McGill Library has a long history of digitizing our rare and special collections and making them available to the world. Our rare and special collections support the teaching, learning, and research needs of McGill students and faculty from all disciplines, and digitizing these items lets us make them available to the wider scholarly community by publishing them online.
Our goal is to create preservation quality digital surrogates that can enhance the usability of our collections by opening up new ways of textual searching, analysis, or manipulation.
All digitization requests are evaluated based on:
- Condition: Is the book in a suitable condition to be scanned safely? Some of our older and rare collections are fragile and may not be available for digitization. Will the condition of the item provide a quality digital image?
- Copyright: Is the book in the public domain? In Canada copyright expires 70 years after the death of the author and before that you would need to secure the permission from the copyright holder for digitization. If you are not sure and need help with a public domain determination please contact the Copyright Compliance Office at copyright [at] mcgill.ca. If the material is not in the public domain we can only digitize a representative short excerpt under the copyright Fair Dealing exception and we limit a request to just 10 pages or images.
- Collection: Does the item belong to McGill and is in our collection? Does the item represent a unique bibliographic record? If the book is digitized elsewhere we are unlikely to digitize it again unless our copy is unique or we can provide a better quality copy.
On demand digitization
If you need a few items for personal or scholarly use you can submit a on demand digitization request that can be digitzed and put online in full in accordance with Canadian Copyright Law. If your books are still covered under copyright, you can digitize what you need using one of our DIY scanning stations or you can make an article or chapter scan request. *Please note we reserve the right to restrict the number of items to 10 per request.
Once your request has been approved we will prepare a file for digital delivery within 10 working days. After the file is delivered, we will add a copy to our repository and catalogue for others to find and use.
If you require a few high resolution image reproductions for personal or scholarly use or for publication or commercial uses please contact Rare Books and Special Collections or the holding library directly.
Project and collection level digitization
If your research requires a significant number of titles, or you are interested in partnering with the library on a grant requiring digitization work, please contact gregory.houston [at] mcgill.ca (Greg Houston) directly. We can help connect you with the appropriate collection librarian, prepare a proposal to the Digitization Project Committee, advise on technical standards and project planning.
Each project proposal is evaluated using our digitization guidelines and requires a completed project proposal. You can find examples of past projects on our digital exhbitions and collections page.