Library Services


Digitisation Services

The Digital Curation Team can advise on all aspects of digitisation, and in some cases arrange for the provision of digitisation services.

We strongly encourage researchers who are considering digitisation to discuss their needs, and to include the full cost of digitisation in project budgets wherever possible.

A range of facilities for digitisation exist within UCL. UCL Library Services regularly carries out digitisation using our own facilities and contracts to internal or external suppliers depending on the scale and nature of the work.

Digitisation activity is governed by the Digitisation Strategy.

If you have any questions about how to cost digitisation as part of a project, or how to plan digitisation, please get in touch with the Digital Curation Team.

Planning for digitisation

The Digital Curation Team can help you to establish the amount of work needed and determine costs. Although the main cost of digitisation is likely to be origination (the production of a first digital copy of the material), a range of other factors will also be important, including any cataloguing and conservation, and what formats are to be produced. 

You should ask the following questions before you begin planning digitisation. Permission to digitise aside, negative answers to these questions should not be an impediment to digitisation, but may change the cost or the timescale of a project.

Do you have permission to digitise the material?

You should consider copyright, other ownership rights and research ethics. 

  • If the materials are under copyright, have you sought permission from the copyright holder? 
  • If the materials belong to an archive collection bestowed to UCL by a private individual, did they place any conditions on its use? 
  • If you want to digitise research data, have you sought confirmation from the appropriate ethical body that you are allowed to do so?

More information is available through the Library's Copyright pages.

What is the current format of the material?

You might want to digitise books or other bound items, flat paper items, analogue media like reel-to-reel, cassettes or VHS, or to attempt to recover obsolete computer formats like early floppy drives.

Is the material catalogued? How much material is there to digitise?

An accurate catalogue will allow digitisation to be scheduled properly, and greatly enhance a user's experience of a collection when it is made available. 

A page count, if possible, or a very good estimation, will allow accurate costing of work. For audio-visual material, a figure for the length of the material would be needed.

What is the condition of the material? Is it bound or flat paper?

It might be necessary, or desirable, to conserve or repair materials prior to digitisation. Some funders are open to considering combined digitisation and conservation projects.

The quality of a book's binding, and how far it can open, will determine how it can be digitised, and will affect the cost of the work.

What do you plan to do with the digitised materials? In which formats will you make the materials available?

You should consider the use of the digitised version before you begin specifying any digitisation work. Do you need text to be searchable? Do you need to keep photographs of each page (as you might with a manuscript) or do you just need computer-readable text files? What formats do you want to derive from the master copies? You can find out more about file formats in this guide.