection criteria can be different for different library materials. To streamline the process of selection, the Library will take the scorecard approach adopted by National Library of New Zealand to help prioritize the digitsation projects by assigning weights and fits to each project according to the above criteria. Please refer to Appendix 1 for details.

The scoring is performed by Digital Initiatives Group (DIG) in consultation with the University Librarian or Faculty members for collaborative digitisation projects.

In view of the limited resources available to the Library, digitisation activity will be carried out in the priority of the scores given to each project.


b. Sources of Materials

Content selected for digitisation will mainly come from internal special collections, external donation, and collaboration / partnership with CUHK community.


c. Format of Materials

All formats of materials will be covered including but not limited to books, manuscripts, photos, maps, artworks, audio recordings, and video recordings.


4. Digitisation Strategies

The Library strives to implement its digitisation programs in a long-term sustainable manner by developing effective service model, establishing partnership with different internal units and external organizations of the University, adhering to technical standards of digitisation in the industry and proven best practice, and developing an effective infrastructure and platform.

a. Sustainability of digitisation initiatives [2]

  1. To keep the digitisation projects sustainable so that they can be carried out in on-going manner, a viable service model composite of diverse sources of financial support should be derived for existing and new projects submitted for consideration of digitisation:
    • Internal funding from the Library
    • Collaborate with other University departments with potential for funding support
    • External funding sources through donations or securing government grants from University Grants Committee (UGC)
    • Levying charges for digitisation such as large-scale digitisation projects, online hosting of the digital collections of partnering units and data conversion services.
    • Collaborate with commercial publishers for funding support if appropriate
    • Collaborate with other local and overseas libraries such as Joint University Librarians Advisory Committee (JULAC)
  2. Ongoing commitment from the Library’s internal funding for the development of its digital repository including hardware and software, and the support of its technical staff to keep the digitized materials accessible.
  3. Derive measures to keep the maintenance cost as low as possible so that it can be absorbed into the operating cost of the Library.
  4. Ongoing review of the digital collections to ensure they meet the mission of the University, remain relevant to the needs of the intended audience and remain valuable to the community.


b. Digitisation Process and Standards

  1. Materials selected for digitisation will be processed using the most effective method. Rare and fragile materials will be scanned within the University campus while other materials will be out-sourced using methods as agreed by the Library.
  2. The Library has established technical standards for file formats of the master image file and the derivative image file for different types of materials. These standards will be reviewed regularly in order to keep up with the latest industry standards. Where appropriate, higher resolution and special formats will be adopted depending on the requirements of individual projects.
  3. Each digital object would be described with appropriate descriptive and structural metadata that conform to international standards.
  4. The Library protects copyright of the content selected for digitisation. They would be cleared of copyright before digitisation. Where appropriate, Creative Common License would be created to protect the copyright of the original creator while allowing others to make some uses of their work in the digital age. The Library also reserves the rights to take-down digital images that are suspected of infringing the Copyright Ordinance of Hong Kong or any other third party.
  5. There is no one single workflow that meets the needs of all digitisation projects; the process may vary slightly according to the specific requirements of each project. In general, the following processes are required:
    1. Physical handling of the material such as accessioning, cleaning, checking its physical condition, basic conservation measures such as freezing to treat infested materials.
    2. Assess whether the materials should be prioritized for digitisation.
    3. Where appropriate, the materials will be sent to Cataloguing / Special Collections for metadata creation depending on the nature of the materials.
    4. The materials will then be sent to Research Support & Digital Initiatives to map out the most appropriate method of digitisation and the requirements of deliverables.
    5. The actual process of scanning will take place either in house or out-sourced.
    6. Images will be further processed after the image-capturing process to ensure the images are in the correct size and color.
    7. Images will be checked for its image quality and accuracy. Those that do not meet the standard will be captured again.
    8. Those images meeting all the requirements will be ingested into the CUHK Digital Repository for users’ access and the servers for archiving.


