Book Scanners in the Library


Today I was cruising around Kickstarter and the Scandock project caught my eye.

Library book scanner
Photo courtesy of Adam Burke. Please note this is note the same model of scanner we had in our library.

While I do like the sleek design and this would have been really handy a couple of days ago when I had to scan a document and email to a friend. I don’t really think it is the type of device everyone needs in their home, however it looks exactly like the type of device I would love to see in a library.

In the library that I used to work for we had a book scanner and it was ok. I probably wouldn’t recommend replacing a scanner that had its own computer with one that required a Smartphone, but I think it would make a great addition.  Here’s why:

The Issue

Students and patrons often only want a small section of a book or journal. They are not always keen on making a photocopy. Digital scans are convenient and don’t require any paper or toner.

Digital Scanning devices are often pricey and can represent a strain on the increasing library budgets.  Despite this pressure many academic libraries have them available. Our library was no exception and the scanner (I won’t mention the brand, as this isn’t a review) we had in our library could save an image to either a usb drive or email the document to an address provided. The device was popular even though the touch screen  interface wasn’t very well laid out and the quality of the image was only adequate. The main problem I had with the machine, which I believe was fairly expensive, was that it did not have its own light source which limited the image quality. A second major problem that we regularly encountered was that software was a little too much for the processor and the unit was crashing about once a day. Since this scanners was costly and an integrated units replacing the software wasn’t really an option. It is pretty clear that as the years roll on the software will become more and more out of date in relation to technology.

What to do

Example of a DIT Book Scanner
Example of a DIT Book Scanner
Photo courtesy of Al Billing

When I first began thinking about the problem of the book scanner I came across the DIY book scanner project. The website has a ton of information about building your own book scanner from scratch. The plans and drawings available are pretty detailed and the end result was not too amateurish, as we were an engineering library it was tempting to try and recruit some enterprising students to build us one of these. However, at the end of the day having a custom built scanner wouldn’t be an ideal solution because it would still require software support. Since this “homemade” solution would have open source software it would require IT support capable of handling any problems that cropped up. If there was an IT team on hand to handle this type of software and hardware support the advantage would be that as hardware and software capabilities increased the scanner could grow incrementally to keep up. However, not many libraries have an IT department that can be deployed in this manner.

Another Path

The Scandock project made me think that what a library could provide for a fraction of the cost of a book scanner.  The proliferation of smart phones with the capability to take a photo and turn it into PDF, means that all many students need is a platform to hold the phone and light the page to be scanned.

Wrapping up

This is really only a partial solution because not everyone has a phone, but for a fraction of the cost of purchasing a second scanner the number of patrons scanning a book could be doubled.  This solution does shift the cost of the camera, hardware and software to the user. That said if access for all was extremely important a Smartphone of appropriate power could be purchased and loaned to patrons for use as the computer/camera portion of the scanner. If you have any thoughts or resources you think might contribute to this post feel free to leave them in the comments section.

Resources / Links

The Scandock project website and kickstarter page:

DIY Book Scanner

Apps that will turn your smartphone into a scanner



One thought on “Book Scanners in the Library

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