Originally posted by Don Capps
...I noticed the fun the guy with the digital camera was having fiddling with the tripod, the focus, and lighting at the archives -- I looked through perhaps three or four files, made notes, and xeroxed some pages before he took more than perhaps a half-dozen pictures!...
I bought my Nikon Coolpix 5400 digital camera just 3 weeks before I left for Europe end of September this year. But before that I practiced with it diligently, taking pictures from my magazine copies under poor light conditions in the living room without extra lamps. You cannot use the flash light when doing magazines close-up pictures because you get white-wash, the reflection of the flash from the white paper. The test pictures I took were not always sharp or easy to read text. So, I then decided to buy a new tripod, an Italian "Manfrotto", rather expensive but good. While I had taken last year all pictures from hand-held position with mostly good results, I did this year all page photography with the camera fixed to the tripod, which allowed for much faster work, speak production increase. With a faster camera than last year's Nikon Coolpix 880, I could shoot more pictures than before, with a maximum production of up to 8 pictures per minute but usually about 2 per minute, which includes battery or card changes, reading, searching and writing down each picture taken. In the worst light conditions, my settings on automatic focusing were 1/30 second with a 2.8 aperture. I did all my copying in the Deutsches Museum Bibliothek, München, with the 5400 digital camera. I had worked there altogether 12 days, about 94 to 95 hours, resulting in 5270 Digital-pictures, each about 1MB in size, filling almost 12 of my 512MB Compact Flash cards.
On this year's trip I kept rather good records of my time spent, production of photographs, photocopies, etc. I started out on the morning following my afternoon arrival at the Deutsches Museum Bibliothek in München. When I work in the European libraries, I exert a lot of pressure on myself, pumping up my Adrenaline level. I don't take it easy or take leisure time in the libraries. In München, I usually was the first one walking through the door at 9:00 and left at night at 5:00 when all doors were closed. My time is the most important asset I bring with me when entering a library, I am very much aware of that fact. Therefore, I usually prepare myself to the best of my knowledge or imagination, as it is in some cases. Every year I try to improve, learning from my prior mistakes. The top order is: "Do not waste your time!"
Also, because I had paid this time $1,211.00 for my return flight tickets just to go to the libraries in Europe, I worked fast for all that money. I had picked only magazines before 1930. None of them were allowed to be used on a photocopier due to being old and fragile paper-wise. Therefore I could employ my new camera and tripod. An important part is that I thereby saved any charges for photocopies, which would have been 15¢ each, rather expensive, I think. After 8 days hard work at the Deutsches Museum (9 to 5), I took one of the speedy ICE trains the following day to Basel. I bought a 1st Class return ticket for €120.20 and had an excellent relaxing trip. The train twice attained a speed of 250 km/h while riding very smoothly.
So, on Monday, October 11, when I arrived at the Basel Universitätsbibliothek 9:00 AM, the opening time, I saw in front of the locked door a sign posted, stating that the library was closed from October 11 to 16 due to "Revision", meaning the library staff with helpers were doing a book and document inventory. I had not known any of this before. So, the place was officially closed for exactly these 5 days, which I had planned for my visit already months before in Hawaii, what a coincident! I had come all the way from Hawaii to Basel, and although without prior appointment, I had to find a way inside the library. The people in charge made an exception to allow visitors/students, who had traveled in excess of 50 km to the library. Because I had come from Hawaii (more than the required 50 km) and had my working program pre-planned, they allowed entry. Once inside, I received such extraordinary good service, that I felt like a king. This could have never happened in Germany but the Swiss people are different from the Germans, although they speak basically the same language in the larger part of that country. The word 'Service' is not a German one but 'verboten' is. I had the copy machines for myself, so basically no waiting time, only twice for brief periods. But yes, I worked very hard also, took no time for lunches and allowed myself to go to the toilet only twice during the day. I stayed almost till six at night every day, once even till 7:00 PM and on the last day I was allowed to start at eight in the morning. Normal hours were 9 to 5, and on this Saturday they were closed for good. Lucky me, that I was able to put in all those "overtime-hours". The reason, why I could produce 1,578 photocopies (all of Din A3 size = Dbl. of regular page size) in only 5 days (45 hrs.) was that I was one of very few people permitted inside the Basel Universitätsbibliothek. Of course I had established good rapport with the chief man there and one of his assistants and showed my appreciation for their extraordinary service by presenting them on my third day there with a basket filled with various deli foods and two bottles of whine, nicely arranged.
