University Libraries

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes a good proposal?
How large of a project should I submit?
What is the background of the Digitization Program?
What’s expected of you, as the person submitting a proposal?
Who does the metadata?
What projects have been completed already?
Do I have to be sure that this material can be digitized?
What about audio / visual materials?
Whose collections are we digitizing?
How quickly will the projects be completed?
Who does the digitization?

What makes a good proposal?

A good proposal is one that is well articulated and addresses the questions directly and clearly. The focus of the proposal should be on how this project best supports the evaluative criteria and overall strategic goals of the program. Be sure to address how your proposed document aligned with the criteria outlined in the Digitization Framework document.

An example of a good proposal from a previous year has been provided to help you shape your own proposals.

How large of a project should I submit?

There’s no “right” size project, but we are looking for proposals that build, or add to, a critical mass of content for researchers, regardless of size. Regardless of the size of the project, the materials in the proposal should either a) represent a discrete collection or body of content that provides adequate context to users b) build upon existing University digital holdings and projects, or c) expand coverage of a subject or theme available as digital content at other institutions.

While there is no limitation to the size of projects that can be proposed, the Digitization Review Group may recommend that very large projects be broken down into phases or staged over a longer period of time.

What is the background of the Digitization Program?

The Strategic Digitization Program is the result of recommendations laid out in the Libraries’ January 2013 Digitization Framework and Digitization Task Force Recommendations documents. In these documents, the Libraries asserted that, because digitization is critical to many of its goals and strategic initiatives, it should be a fully funded program that strategically supports the Libraries’ mission and priorities.

In October 2013, a Digitization Review Group was formed to establish a process for individuals and units to submit proposals for strategic digitization projects, and to review, select, and prioritize digitization projects. The group has role similar to that of the previous Internal Digitization Granting Program.

What’s expected of you, as the person submitting a proposal?

It is not expected that you will have to be deeply involved at all stages of a digitization project, just because you submitted the proposal. However, we do expect that you will act as an advocate for your project, helping to shepherd it to completion. That might take the form of answering additional questions during the review or planning processes, coordinating communications between different groups, or providing specialized knowledge for metadata generation. If your proposal involves a faculty member, you would probably remain the primary contact between that faculty member and Libraries staff throughout the project.

Who does the metadata?

Libraries' staff will be available to help in shaping the necessary metadata. As a content expert and/or project proposer you may be called upon to consult with metadata staff to ensure that the project is well described.

What projects have been completed already?

The University of Minnesota, during the previously established Internal Digitization Program, has digitized and made available a number of projects from across the Libraries’ collections.

Do I have to be sure that this material can be digitized?

No, but you do have to put some thought into whether digitization presents any legal or ethical issues. We will entertain digitization proposals that involve materials of all kinds of rights statuses, but rights issues may require additional resources to resolve, so they will factor in to proposal review. In your proposal, please provide at least a first-pass answer to the following questions:

Non-copyright issues to address:

  • Do the materials depict individual people, or provide detailed records of one or more people’s lives? (For example: diaries, personal correspondence, medical or school records, etc.) There might be privacy or reputational issues to consider.
  • Do the materials depict, or did the materials originate with, a group of people who might have cultural concerns for how they are shared with the public? (For example: materials collected from indigenous peoples, materials of spiritual significance to one or more groups, materials involving subcultural activities or practices.) Digitization planning may need to involve community outreach and involvement.


Copyright issues to address:

  • Are the materials definitely in the public domain in the U.S.?
    • Were they 1) published, 2) in the U.S., 3) before 1923?
    • Are they federal government documents?
  • If not, are the materials -possibly- in the public domain?
    • Were they all published before 1963?
    • Were they all published before 1978? (These are much less likely to be public domain than pre-’63 works, but still possible…)
    • Are they state government documents?
  • If the materials are not likely to be in the public domain, do you think their owners/creators are findable? Why or why not?
  • If the materials are not likely to be in the public domain, is the digitization project a very new approach to their re-use? (E.g., scanning whole in-copyright books in order to make them -searchable-, but not sharing the full text with searchers…)



Please note that no single answer to any of these questions will disqualify a proposal - they are just some of the practicalities we’ll be taking into consideration.

What about audio / visual materials?

The committee encourages proposals of all media types. While the Digital Library Services department has limited support for the conversion of audio and visual materials, in most cases these projects can be outsourced to one of several trusted vendors. The Libraries has deep experience working with these qualified vendors.

Whose collections are we digitizing?

The Strategic Digitization Program is limited to projects that highlight materials from the collections of the University Libraries.

In some cases, there may be a collection of materials outside of the Libraries for which digitization would provide notable public benefits. In such cases, we would encourage these external partners to seek to donate these materials to the Libraries before we would be able to digitize them with funds from this program.

How quickly will the projects be completed?

The time to complete each project is based on two factors. First, the size, scope and type of materials proposed for digitization will determine the length of time it takes to complete. The Digital Library Services department would be happy to provide you an estimate. The Second and more important factor in determining the time for completing a project rests with the selection committee. In addition to selecting projects of distinction, this group will also bear the responsibility for prioritizing and ranking each project. This clear indication on order will allow digitization staff with a clear and focused path for completing all of this projects.

The committee does recognize that some proposals may be time-sensitive in nature. If your proposal needs to be completed by a certain date in order to support classroom education, research or scholarship support please be sure to indicate that on your proposal form. The committee will consider this information when selecting and ranking proposals.

Who does the digitization?

Digitization of materials will be either completed or managed through the Libraries’ Digital Library Services department. While most projects will be digitized by our own staff and students, some projects may be selected for outsourcing to an external vendor. Any decision to outsource will be first discussed with the project sponsor and, if necessary, with the collection curator or manager.