Interview guide (digital archiving SME)

Date & time:

0. General things to look out for during the interview

  • Work processes
  • Tools used (OCR/digitizing software, scanning hardware, etc.)
  • Output generated (raw text, PDF document, etc.)
  • Stakeholders (esp. other possible interviewees)
  • Pain points & frustrations

1. Getting started

Introduce the team and explain why you're there. Give a brief overview of the interview session, and assure him or her that they don't need to answer any questions they might feel uncomfortable in answering.

2. Demographics, context, icebreakers

  • Can you tell us a little bit about [institution]? How many people does it have? How is it structured?
  • Tell us about the human resources you have in-house, their skills, responsibilities, etc.?
  • How long have you been at [institution]?
  • What are your roles and responsibilities?
  • What other departments or institutions do you work with closely?
  • What kinds of activities do you typically use a computer for?
  • Any favorite applications or websites? Why?
  • Any you don't like? Why?

3. Main interview

  • What kinds of material do you digitize? (e.g., books, documents, etc.)
    • Do you deal with rare materials? (i.e., materials that require special handling)
  • How does a scanner go about starting a scanning task? How do they organize themselves and approach the task?

Let's talk about the workflow...

  • Can you talk about the workflow for digitizing an individual book?
    • What happens on a page-to-page basis?
    • Do the scanners need to validate the scans? (image quality assurance)
    • Pain points: what is disliked most (or most frustrating) about the scanning process?
    • How often do pages need to be re-scanned, and why?
    • Where and how does page arrangement, organization, changes (additions/deletions), etc. happen?
  • Can you talk about the workflow for digitizing an archive/library?
  • Could you speak about the division of the workflow between Toronto and San Francisco?
  • Inefficiencies: What takes the most time? (What stage of the workflow?)


  • What sort of equipment/software do you use to digitize books?
    • Did the IA build it, did they contract a company to custom build it, or did they use a pre-packaged third-party solution?
    • Any general frustrations with the tool?
    • How does the product help/hinder your work flow?
      • What does the software do automatically that helps your work? What do you wish it did automatically?
      • Are there any cases where automation has made your work harder?
      • What kind of batch operations are available to a scanner? Do these features help?
    • How do you work around problems?
    • What are the outputs of the Toronto site?
    • What are the final document outputs like?
    • Does your solution do layout analysis and attend to text flow?

5. Wrap-up

Thank the individual for their time.

Ask if it would be OK to contact them with follow-up questions and/or design review as we move through the project.