The Mary Evans Picture Library located in Blackheath, London, began life in 1964, with a philosophy that has remained unchanged for over 40 years: to make available and accessible images created over the centuries that were originally published in books, on posters, in advertisements, or as prints.

Included in their collection are original copies of many popular illustrated periodicals whose content are of great value to researchers worldwide as they provide a window into society’s past. But accessing their content meant either a visit to the Mary Evans library in person, or piecemeal requests for copies.

ProQuest, head-quartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is in the business of providing content access solutions for researchers and libraries globally.

In 2014 ProQuest obtained the digital rights to a portfolio of five historic periodicals held at the Mary Evans from the copyright holder, Illustrated London News Ltd. The portfolio consisted of Tatler, The Sphere, The Graphic, The Sketch, and Bystander, all periodicals published between 1869 and 1990.

In March 2014 ProQuest issued an RFP for a service provider to capture the entire content of the collection for on-line publication. The challenge for the bidders was that scanning was required to be undertaken on site, but the space available within the library for setting up a capture operation was extremely limited.

A further challenge was the delivery dates required by ProQuest – they wanted to launch the collection on-line in September 2014 with at least a partially complete catalogue. Including magazine covers, advertising pages, picture pages as well as printed text, the periodical collection was estimated at over 900,000 separate pages.


Automated Document Services Ltd. (Auto Docs) – is a document capture services agency based in Glasgow, Scotland.

The core team of Auto Docs have over 14 years’ experience specialising in the digitisation of books. Auto Docs is unique in Scotland as being the only agency certified to ISO 27001 information security standards, as well as having ISO 9001 quality management certification.

When the ProQuest RFP was issued in March 2014, Auto Docs was exceptionally well-placed to make a strong bid as they had available both the scanners and the skilled operators required for the Mary Evans project. Key to their capture capability was their CopiBook Cobalt book scanners from i2S DigiBook.

Auto Docs is supported by Spigraph Network, exclusive distribution partner for i2S in the UK. Auto Docs chose the CopiBook Cobalt as it is the leading A2 book scanner available in the market and is well-known for its superior image quality and high productivity.

Auto Docs experienced operators appreciated its easy-to-operate ergonomic design and versatility with numerous automatic and intuitive capture modes capable of scanning books, manuals, newspapers, photos and other document types.

The primary challenge for Auto Docs was balancing ProQuest’s project time-line with the extremely limited on-site space & time available for the capture operation.

The floor space available to host the digitisation operation was approximately 4m by 2m and, because of this, Auto Docs would be limited to installing only two capture workstations. Would this be enough to capture the estimated 900,000 periodical pages in the time available?

Given the skill and experience of their operators, and the information governance procedures backing them up, Auto Docs believed they could meet the deadlines and they successfully bid on ProQuest’s RFP.

By 28 April, one week after being awarded the project, Auto Docs was on-site at Mary Evans setting up the capture operation and training local staff. Production capture started at the end of May at a rate of 300 images per hour per scanner, a rate that allowed ProQuest to launch the periodical archive service by their September deadline, and for Auto Docs to complete the project and be off-site by mid-March, 2015.


Auto Docs were able to overcome the on-site operational restrictions inherent in the Mary Evans project and meet the project deadlines by making use of their extensive experience with the i2S scanners, backed by a project governance regime that ensured consistent and effective quality management throughout the capture operation. Images and data captured on-site by the two scanner operators were transmitted to Auto Docs Glasgow location for image quality management, data quality management and meta-data verification. On a daily basis, data identifying which periodical volumes were pulled, what was scanned and their disposition status was captured and compiled into detailed weekly reports for customer ProQuest.

ProQuest have been extremely satisfied with the services provided by Auto Docs. Due to the work from ProQuest and other customers, Auto Docs are now opening a London Docklands bureau to be closer to the location of the many important national archives that are located in London.

“The team at Auto Docs feel privileged to have had the opportunity over the last year to successfully complete the quality digitisation of British Periodicals for ProQuest. Our CopiBook Cobalt book scanners provided the efficiency and best-in-class technology which enabled our team to deliver the project within the required time frames and with virtually no rescans” said Pamela Tod, Director of Auto Docs.

“It has been a pleasure to deliver this project and work with the fabulous teams at Mary Evans, Illustrated London News & ProQuest. Our experienced team looks forward to completing many more such projects over the next few years, and we appreciate the support of our partner Spigraph Network in implementing our business growth plans and to the further expansion of our service bureaus in Glasgow and London.”

“Spigraph Network is pleased to support Auto Docs in providing industry-leading technology, strong vendor partnerships and industry expertise” said Wayne Davey, CEO Spigraph Group. “With over 20 years of experience in delivering best-in-class digitisation, preservation and document automation solutions across EMEA, we are pleased to partner with Auto Docs to help them drive business growth, deliver high-quality service and bring unique value to clients in the UK.”

Back to top