Bath Spa University Library recently migrated from a VLE content collection tool to the CLA's Digital Content Store. The project was managed and completed by:
- Richard Taylor, Deputy Director of Library Services (Digital & Research)
- Peter Reid, Digital Services Librarian
- Susanne Sutherland, Senior Library Assistant (Collections)
- Alison Davidson, Senior Library Assistant (Digital Services)
- Nigel Paine, former-Senior Library Assistant (Digital Services)
Alison Davidson, from the Digital Services team, let us know about how the DCS has changed their digitisation process.
Our former content collection tool
We previously used our VLE to host CLA scans. Our institutional process of assessing, sourcing, and scanning is complicated; we delegate scanning to the school administrative staff. For example, when a lecturer from the Institute of Education requests a scan we send the book to their admin team that they scan for us. With the VLE, we had school admins scan a cover sheet as well and then we would drop scans into the module's e-reserves folder - with tracking enabled so that lecturers could see who had done their assigned reading - and send the lecturer an email with instructions on how to add it to their module.
Why we decided to move
We decided to move to the CLA's Digital Content Store because we felt the benefits to staff and students far outweighed the short-term inconvenience of migration.
Bath Spa's Top Four Benefits of Migrating to the Digital Content Store
1. Streamlined and collaborative: The Longest and most unpredictable part of our workflow was waiting for school administrative staff to scan material for us, but the DCS is cloud-based, meaning material scanned by other HEIs is available immediately
2. Simpler for staff: The process of linking to an item in Blackboard's e-reserves was overly complex. Lecturers can now simply link to items hosted on the DCS.
3. Less Work for Staff: We no longer have to make an annual requirements check or report of scans to the CLA as these are done automatically. The DCS also creates cover sheets automatically, which saves us the work of creating them ourselves. The only downside to this is that coversheets notified staff which pages needed scanning, so this is a change to the workflow that we're working on.
4. Integration: We have recently tendered for a Library Services Platform and we emphasised interoperability with other systems, such as reading list management systems and British Library document supply. The amount of development work being undertaken to link DCS to other systems is impressive and is now something we look for.
As you probably know, moving to a new system involves a lot of meetings, project planning, new documentation, and training.
Our Three Step Guide to Onboarding
1. OCRing: CLA prefer content in the DCS to be accessible to as many users as possible, a key way of doing this is through Optical Character Recognition (OCR), so we spent a few weeks OCRing our scans. Luckily, this dovetailed with the release of a new version of Adobe Acrobat with OCR capabilities. The OCRing took a lot of time and effort, especially as the scans still needed to be available to students, meaning we had to re-upload them straightaway.
2. Uploading: We uploaded our scans and a spreadsheet with information about each scan, such as page numbers and publisher. The most important part was the filenames; they had to match the names of the uploaded scans exactly or it wouldn't work. We learnt this the hard way in 2016 when we tried to onboard and failed. We only had a handful of failed uploads this time around and they were mostly filenames with non-Unicode text. If you're about to migrate to the DCS, remember to check for stray quotation marks.
3. Link Updating: We've spent most of June and July updating links on Blackboard with the new DCS ones. We could have simply emailed the new links to each lecturer, but decided to take a more labour-intensive approach to reduce the workload on this migration for academic staff.
This has been the most interesting part of the migration, as we discovered a wide variety of practice in terms of where scanned documents are linked to within each course of study. To prevent our search becoming a wild goose chase, we imposed some limits on where we would look for scans (not within Word documents or Powerpoint files). We also have two email templates; one with the DCS links for if we can't find the scans that explains how to add them, and one for when we've found and replaced them.
The New Rollover Process
We did the rollover in early June and it was significantly easier than in previous years. Susanne, who's been running the CLA scanning at Bath Spa since it started, described the old process as 'time-consuming'
"It involved gathering information on whether [the scans] were still needed, rolling over each scan to the next academic year and emailing academics. Changes to cover sheets and PDF amendments were time-consuming."
This year all we were required to do was:
1. Update the student numbers in all the modules
2. Archive the modules with zero students
3. Press the - frighteningly easy to accidentally press - 'Start New Academic Year' button
Our First CLA Request in the DCS
Scanning requests are beginning to trickle in, which is giving us the opportunity to test out Peter's new procedural documentation. I got off to a rocky start by forgetting to check the DCS for an available scan before sending a book off for scanning, but luckily there wasn't one so efforts won't be duplicated this time. September is usually quite a busy time for us with scanning requests, so hopefully Susanne and I will have found our feet by then. We're optimistic that this Autumn term will be less stressful now that we're with the DCS.