A pdf by any other name
There is now a printer/copier/scanner in the Special Collections department and Digital Collections has seen a dramatic drop in the number of “ad hoc” digitization requests that we do. These days we are pretty much only called in when the digitization is for publication purposes or when the format is unusual in some way (large, fragile, negatives, etc.). Most other scans are done on this multifunction device as pdfs.
On the one hand, this is good. We’ve completed a number of larger projects this year and our student workers can really focus on projects involving similar formats and workflows, increasing efficiency. However, now the tide has turned and several members of the Special Collections department are asking to have the pdfs “attached” to the finding aid (which, to us means, deposit it in the repository, create metadata, store for the long-term with the best methods possible…because the whole point is to organize all this digital ephemera not just have it “attached” to the finding aid).
So now I have the proverbial Angel on one shoulder and Devil on the other:
Angel: Access to something is better than nothing!
Devil: But pdfs of photographs and manuscripts? Ew.
A: They are perfectly readable online, i.e. access ready
D: But we don’t have a built in pdf viewer…yet…
A: We have asked, and gotten, identifiers, titles, and descriptions which is all we ask for to begin a digitization request anyway
D: But should we spend so much time on improving the metadata (which we will eventually do, if we follow the current workflow) of pdfs?
A: They are already just sitting around on servers, why not use them?
D: But if we deposit them, think of all the overhead involved? Would we be committing to digital preservation?
A: Aren’t you just being a snob?
D: No, I’m being a good steward of resources!
So I leave it to you, collaborators, what would you do?