The transition of information storage and distribution has undergone a profound revolution in an era characterised by rapid technological growth, with digitisation at the heart of this transformative journey. Libraries worldwide have worked tirelessly to ensure the seamless and effective conversion of their vast collections. Among these institutions, the National Library of Malaysia stands out with clear purpose and an unwavering dedication.

The digitisation project at the National Library of Malaysia has been a dynamic, ongoing initiative since its inception in 1997. This endeavour places a strong emphasis on preserving uniquely Malaysian materials, underscoring a genuine commitment to the nation’s rich cultural and historical heritage. The library’s undertaking spans a wide array of invaluable resources covering ancient Malay manuscripts, rare books, the National Library’s personal collection, and artifacts that showcase the nation’s cultural legacy and historical treasures.

These digitisation efforts go beyond historical records. Recognising the evolving expectations of readers and researchers, the National Library of Malaysia focuses on curating collections of interest and making them readily available for promotion, thus catering to the demand for essential materials, such as conference papers, seminar papers, journals, and newspapers.

With the advent of the digital age, the National Library of Malaysia has seen itself undergoing a profound transition from being guardians of physical manuscripts to stewards of digital information. While the promise of limitless accessibility and endless preservation is alluring, it brings its own unique set of challenges. The availability of sufficient funds is vital to this transition. Converting traditional collections into digital formats demands sophisticated technology, cutting-edge data storage options, and robust cybersecurity measures. For many libraries, especially those with limited resources or in small communities, finding the necessary budget can be a daunting task.

Another crucial issue revolves around staffing and expertise. Digital preservation is not merely an extension of traditional library science but a specialised field that necessitates knowledge of IT, data analysis, and digital archiving. Recruiting employees with these specialised skills can impose a strain on a library’s budget and resources. Additionally, the ever-evolving nature of technology requires continuous training, making it even more challenging to sustain a team of knowledgeable staff. Simultaneously, there is a significant imperative to ensure the library’s infrastructure and software remain current. With technology constantly evolving, libraries are frequently ensnared in an unending cycle of updates. This requires not only financial resources but also a persistent adaptability to embrace new software and technologies, often requiring partnerships with tech providers, further complicating the landscape.

Human resource development plays a pivotal role in navigating these challenges. It is not just about finding the right people but also about continuously upskilling existing employees. Training becomes a critical component not just in the initial stages but as an ongoing endeavour. There’s also the delicate process of technology transfer to ensure that knowledge and tools are consistently and effectively handed down.

The enormity of the digitisation process can be both a blessing and a curse for libraries with extensive collections. The idea of making a vast reservoir of information digitally accessible is tantalising, but the logistics of it can be daunting. The digitisation process goes beyond digitisation. It is also about quality control, metadata development, and long-term storage options.

Lastly, but by no means least, the legal intricacies of copyright in the digital realm add another layer of complexity. Libraries must navigate these issues carefully, ensuring that they respect copyright laws while striving to make information as accessible as possible. Balancing these dual objectives can often feel like walking through a legal minefield.

In summary, the digital transformation of libraries presents an opportunity for these institutions to redefine their roles in society. By embracing new technologies and innovative services, libraries can become even more relevant and indispensable to their communities

Malay Manuscript digitisation at National Library of Malaysia

Malay Manuscript digitisation at National Library of Malaysia

Contributed by the Digital Content Division, National Library of Malaysia