April 18, 2024 || FCTEC

The University of Fort Hare (UFH) is a public university in Alice in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. A key institution of higher learning on the continent, the university wanted to digitise its main library, a treasure trove of historic and valuable content in books, drawings, paintings, and microfilm. Another leading institution, Northwest University, recommended FCTEC, and UFH is now collaborating with the company to further its digitisation goals.

project value

“UFH wanted to make all of their library content digital so students can access it, as well as members of the public,” said Thomas Schmidt, General Manager Technical Services at FCTEC. “They asked us to help them establish a digitisation centre, develop the digitisation processes and policies, and then finally move all the information into a centralised system for archiving content and managing access control.”

FCTEC adopted a two-phased approach. The first part of the process consisted of implementing an A2 book scanner designed to handle different sizes of books and paperwork, along with a microfilm scanner capable of digitising microfilms and microfiche items. The second phase of the project commenced a year later with the purchase of an A0 flatbed scanner designed to handle oversized items like larger paintings, drawings, and technical items. It was a significant undertaking across multiple forms of content within a vast library. FCTEC moved through the process with precision, ensuring every document, item and painting was meticulously scanned, curated and classified.

technology used

“We specialise in digitisation projects of this nature, providing institutions and organisations with a trusted service designed to deliver digital professionally and securely,” says Schmidt. “In addition to digitising the content, we provided the institution with training, support, and maintenance of the scanning machines. UFH also needed to recruit dedicated digitisation employees, and we assisted them with this process.”

In addition to training, recruitment and installation of the relevant equipment, FCTEC provides UFH with a clearly defined, step-by-step approach to digitisation. This involves ensuring that the right policies are implemented to manage the scanning process, the classification of the materials, and access controls. Currently, FCTEC is reviewing the process and aligning the move of the content into the target system.

Throughout the process, FCTEC guided UFH to ensure every step was smooth and the items were carefully scanned. The biggest hurdle was recruiting the employees to undertake the digitisation project, as they required training to ensure everything was done correctly. Still, overall, it was a seamless engagement that delivered precisely what UFH needed. For UFH, the relationship with FCTEC has evolved from one where the company provided the scanning equipment to that of a trusted advisor, helping to classify and manage the content review processes. Today, the university is busy creating content for a highly accessible digital library of extraordinary materials that students can use and select members of the public to advance research and understanding in the near future.