Before I left for Europe, I had bought seven 512MB Compact Flash cards in Hawai'i, each $52.00. I later had to buy in München another five, two for each at €86 and later another three, each for €65. Had I pre-planned better, I could have saved a lot of money by buying the cards in America, where they are about half the German price. I had also considered buying a laptop. First, they are still rather fragile and break down more often then the large computers. Second, a good laptop from Dell will cost me $1,500 to $2,000 and for that reason the solution with memory cards was the less expensive one. I am of the firm belief that I can produce more pictures in the library without even touching a laptop, thereby cutting down on my unproductive time.
I have 6 batteries for the camera plus a larger external one, which I had only used once two years ago. Normally, on this trip, I got away by using two batteries a day, sometimes starting a third one. I was not aware of the fact that the Nikon 5400 was using much less battery power than the old Nikon Coolpix 880 I used last year. Remember that I did not take pictures continuously all day long. First I had to read myself through 52 issues of one year's motor magazines and simultaneously mark which pages have to be copied. This may take 2 to 3 hours, depending on what magazine I am dealing with. Once I finished this reading procedure, (which I did as fast as possible, without really reading but instead skimming over the headlines only) I start taking digital pictures usually of that last bunch of magazines I had just read. I also have a cable to connect the camera to a power source. I had used it only at one visit two years ago and it now remains an option. My new Nikon used very few batteries, 2 to 3 a day and I never filled more than 1 Compact Flash card a day of 512MB size, equal to 481 to 528 pictures per card at my selected setting.
Back in Hawaii for four weeks now, I had plenty of time to look at my pictures. Each of my pages is about 1 MB in size, so there is no problem in readability. Since it is a photograph and not a scan, my pictures show all kinds of distortions by the small camera lens and various light reflections and shadows on the page. In actual fact, I cannot claim that any of my digital copies belong to a high quality production. But I can finally read what I had deprived myself from doing in the libraries. Each picture needs to be titled, which is a tedious job. Another plus are the photographs in the magazines, which come out in satisfactory quality.
I wrote my observations down for those of you who consider making copies in libraries. I would like to know who else takes a digi camera to the library? Tell us about your experiences.
The following is a related item but of rather negative experience.
A friend of mine told me that he was not allowed to bring his digi camera into the British Library, which appears to have a rather bureaucratic system. It seems to be designed to PREVENT people from getting their hands on the contents. When you enter, you are effectively searched. You are not allowed to take in any bags with you - these have to be left at reception. So no cameras are allowed, just a few papers and writing instruments to make notes.
Of course you can use the copying machines to record the pages of interest.....except that there are NO copying machines. The British library has no copying machines, at least not for use by the public. They will copy for you a day or two later, but they charge 70 cents a copy! It's hard to believe, but true. So everyone busily copies their articles by hand, all scratching away like monks in a mediaeval monastery. Quite pathetic.
They do have microfilm, lots of it and it goes way back and covers the world. And they have quite a number of very old-fashioned microfilm readers. But only two A3 copiers. This is the main newspaper library for the whole of UK - 60 million people - and they have just two A3 copiers. As a result you use the old fashioned machines to find the pages of interest, unload the microfilm, join the queue for the printers, reload the film, find your pages again and print what you want. It's an archaic system.
But that's not all...by far. You are only allowed to request four microfilms at a time and it takes quite a while, maybe half an hour or more, before they are delivered. You may need only one page in each film, but you cannot persuade them to break their rules. So when you've finished, you can submit a request for four more and twiddle your thumbs while you wait. And so it goes on. A very frustrating experience, especially since they have so much wonderful stuff in their collection, if only you could get your hands, or eyes, on it.