Cultivating a Culture of Digital Preservation Inside Academic Libraries and Out
OverviewTeaching: 5 min
Exercises: 0 minQuestions
What can I bring back to my institution?Objectives
Understand the current culture of digital preservation.
Understand the difference between digital collections and institutional repositories.
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Cataloging and Metadata Strategies Librarian
(as of February 2018)
Digitization is not always equivalent to access. Many obstacles exist when trying to make digitized materials accessible.
Digital file formats are susceptible to bit rot, file degradation, file corruption, and generation loss over time.
- Bit rot : the inability to access digital data because the file format is obsolete and compatible applications no longer exist to read it
- File or data degradation : the gradual corruption of computer data due to an accumulation of non-critical failures in a data storage device
- File corruption : corruption to data or program file accidentally by hardware or software failure. It causes the bits to be rearranged and renders it either unreadable to the hardware or, if readable, indecipherable to the program.
- Generation loss : loss of quality between subsequent copies or transcodes of data. Anything that reduces the quality of the representation when copying, and would cause further reduction in quality on making a copy of the copy, can be considered a form of generation loss.
The Getty published a post in The Iris in 2014 describing how they act to prevent digital decay.
In order for digital objects to be preserved long-term, digital object storage and access to the objects cannot remain static as technologies change.
“Slide Three” (https://derangementanddescription.wordpress.com/2017/08/31/distracted-and-description/distracted_boyfriend_digitization/)
In library-land, particularly in American academic libraries, budgets for libraries have been reduced or have stayed the same for years while the newer expense of providing electronic access to journals and other materials has increased. The desire to innovate and stay on top of digital trends is part of the backbone of modern librarianship, but many times the funding does not match the motivation. Often, donors will donate collections or donate funding on the condition that materials be digitized, but donors may not always have an understanding of or desire to fund the infrastructure required to make their collections available online long-term.
In addition to digitization costs, other factors to consider include:
- Copyright issues
- Whether materials will be preserved in a separate preservation repository
- What level of access will be granted to the collection
- Development of access, preservation, and descriptive metadata
- Personnel available
- Storage space and cost (for both digital and physical materials)
- Preservation costs (for both digital and physical materials)
Libraries without digital preservation policies and infrastructure have the option of accepting donations and then seeking out additional donors/university support, or they have to turn away collections due to a lack of resources. Ideally, libraries should already be connecting with internal (campus) and external (community) stakeholders to get support to preserve collections held in the library, but this isn’t always the case.
An institutional repository can sometimes be confused for a digital repository.
An institutional repository is an *archive for collecting, preserving, and disseminating digital copies of the intellectual output of an institution, particularly a research institution.
Digital repositories or libraries are collections stored in digital formats (as opposed to print, microform, or other media) and accessible by computers. The digital content may be stored locally, or accessed remotely via computer networks. A digital library is a type of information retrieval system.
Digital repositories are not equivalent to integrated library systems, which are used to index and manage the library’s holdings of physical objects for bibliographic titles and usually also index access points for e-resources and journals. These days, most institutions have some form of digital repository—whether it is for internal use only or is accessible online for external use. Not nearly as many have institutional repositories.
Yet research institutions generate lots of and many different types of data, and that data need to be housed somewhere. At some institutions, research data live in departmental silos, with storage and preservation supported by campus IT. At other institutions, data management is being handled by the library. Even more often, no campus or deparment-wide data storage systems exist and researchers push for the library to house their data and the library may have to refuse the donation, due to a lack of resources/personnel and the complexity of housing and preserving said data described in the previous slide. This leaves labs and grant-funded projects with no campus support when it comes to meeting data management and publishing requirements for their resources.
Libraries are becoming more and more aware of the need for long-term digital preservation and data management infrastructures to be put in place and policies to be established. Some libraries are trying to meet this need by hiring a Digital Preservation Librarian to work on these issues and collaborate across campus. There were only approximately ten librarian jobs with this title posted in the last two years. Other libraries are hiring Digital Collections Librarians or Data Curators, which may perform overlapping functions with regard to digital preservation, but focus more on digital repository needs and campus research data management respectively. If academic libraries do have a digital preservation policy in place, it may be outdated.
So what can you do as researchers, students, and faculty to cultivate a culture of digital preservation at your institution?
Be part of the conversation
Questions to ask the library:
- Who do you talk to about digital preservation?
- If there isn’t a specific person or group of people (i.e. a digital collections, special collections, digital archivists, data curation group, etc.), is there a library-wide committee or taskforce working to address issues of digital preservation and data management?
- If there isn’t a task force or committee, MAKE SOME NOISE!
- What is your library’s digital preservation policy?
- If there isn’t one, is there a library-wide committee or taskforce working to address issues of digital preservation and data management?
- No? MAKE SOME NOISE!!!
Gather your colleagues, go to the head of digital collections, form a plan, and bring it up the channel. Propose something. Make it campus wide. The library may be unaware, or just may not have the support or funding to make it happen on its own.
Adding student, faculty, and researcher voices to the issue and bringing a unified plan to the administration makes a significant difference.
WARNING: You may have to join/create a campus-wide committee or taskforce. I’m sorry. That’s just how it is going to get done.
What else can you do?
I won’t talk too much about this in this presentation but create metadata. Embed your datasets with preservation metadata (see PREMIS for a guide), version control your research, provide as much context to your work as possible through documentation. Data without context or provenance is as decipherable as the Etruscan language. There are many organizations that are currently working to solve the problems presented by digital preservation who have developed standards and tools. I highly recommend looking at the Digital Preservation Coalition’s Handbook, the OAIS Community, the Digital Preservation Tool Grid developed by POWRR, and the National Digital Stewardship Alliance’s Levels of Digital Preservation.
Links to the organizations (national and international) with logos depicted on the slide (list is not exhaustive):
- Library of Congress’ Digital Preservation Program
- Digital Preservation Coalition
- The Digital Preservation Network
- Academic Preservation Trust
- Internet Archive
- Samvera previously known as Hydra
Additional resources can be found in the Resources tab of this site.
A .pdf version of this presentation can be downloaded here.
Faculty, students, and researchers are a key component of the users that academic libraries serve and have power to influence the University administration’s decision to support library services.