Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New Feature: User-Submitted Requests for Scanning!

So, many of you participated in our BHL User Survey 2010, and we greatly appreciate your contributions! One of the most prevalent themes throughout the range of responses that we received was that our users want to be able to submit requests for scanning. So, you spoke; we listened.

Introducing the new scanning request form on BHL!

You as a user can now submit requests for items to be scanned and added to the BHL collection, free of charge to you, no less! The process is easy, too. Simply access the "Feedback" form on the BHL website (located in the upper right hand corner of the header through the "Feedback" link, or at the title and item level in BHL by clicking on the "Report an Error" link on the right hand side of the title screen or above the scan images in the book viewer) and choose the option "Scanning Request." You can then fill out and submit the form indicating your request for scanning.

We do ask that you keep a few things in mind. First, due to copyright restrictions, requests for scanning are limited to items published before 1923. Secondly, our ability to scan a request is limited both to the collections of our BHL member institutions and the condition of the volumes they might hold. If we don't have it, we can't scan it. If it's falling apart, we probably won't be able to scan it. Finally, we scan requests in the order they are received, and depending on certain circumstances, such as the rarity or fragility of the item in question, it may take longer to scan certain requests. Nevertheless, we are excited about this new feature and the opportunity it gives you, the user, to contribute to the building of our ever-increasing digital collection. So, pull out those lists of items you wished BHL had and start submitting your requests! We're waiting...


  1. Neat idea. Couple of quick thoughts:

    1. Presumably the contributing libraries have electronic catalogues. Does this form search those on the fly so the user knows whether their request is feasible? In other words, if none of the BHL libraries have the item, the user can be told this straightaway.

    2. Copyright is clearly more complicated than ensuring an item predates 1923 BHL has a lot of post 1923 content, for example, publications by the museums involved in BHL. Hence, I think you want to change the form, otherwise people might be dissuaded from asking for content that BHL could provide.

    3. You could also display lists of requested material, so people can vote for them.

  2. Rod, good questions. Some answers:

    1. The contributing libraries have a wealth of online catalogs; they're not cross-searchable however; we've also discovered fuzzy matching for taxonomic lit in library cats is problematic (the old library data problem). We do have a field for OCLC number. We should also put a link so that people can do their search in WorldCat.

    2. Good point on copyright; we can put a caveat there that if the item is ostensibly in copyright it may be rejected right off.

    3. Interesting thought. I'm curious to see what kind/quality of data that we get and see if it could work.

    - Martin Kalfatovic (Smithsonian/BHL)

  3. Nice idea! One question: the user can sugest one or more libraries, around the world where the document that he need can be find and scanned?

  4. I recently got a couple of suggestions from a colleague for books that she believes the publishers would release under an open access license. Can these be submitted, with appropriate documentation? What documentation would you need? Thanks!

  5. Huzzah!
    Though I just submitted to scan "all volumes" before realizing my mistake (blushing smiley). So a good start, though as Rod suggested, this should generate a page with a list of requested titles. Also some way to check on the status of the items. The quick and dirty way would of course be a shared (dare I say it) google spreadsheet, with "claim received", "article found, awaiting scanning" etc.

  6. Francileila, right now, the form is primarily for the US and UK libraries that are actively scanning books from those specific collections.

    As the other BHL nodes (Europe, Brasil, Australia) start to come online with their book scanning, they will be involved in process and requests that can be filled by those collections will be sent on to them for their consideration.

    P.S. Hope things are well with you in Belem!

    - Martin (Smithsonian/BHL)

  7. Jen, for items that need copyright permissions; please submit them, but put a note with your contact information and we will follow up to get the information about how to get the publishers' permission(s).

    - Martin (Smithsonian/BHL)

  8. Thanks for the "Huzzah".

    We're already brainstorming ideas along the lines you've suggested and will add yours to the list.

    Because of the way the scanning workflow works (including limiting the time we store personal information like email addresses), we might have some problems with the notification of when an item is done. We encourage people to subscribe to our RSS feed of materials going online ( to keep informed. You hackers out there will probably be able to parse the feed to get just the kinds of content you're interested in.