Libraries and Archives are facing a new challenge as we move into a fast paced digital era. More and more people are looking for information online or looking to copy/scan/digitise material held by a library or archive so they can read at it a later date, at home or even on the train. This problem is affecting large institutions such as the British Library and National Archives, large corporate libraries, record offices, university libraries and even your local library.

So when it comes to equipment and how you offer ‘self-scanning’ what are your options?

One option which has been adopted by some archives is to allow users to bring cameras and request to take photographs. This is a great low cost solution, however, it becomes very difficult to police as there is very little traceability of images. Also control over the quality is non-existent which can lead to difficulties policing copyright. I have often seen very high end DLSR’s used in this scenario, the same DSLR’s which are used in some Imaging Studios.

Another option which traditionally has been adopted is the photocopier or ‘book edge’ style copiers such as the Bookmaster. On paper this can look like a great idea as the cost can be merged with larger photocopier lease agreements, however, there are a lot of negatives for both the user and the library. Bad quality images, poor handling of material, high power consumption, minimal copyright control, high breakdown rate, multiple re-scans, just to name a few.

It is quite obvious that this style of scanner, even with a bookedge, creates problems when scanning even modern day material. The fact that the material is handled so much and then turned upside down and pressed flat pretty much ticks every box of how not to treat bound material. The hidden downfalls of such a system are mainly down to the ageing linear array technology used. Firstly, when using linear array a very small depth of focus is produced which can create poor focus, resulting in black out areas of the image. This can often lead to a lot of unwanted scans and waste. If printed and discarded this can create huge amounts of waste which is not cost effective or environmentally friendly. Power consumption is also quite high due to the amount of electric motors, drive belts and mechanical parts which often leads to breakdowns.

So what are the alternatives?

To combat all of these problems specific public use book scanners have been designed which often use touch screen menus and save to email or USB. All of the manufacturers scan with the material face up which avoids damaging material, however the majority of book scanner manufacturers still use linear array so there are a number of image manipulations, algorithms and guess work applied to keep everything in focus. There is only one manufacturer that utilises the latest in CMOS technology, the same as nearly every professional imaging studio, and that is book2net. Their use of CMOS technology allows you to capture very quickly, in focus and with no mechanical parts to fail. Selected parts such as the internal PC, monitor and CMOS sensor itself results in a very low power consumption which over a year can be a saving of over £300 compared to a photocopier.

So what are the main advantages of using a book2net Public Use book scanner?
• Fast Scan time (0.3 seconds)
• No mechanical parts to fail
• The latest CMOS sensor technology
• Minimal power consumption
• Handling of the material
• High depth of focus so no image manipulation is required
• Better colour accuracy results
• Easy to use touch screen interface
• Full payment system connectivity
• Copyright control

Between the Spirit, Spirit Advance (A3) and Kiosk A2 we have seen a wide range of clients take advantage of this leap forwards by allowing the public to digitise specialist material. Some installs of the book2net equipment have seen huge throughputs such as Birmingham University Library using a Spirit Advance with an average of 1,800 scans per days or Plymouth University using a Spirit with 6,000 scans in half a term. View the Birmingham Case Study here.

More and more libraries are updating their offerings to library users by updating equipment to the latest book2net equipment such as the British Library, National Maritime Museum, National Library of Scotland, Met Office, National Library of Ireland and many more, all with different requirements and specifications but with one goal, to offer a better service and to preserve material.

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