In my session at the Arizona Family History Expo on using manuscript collections, we were talking about the relatively low rates of digitization of manuscript collections.
Like most issues in libraries, the reason mostly comes down to costs. There are huge amounts of material waiting and funding is down. Some of the costs are predictable and some not as evident:
1. There are up-front costs for the infrastructure for digitizing: buying the software, scanners, servers, and back-up systems.
2. There are training costs for librarians and archivists to learn how to create and manage digital objects and collections.
3. There are costs for the staff time to scan the items (or send them out to be scanned) and to catalog the digital files, compiling the metadata needed to make the files searchable.
4. There are long-term costs to host the files, keep the file formats viable, and create search interfaces for users.
There was an article in the LA Times recently that I thought was very well done, describing the process and the challenges for libraries and archives. You can read it here: