In incorporating this task in the project, the organisers could draw from the experiences of Książnica Cieszyńska, which had begun a long-term digitisation project of its collection in 2003. In its pilot phase, when use was made of the library’s own resources and the simple informational tools at its disposal, all the historical collection catalogues underwent digitisation.

In 2003-2005, they were made available online, becoming – alongside the databases that were being compiled at the same time – a valuable element of Książnica Cieszyńska’s search instruments. Parallel to this, work on the digitisation of the catalogue documentation, the construction of the Cieszyn Virtual Library (Cieszyńska Biblioteka Wirtualna) was begun, part of which included making electronic copies of around 100 works, comprising Cieszyn’s historical literary canon.

Despite the fact that the works were presented only as graphic files, precluding an effective search system, the Cieszyn Virtual Library met with considerable interest from internet users, measured systematically by the growing number of hits and numerous links on Polish and foreign web portals. Its functioning helped Książnica Cieszyńska to discover the needs concerning access to electronic versions of the written documents about Cieszyn Silesia, and also the organisational and technical potential of its digitisation and popularisation. These experiences proved to be extremely useful during the preparations for the project The Preservation and Restoration of Cieszyn’s Written Heritage.
Initiating work on digitisation in 2003, Książnica Cieszyńska decided that digitisation should be carried out on those collections of strictly regional character, which had little chance of being included in digitisation projects carried out by other centres. Unlike many Polish libraries, where digitisation began with their incunabula and pre-1801 imprints, Książnica concentrated on writings which originated in or dealt with the region.

This principle, established right from when the Cieszyn Virtual Library was being created, found its application during the project The Preservation and Restoration of Cieszyn’s Written Heritage. Here, digitisation was carried out on historical Cieszyn periodicals, which, since they enjoy huge popularity among readers, are more at risk of rapid destruction, owing to their paper’s high degree of acidity.

Other materials to undergo digitisation were primary sources in the form of manuscripts concerning the history of Cieszyn Silesia, including the collection of manuscripts from the Library of Leopold Jan Szersznik, the collection of historical records of the Lutheran Parish, a large proportion of the Cieszyn municipal records in the State Archives and important parts of the Cieszyn archives of the Order of the Brothers Hospitallers.
Around 570 000 pages were digitised during the project, of which close to 390 000 were digitised in Książnica, 120 000 in the State Archives, approximately 28 000 in the Tschammer Library and Archives, 30 000 in the Archives and Library of the Brothers Hospitallers and 1 000 pages in the Museum of Cieszyn Silesia. This task – with the exception of the State Archives in Katowice, where most of the work linked to the digitisation and microfilming was done in its own reprographic workshop – was carried out by two specialist companies, the Poznań Digital-Centre and Mikrofilm-Service from Raszyn, selected through the tendering process.

As a result of their work, apart from the source TIFF copies (full colour and resolution of 300 dpi) and functional publications in PDF and DjVu formats (which in the case of periodicals printed in a Latin font are supplied with an OCR text layer created using the FineReader programme) microfilm copies were also created, intended for permanent archival use.

In this way, the process of digitisation, a crucial element of the project, was carried out in full, where efforts to improve the collection’s safety were to be linked to efforts to increase their accessibility. In this case it meant, on one hand, the withdrawal from circulation of certain parts of the collections, and on the other, their replacement with digital copies, ensuring the possibility of unlimited access to their content.

To see the results in practice, one may take advantage of the Silesian Digital Library (, which Książnica Cieszyńska joined on 23 January 2009 – while the project was still being implemented – thus giving it the opportunity to make its digital resource available online. In the future, the remaining project participants are to join the Silesian Digital Library, and make available copies of their imprints and manuscripts.

Digitalization of the collections of Cieszyn Historical Library was performed in its head office using the equipment supplied by the contractor and its workers.
The photo presents the touch-probe scanner for digital conversion of sewn and bound collections, equipped with blue light source that does not emit UV and IR, activated only during scanning and reducing the time of exposure to 0,3 sec., which guarantees complete preservation of the items to be digitalized.
Reprographic laboratory of the State Archives in Katowice, in which digitalization of Cieszyn archives took place
The primary target format of digitalization are TIFF lossless files
Each TIFF file contains a copy of only one original page, prepared in a graphic format – true color in 300 dpi resolution. Those files, which constitute an archive copy and are inaccessible for readers, are then used for making microfilm copies and accessible electronic publications in PDF and DjVu formats.
Microfilms are the most durable data carriers
The microfilms made within the project are not meant for library users, but only for archiving, therefore they are made only as negatives. Despite the development of IT technologies, the microfilms which – as specialized examinations show – can keep copy properties even for hundreds of years, are still considered to be the safest method of recording and storing text and graphic information.
Library users will use digital copies made as DjVu and PDF files
Publications in DjVu format, containing digital copies of a given manuscript or magazine annual, include a navigation system with links to individual sections of the manuscripts or magazine numbers, and, additionally – in case of magazines printed with Latin fonts – OCR layers prepared in FineReader to allow full search within the publication text. Due to the structure and reduced size, DjVu files are accessible through online libraries. For presentations in internal databases PDF publications are also used, with navigation systems and relatively high quality of graphics.
After Cieszyn Historical Library joined in 2009 the Silesian Digital Library, the Cieszyn Virtual Library operating since 2003 was closed.
Traditionally, the most popular items among the users are Cieszyn’s newspapers, mainly „Cieszyn Star”.
Conclusion of the agreement concerning cooperation in establishment of the Silesian Digital Library was preceded by a few months of negotiations, as a result of which the Cieszyn Historical Library made the founders of the Silesian Digital Library introduce changes in the methods of providing access to digital copies. On the request of the Historical Library, the SDL interface was equipped with an additional option (menu reference: “Participants’ publications”), which enables the SDL cofounding institutions to present their individual collections in a separate tab provided with introductory text, internal graphics, search engine, counters and lists of recent additions the most popular publications. This allows individual libraries to agree its digitalization policies with the interests and needs of the community more effectively. Such presentations allow the users not only to observe current digitalization work status in their own libraries, but also to search their collections without the need to make such operations in all SDL resources.
The Reading Room of Cieszyn Historical Library equipped with the new microfilm scanner.
The scanner will allow digitalization of magazines, which have not been covered by the operations within the project and kept as microfilm copies in the collections of Cieszyn Historical Library. Apart from the scanner, the Reading Room of Cieszyn Historical Library has been also equipped with a modern, large-format reader of microfilms and computers with 24” monitors to allow viewing the newspaper digital copies.