Skip to Main Content

Digital Initiatives: ScanDay FAQ

Digital Initiatives department at the North Dakota State Library


Browse the FAQs below to learn more about ScanDay. If you would prefer a shorter version of the FAQ, visit this PDF:

ScanDay FAQ

ScanDay is an event hosted in libraries (public, academic, school, special, etc.) across the state, in which Digital Initiatives staff from the North Dakota State Library bring scanning and photography equipment to a community and digitize historical photographs, documents, and objects.

The purpose of this event is to get residents and organizations to engage in building local and state history by bringing in records, photographs, objects, etc. to be digitized and then displayed online on Digital Horizons. There, they can be accessed anytime for free by researchers, genealogists, teachers, students, members of the general public, etc.

Most libraries, institutions, and even members of the public do not have the necessary knowledge or equipment to handle digitization projects like this, but this is where Digital Initiatives can help.


Participants will sign up for a time slot before the event takes place. The local organization hosting the ScanDay will have a signup sheet for participants. Participants can sign up for a 30-minute time slot. ND State Library staff can only accommodate two participants during a 30-minute time slot, and 10-15 items per person (due to limited staff/ equipment and the processing time required). Participants should have their items selected ahead of time, before going to the ScanDay event.

Here is an example:

Time Time Slot #1 Time Slot #2
1:00-1:30 Person A Person B
1:30-2:00 Person C Person D

If a local organization (library, museum, church, historical society, etc.)  is interested in signing up as a participant, they can bring about 20-30 items and are allowed to sign up for two 30-minute time slots (one right after the other).

Here is an example:

Time Time Slot #1 Time Slot #2
1:00-1:30 Organization A Person B
1:30-2:00 Organization A Person C

If you have more than 10-15 items (or certain items like scrapbooks, booklets, etc.) it may take too long for them to be digitized at the event. However, if you want to have these items digitized and added to Digital Horizons, Digital Initiatives staff may have to borrow the items for a period of time. The items would later be returned upon completion.

When arriving at their allotted time, participants will be greeted by ND State Library staff, who will then work with participants to review and assess the materials brought in.

Participants will be asked to fill out and sign a form, which allows the ND State Library to digitize the items, as well as retain and share the digital files. During the 30-minute time slots, ScanDay staff will work with participants to get contact information, digitize the items, and record the descriptive information (metadata) for each item.

The items participants bring are scanned or photographed, and then the items are returned. Flash drives will be provided to all participants, which will include digital copies of their items. Participants will also receive handouts relating to Digital Horizons, the ND State Library, preservation, etc.

The ND State Library will also retain and preserve digital copies of the materials, and they will be added to its digital collections. Staff will later process the digitized items and determine which to upload and display on Digital Horizons.

ND State Library staff will bring digitization equipment to the ScanDay event, including two flatbed scanners and a digital camera. The scanners can roughly fit items 8 1/2 X 11 inches. Any materials larger than this will be photographed.


Digital Initiatives wants to avoid limiting what attendees bring to ScanDay events. However, submissions of photographs, postcards, letters, certificates, journals, artwork, artifacts, memorabilia, scrapbooks, etc. are encouraged.

  • Due to limited staff and equipment and the processing time required, each ScanDay participant is limited to 10-15 items during their time slot.
  • Oversize items and objects are acceptable. They will not fit on the scanners, but they can be photographed with a high-quality digital camera.
  • It is highly recommended that these items be identifiable (meaning things like the people, location, and approximate time period are able to be determined).
  • It is preferred that items have some sort of a North Dakota connection.
  • Anything that celebrates or represents certain themes, including but not limited to: North Dakota history, city or county life, agriculture, structures that no longer exist, floods, pioneers, ethnicities, government, military, family history, sports, education, organizations, etc.

Still not sure what to bring? Here are a few suggestions and tips to give you some ideas.

  • Items can be from any time period, but more recent items (like photographs) should have been taken by participants so there are not any copyright issues.
  • Family photographs are probably the most commonly submitted items. When it comes to family photographs, the older they are, the better.
  • If possible, bring the original version of an item (like photographs or documents) instead of a copy. Scans of the originals tend to produce better quality digital files versus scans of copies.
  • Photographs of all shapes and sizes are encouraged, but they should be clear/ not blurry.

Bring as much information on the items as you can. Preparing an inventory, description, or notes of the items before the event would save staff a lot of time. Try to answer these questions for each item brought to ScanDay: Who? What? When? Where?

Here are some examples:

  • Who
    • Who is in the photograph? Who is the subject?
    • Include full names (avoid things like “Mom” or “Grandpa”)
  • What
    • What is going on in the photograph? What is the context?
    • Why was the photograph taken?
  • When
    • Try to date the photograph
    • Even a date estimation, like “between 1925-1932” or “late 1940s” is better than nothing
  • Where
    • Where was the photograph taken?
    • Where was the photograph published?

