Last updated:  25 March 2024

This page identifies the main selection criteria and helps you decide which are relevant for your library.

Digitisation projects require clearly defined selection criteria to ensure a useful product.


The criteria may differ from one institution to another and from one project to another for many reasons. Variables such as why the collection is to be digitised; the type of collection to be digitised; what items or materials are to be digitised; the immediate and long-term plans of digitisation do need to be considered. Other factors such as budget and time frame will also determine the selection criteria.

The outcomes of digitising, while not part of the criteria, also need to be flagged. Digitisation can change the way your material is accessed and can place new demands on the use of your collection.

In instances where a whole collection is to be reformatted the selection criteria should become part of the Collection Development Policy.

There is a great deal of information on selection criteria available on the web and links have been provided to some sites. The main selection criteria has been identified and a series of questions devised to assist in your decision making.


  • How relevant are the materials to your institution’s collection development policy?
  • How relevant are they to the local area?  
  • Do they have geographical, historical and cultural significance?


  • Is the material unique to your collection?
  • Do you need to digitise everything in the collection?
  • Are similar materials held in your collection? For example - Does the collection have a number of photographs of the same scene or subjects
  • Do they all need to be digitised?
  • Are digital versions available in other collections?  
  • Do you have access to these images?
  • Will the value of the collection change?  


  • Digital image creation must comply with current copyright laws. Do you have permission to digitise?
  • Who owns the material to be digitised?
  • Who owns copyright to the materials to be digitised?
  • Will obtaining copyright permissions delay the implementation of digitisation?


  • Are fragile materials in constant demand?
  • Are copies of fragile materials commonly requested?
  • Have fragile materials been reformatted and microfilm or microfiche copies made?

Digital copying will assist with the conservation of rare and valuable materials by reducing handling of the original. However, at this stage the use of digitisation as long term preservation is still unclear.

Access and use

  • How are the digital images to be accessed?  
  • Will access be in your reading rooms?  
  • Will access be online?
  • How are the images to be used:
    • by your institution?  
    • by the public?  
    • in-house or online exhibitions?
    • in publications?  
    • by the media?  
    • by staff?
  • Are you aware of how your collection is currently used?
  • Are you aware of the type of resources the users of your collection are seeking?

Online access allows better access and increases the availability of resources. This results in new audiences, new demands and new information.

Digital originals (born digital)

Minimum resolution standards need to be established for material created and for donated images. Some institutions only accept donations that comply with certain specifications.

Below are some useful sites which include Collection Development Policies, discussions of the issues relating to digitisation, detailed selection criteria and guidelines. 

Guidance for selecting material for digitisation from Joint RLG and NPO Preservation Conference

Analysing Selection for Digitisation - D-Lib Magazine
This article discusses the general approach by a number of institutions to digitisation. It provides some good assumptions and recommendations for best practice.

National Digital Forum (NZ)
The National Digital Forum (NDF) is a coalition of museums, archives, art galleries, libraries and government departments working together to enhance electronic access to New Zealand’s culture and heritage.  The Policies and Guidelines section has useful links relating to selection and includes Australian sites - Australian National Library, PADI and State Library of Queensland.  

Digital Library Manifesto - IFLA/UNESCO

Opening Up Our Cultural Heritage Through Digitisation and Collaboration - World Library and Information Congress 
The Congress was held in August 2009 in Milan, Italy. Includes a paper on a local history project in a public Library in Cacak, Serbia.

NINCH Guide to Good Practice
NINCH, The National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage is a US project providing guidelines and advice for digitising projects. NINCH a coalition of libraries, museums and galleries has created a guide to good practice for digitisation which can be applied to the NSW public library context.

Webjunction Best Practices and Planning for Digitization Project - OCLC
This page aims to assist in avoiding common pitfalls with recommendations and resources for planning a digital imaging project.

Digitization – Library Success: a best practice wiki
This has some useful links in relation to best practice and standards.

Digital Imaging Tutorial - Cornell University Library
“Moving theory into practice”, the digital imaging tutorial presented by Cornell University Library is a well constructed tutorial and the section on selection criteria provides a concise list of key issues.

Australian Copyright Council, information relating to copyright issues in Australia.