While I am unable to purchase an overhead scanner I cannot see another path to digitizing some of the family assets I have. I am hoping such scanners are available for use/rent in e.g., public libraries or business solutions stores (e.g., FedEx Kinko's, Staples, etc.) Google searches aren't turning up much so I thought I would ask how best to locate one for use?
You can easily make your own overhead scanner.
I attached my small, light, 12 megapixels digital camera (Canon A1200) to a simple 4"/100mm mini-tripod (from a dollar store), and clamped the tripod over the edge of a table. (a proper tripod pointing down would also work, but the legs might get in the way).
Then I put the items to be scanned on a lower table below the camera, with the whole setup in front of french windows (for maximum even light, outdoors would be better). I used the the camera zoom (or you could adjust the height of either table) to get the right image area.
I used this to rapidly "scan" in handwritten notebooks. Much faster than a flatbed scanner and using the tripod/clamp keeps the image size consistent from one page to another (and helps with focus).
Results are comparable to the full color scans of (for example) the shipping records on Ancestry. Here's a tiny part of an image that was of a full page in the notebook:
A camera with a manual focus carefully adjusted would produce better results, especially with extra lighting, but even a basic modern digital camera with autofocus is getting "good enough" in most cases.
For some really large items (family trees), I put the item on the floor to get enough in the shot. You can take photos of items much larger than a magazine double page spread, and still get the resolution to read small text on it, with this number of megapixels.
I suggest using your mobile phones camera (4 Megapixel or greater)
Use something like the ScanBox that turns your mobile into a overhead scanner, allowing you to take images of photos and documents that are less than A4 in size with the bonus that it packs flat for travel.
Any-Term Rentals with Option to Purchase
James River Systems Introduces Any-Term Rentals with Option to Purchase for Kodak, Bell & Howell, Fujitsu, Panasonic, Mekel, Sunrise, Wicks & Wilson and Minolta Book Scanners. On average, our scanners rent for 1/20 of the Manufacturer’s list price for each month of rental.
Many clients have expressed an interest in our ANY-TERM SCANNER RENTAL PROGRAM. This unique and beneficial offer will help those who have a combination of factors.
Do you have a short-term scanning project or are uncertain of duration? Do you have a budget restriction? Do accounting requirements justify rental over purchase?
Renting a scanner from James River Systems is not just playing it safe; it’s playing it smart with our Option to Purchase.
ANY-TERM RENTALS While the minimum rental is 3 months there are no other limits other than we only charge for complete months and a 30 day notice of Rental Termination is required.
OPTION TO PURCHASE All of our Rental Scanners can be purchased at any time for the price prevailing at the initiation of the rental and up to 25% of rentals paid can be offset against the purchase.
CONSUMABLES All James River Systems Rentals will arrive with full Consumable Kits. Additional kits are available from James River Systems or from your regular supplier.
Most large universities and colleges have these sorts of scanners available for use for a nominal fee per scan, or potentially for free, especially if you are an affiliate of the school (i.e. if you have any children or cousins in college, use them to get access for free). For instance, Dartmouth College lists the following for scanning options: https://www.library.dartmouth.edu/services/print-copy-scan
They state "Guests may use a flatbed, overhead scanner, or one of these multi-function devices to scan for free."
Granted, it's a bit impractical to lug a whole trunk of books to scan, but if there are specific items you need to scan, it can be a great option.