UoL Library Blog

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Digital signatures and document supply – an investigation

Posted by gazjjohnson on 13 January, 2010

Like most universities we operate a document supply service.  For articles from journals we’re required by copyright law to collect a signed form for each and every request from our customers; in our case a print off of a webpage.  This isn’t an ideal situation since it means there’s generally a day between a request being placed and the signed form reaching my team – at which point we can place the request with the British Library.

So we’d like to explore moving to use digital signatures in some way.  I’ve started making some initial enquiries with some contacts around the country, but thought it was probably worth blogging about it too.  I suppose my questions at the moment are:

  • What is the validity of digital signatures under law?
  • Are there any kinds/types of digital signatures that aren’t acceptable?
  • What is the best/most effective approach to take?
  • What are the potential pitfalls and challenges (technological or otherwise?)
  • How was it finally implemented/introduced to the community – for everyone or just those who wished it?

I know Cardiff and Plymouth at least are certainly at various stages of implementing this and so I’ve dropped a line to both of them; but whom else is heading down this path and what wisdom can they share?

One Response to “Digital signatures and document supply – an investigation”

  1. Palubins said

    Full Disclosure I work for a digital signature software provider (eOriginal). You asked really 5 good questions that I often come across. Under the UETA and E-Sign acts electronic documents and digital signatures can be used with the same effect as wet ink on paper. Certain processes with the eSigning experience are required to ensure legally admissibility of digital signatures. The authentication process to ensure the correct people are signing your documents and an audit trail to track actions taken against your documents along with a few other factors can really determine the legal acceptability of your documents. The best or most effective approach I would say to take, is to reach out to a few different vendors explain your current process, pain points, and evaluate what features are most important to your individual needs. Ask yourself what methods or level of integration into your current systems will you need (tech resources if any), do you have any questions about security, and how important is document storage and document life-cycle management? These are all factors to take into consideration. We have noticed that the introduction into many of our current client’s communities is more often than not an extremely easy and welcomed process. If you have any additional questions please visit our website at or please feel free to contact me directly.

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