5. Access and Discovery

  • The Library supports open access. The digital collections would be made openly accessible online whenever the rights permit.
  • The CUHK Digital Repository is established as the institutional repository for all digital content. This repository is OAI-PMH compliant that is able to integrate with the discovery service of the Library to make the digital content more discoverable, accessible and seamless to users.
  • The digital collections that are open access will be registered in different OA repositories and directories.
  • Those legacy collections without digital objects will be removed from the CUHK Digital Repository and will be described in appropriate library web sites.
  • To facilitate access via the discovery platform of the Library, the digitized materials should be catalogued either as a collection or individually in the Library catalogue and with links to the digital objects in the CUHK Digital Repository.
  • Archival materials will be catalogued and made searchable in the Archive finding aid of the Library. If they are selected for digitisation, the digital objects will be stored and accessible on the CUHK Digital Repository and bi-directional links to the Archive finding aid of the Library. If only part of the collection is selected for digitisation, it should be stated clearly in both the CUHK Digital Repository and the Archive finding aids of the Library.
  • Each digital collection should be accompanied with a clear statement of ownership and copyright to make clear its terms of use. Creative Commons License will be created wherever it is deemed necessary.


6. Digital Curation

At present, all digital collections of the Library are created through digitisation. In future, the Library will proactively curate digital-born content according to the selection principles stated in Section 3 in this policy. We will make use of appropriate open source web harvesting tools and technologies and will develop our own wherever it is needed. The curated content will be made accessible in the CUHK Digital Repository and be applied with all the access principles stated in this policy.


7. Digital Archiving & Preservation

As part of the life-cycle management of digital content, the Library is committed to archive and preserve its digital content to ensure its accessibility and authenticity in the long run.

  1. Scope – Since only content of enduring value is identified for digitisation, all digital collections created will be archived and preserved rigorously to ensure its accessibility in the long term.
  2. Principles -
    1. Each digital collection regardless whether they are created or born-digital should incorporate elements of digital archival and preservation planning to ensure the digital content will be properly archived and preserved in the long run.
    2. While the Library is committed to archive and preserve its digital content in the long run and according to the respective archival and preservation plan, it is impossible for the Library to guarantee its accessibility forever. All digital collections will be reviewed and the Library will withdraw those that are no longer meeting the needs of users at a particular time.
  3. Strategies -
    1. Technology infrastructure – The Library will develop appropriate technology infrastructure according to international standard and framework to manage its digital archives.
    2. Persistent identifiers – Each digital object will be associated with an unique persistent link to ensure its continued access.
    3. Keeping multiple copies – The master image files for all digital objects are stored separately from the production images. One backup copy is placed in the Data Centre of Information Technology Service Centre at Wu Ho Man Yuen (WMY) Building for disaster recovery. Other means of archiving the digitized copy will be adopted as appropriate.
    4. Keeping up with technological change [3] – The Library will adopt the following strategies to deal with technological obsolescence:
      1. The Library will maintain obsolete hardware and software as far as possible as a means of access in the short to medium term.
      2. Refreshing The digital objects will be copied from one storage medium to another to keep them accessible.
      3. Migration – The digital objects will be migrated to new hardware / software system and media to keep them viable. It is noted there is potential for loss of some functionality and data in each migration.
    5. Intellectual Property Rights - The Library will ensure that the archived and preserved digital content is complied with the prevailing intellectual property laws and ordinance of Hong Kong.
    6. Continuous staff training - The Library will also allocate appropriate resources to provide continuous education and training to IT professionals and technical staff members to ensure they have the required skills and knowledge to manage the digital collections.


8. Promotion and marketing of digital collections

It is crucial for the success of the Library’s digitisation program to make all digital collections more visible and accessible to library users. A mixture of following strategies will be adopted:

  1. Include links to the CUHK Digital Repository in the home page of the Library
  2. Outreach to academics and researchers of the University
  3. Publicity through exhibitions, campus events, posters, Library newsletter and social networking tools.
  4. Arrange seminars and talks on the digital collections


9. Governance and Implementation

The Library is responsible for ensuring that this digitisation policy is implemented effectively under a robust governance structure. To achieve this, the following departments of the Library are charged with specific roles and responsibilities:

