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Digital Projects Toolkit: In-House vs. Vendor

In-House Digitization vs. Outsourcing Digitization

Overview: In-House Digitization vs. Outsourcing Digitization

Digitization can be done in two ways:

  1. In-house
  2. Outsourcing to a vendor

There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. Either option works and it really comes down to the preferences of an institution. Important deciding factors will likely include:

  • Cost
  • Staff
  • Equipment (hardware and software)
  • Supplies
  • Space/ facilities
  • Time
In-House Digitization

According the the Northeast Document Conservation Center, these are the advantages and disadvantages of in-house digitization:


  • "Learn by doing"
  • Define requirements incrementally
  • Maintain quality requirements
  • Retain direct control and ensure security and proper handling
  • Ensure the primacy of library, archives, and/or museum requirements


  • Larger organizational investment
  • Longer ramp-up time before digitization can begin
  • No set price per digitized item (image, audio, or video file)
  • Comparably limited production capabilities and facilities
  • Wide range of staffing experience
Outsourcing Digitization

According the the Northeast Document Conservation Center, these are the advantages and disadvantages of vendor digitization:


  • Monetary investment and technical infrastructure are responsibilities of the vendor
  • Obsolescence costs are borne by the vendor
  • Organizations can budget and rely on a set cost per digitized item
  • Vendors tend to have lower labor costs
  • The volume and throughput of a specially designed and staffed production facility is far greater than any cultural heritage organization is likely to have
  • Problems related to staff expertise and staff retention are incurred by the vendor


  • The organization is one step removed from the digitization process
  • Not all vendors are experienced in working with materials from libraries, archives, and museums
  • Contracts must articulate needs clearly and at the beginning of the process
  • Because most vendor work is performed off-site, organizations must transport potentially fragile materials
  • Vendor staff may not be adequately trained to handle fragile materials with the same care as staff of the owning organization
  • Opting to work with a smaller vendor could make an organization vulnerable to a vendor’s viability

Vendor Resources



Consult the Microfilm page for a list of some vendors and information about microfilm digitization.


Consult the Yearbooks page for a list of some vendors, as well as information and resources on yearbook digitization, copyright, privacy, and harmful content.