Items that are generally discouraged include newspapers or newspaper clippings, copyrighted materials (unless permission is obtained from the copyright holder), and anything that contains private information. As a general rule, do not bring anything to ScanDay that you would not be comfortable having displayed online on Digital Horizons.

To give you some ideas of what to bring, you can also browse the entire North Dakota Memories collection.

Also, you can consult this handout for additional information on what should or should not be submitted:


Digital Initiatives works to sort through all the items digitized at a ScanDay event. After processing is complete, staff works to catalog the information and upload them onto Digital Horizons.

However, not all items scanned or photographed will be uploaded onto Digital Horizons. Digital Initiatives staff is happy to digitize most items for participants, but not all of them will fall under the scope of the North Dakota Memories collection. Other reasons for exclusion can include condition, copyright, duplication, lack of metadata, etc.

Items may also appear on the ND State Library’s social media accounts and promotional materials.


Items from ScanDays are primarily part of the North Dakota Memories collection.

To narrow your search to a specific ScanDay location, browse the North Dakota Memories collection, scroll down until you come across the “Subcollection” filter on the left, and then click on the ScanDay collection to see the items from that location.


Any library (public, academic, school, special, etc.) in the state of North Dakota is welcome to request and host a ScanDay. ScanDay can no longer be directly requested and hosted by other organizations (such as museums, heritage centers, historical societies, etc.).

Museums and historical societies are welcome to sign up as participants for the event.

Also, if a museum or historical society is interested in having a ScanDay event in their community, they can partner with their local library. The two organizations would essentially be co-hosts of the event. If the local library does not have adequate space for the event, it can be hosted elsewhere in the community. As long as a local library is somehow involved with the event, it can proceed.


The responsibility of the hosting organization is to provide a space for Digital Initiatives staff to set up equipment. The organization will also need to provide a table, chairs, and access to an outlet. Please contact Digital Initiatives prior to the ScanDay if your organization has any issues with these responsibilities.

Marketing materials (like a flyer and signup sheet) will be provided by the North Dakota State Library. The organization is responsible for distributing the marketing materials and answering patrons’ questions about the event.

Prior to the ScanDay, the ND State Library will create a Facebook event and make the hosting organization a co-host; both parties will then have the ability to promote the event and invite participants.

The hosting organization is responsible for lining up attendees. In some cases, Digital Initiatives may require a minimum number of attendees to be registered in order for the event to take place.


If you are unable to attend a ScanDay event but would still like to contribute your materials to Digital Horizons, contact Digital Initiatives at the North Dakota State Library to discuss options.

  • Digital Initiatives staff may have to borrow the items for a period of time. The items would later be returned upon completion.
  • If you are in the Bismarck area or are passing through, contact Digital Initiatives about setting up an appointment for you to bring your items to the ND State Library for digitization.


No, Digital Initiatives cannot provide monetary values or appraisals for materials brought to a ScanDay event.


The ND State Library is not equipped to accept physical items like photographs, documents, and objects. The ND State Library is not an archive so the physical preservation of these materials falls out of its scope. If you are interested in donating your archival materials to an institution that can properly store and care for them, consider contacting a local museum or historical society. You may also want to consider contacting the State Historical Society of North Dakota (either the Archives or Museum division).

The ND State Library can, however, accept certain items like books and histories (county, town, organizational, family, etc.). Although, there are some factors to consider before the ND State Library can accept the donation (such as scope, condition, duplication, etc.). If accepted, these items would be added to the ND State Library’s physical collection.


If your organization is interested in having a ScanDay or if you have questions relating to Digital Initiatives, please contact us.


Digital Initiatives is a department under the Technology Services Division at the North Dakota State Library. Digital Initiatives was formed in 2012 to share expertise in collecting, creating, and preserving digital copies of items relating to North Dakota's cultural heritage and government. Digital Initiatives offers services including training and consultation related to the creation, display, storage, and preservation of digital collections.

Digital Initiatives digitizes, shares, and preserves North Dakota-related materials, many of which are cataloged and uploaded onto Digital Horizons. Digital Initiatives also plans, organizes, and implements ScanDays.


Digital Horizons is an online digital library consisting of thousands of images, documents, videos, and oral histories depicting life on the Northern Plains from the late 1800s to today. Digital Horizons provides a fascinating snapshot of the lives, culture, and history of the people who shaped life on the prairies.

Digital Horizons was established in 2007 and has grown to include contributors such as Concordia College, North Dakota State University, Prairie Public Broadcasting, ND State Library, State Historical Society of North Dakota, and more!

IMLS logo

Many of these resources and programs are funded under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.