  1. Collecting – Special Collections, Collection Management & Preservation (CMP)
  2. Selection of materials for digitisation – Digital Initiatives Group (DIG) in consultation with University Librarian
  3. Funding – The CUHK Library and other partners
  4. Digitisation of materials – Research Support & Digital Initiatives
  5. Metadata creation and support – Cataloging, Special Collections
  6. Access via the CUHK Digital Repository – Research Support & Digital Initiatives in collaboration with Special Collections
  7. Access via Library Catalogue - Cataloging
  8. Access via Archive Management Software – Special Collections
  9. Access via Discovery Tool – Library IT & Systems
  10. Digital preservation – Research Support & Digital Initiatives
  11. Promotion – Special Collections, Learning Support, Research Support & Digital Initiatives
  12. Evaluation of success – Digital Initiatives Group (DIG)


10. Measurement of Success

The Library will measure the success of its digitisation activities with a mixture of quantitative and qualitative criteria:

  1. Production –number of items digitized annually
  2. Level of Use
    1. number of unique users visiting the collections in the CUHK Digital Repository
    2. number of times a digital object is viewed
    3. number of research projects making use of the collections
    4. number of digital objects used in curriculum of the University
  3. Citation counts of the digitised materials – number of times the collection is cited or linked
  4. Level of funding support – annual budget spent on or external sources of funding secured for digitisation
  5. Implementation – number of digitised collections launched on schedule and within budget
  6. User’s feedback in the form of surveys such as LibQual

The above statistics and comments should be incorporated into regular statistical reports of the Library and make available to the Library Management Group on a regular basis.


11. Review of the Policy

This policy will be reviewed every three years by the Digital Initiatives Group (DIG) in consultation with the University Librarian to assess its success and to ensure it continues to reflect and meet the changes in the University and the Library’s policy and the rapid development of digitisation standards and technologies.


Drafted by: Louisa Lam, Head of Research Support and Digital Initiatives
Endorsed by: Digital Initiatives Group
Approved by: Library Management Group
Current Version: Version 1 dated 29.04.2015
Date of Next Review: 29.04.2017

Appendix 1 – Scorecard Method for the Selection of Materials for Digitisation

All the selection criteria are listed as scorecard criteria in Table 1. Each criterion needs to be given a score in the “Fit” column according to the following simple scale:




Does not meet

Partially meets


Then a score in the “Weight” column should also be given to each criterion for importance according to the following simple scale:




Not important

May be important


Scoring is calculated by multiplying the Fit by the Weight e.g.

A Fit of ‘1’ times a Weight of ‘2’ creates a score of ‘2’

A Fit of ‘2’ times a Weight of ‘0’ creates a score of ‘0’

A score of ‘2’ or ‘4 - the material meets or exceeds the criteria that are important to the digitisation project.

A score of ‘0’ or ‘1’ - the material fails to meet the criteria that are important to the digitisation project.

Table 1: Scoring Selection Criteria for Identifying Materials for Digitisation

Selection Criteria




Meets or exceeds


1. Current and potential value of the digitized copy


a. The materials have active research being carried out


b. The materials will have value as a resource, able to be utilized to create new research projects or open up other research opportunities


c. The materials are relevant to the research, teaching and learning programs of the University


d. The materials can be further developed by applying new technologies and new research methods such as digital humanities


2. Access to the original


a. The original is rare, unique or has few viewable or usable copies (regardless of form) that limits access


b. There is a significant existing demand to access the original


c. The original is fragile or being put at unacceptable risk of damage or loss due to the current level of access


d. The original is difficult or costly to access due to factors such as its location, conditions placed on access, or preparation required for access


3. Donor’s wish and clearance of copyright


a. The materials are requested by donors for digitisation


b. Donors have given consent to the Library for digitisation


c. The materials have been cleared of copyright or it is anticipated that the appropriate rights and permissions can be sought with ease


4. Digitisation technique


a. The material can be readily prepared for digitisation such as its repairs, conditioning and organizing


b. The digitisation technology being proposed is readily available


c. The digitisation technology is not costly


d. The digital format and carrier proposed can be managed over time


Overall tally


[1] Hazen, D., Horrell, J. & Merrill-Oldham, J. (1998). Selecting research collections for digitisation. Available at http://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/hazen/pub74.html

[2] Maron, N.L., & Pickle, S. (2013). Searching for sustainability: Strategies from eight digitized special collections. Available at: http://www.arl.org/storage/documents/publications/searching-for-sustainability-report-nov2013.pdf

[3] Loptain, L. (2006). Library digitisation projects, issues and guidelines: A survey of the literature. Library Hi Tech, 24(2): 273-289.