Friday, December 17, 2010

Building the foundation for success in implementing digital preservation at your library (Updated: December 20, 2010)

(Note: Due to some excellent reader feedback, I've update this original post to include additional sources of information)

A topic we’ve been raising in the regional director’s meetings that Ex Libris has been conducting around North America is not only the opportunity digital preservation represents for libraries and the profession of librarianship, but also the need for library administrators to get library staff trained in doing digital preservation. It's important to understand that this is part of the foundational work for engaging in an successful digital preservation initiative such as putting Rosetta in production at your library.

There are many ways to go about doing this, starting with readings and online courses and progressing through formal courses of study. In order to help library administrators achieve the goal of getting staff trained, we'd like to share some links/sites where information about digital preservation training can be found.
  1. Required Reading. The report “Sustainable Economics for a Digital Planet: Ensuring Long-term Access to Digital Information” should be essential reading for all librarians planning a digital preservation initiative.
  2. Online Tutorials. One of the best set of online tutorials (and workshops are available as well, check the link for dates) are those from The Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR). The program is called the Digital Preservation Management Workshop and Tutorial. Based on work done at Cornell University and supported with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). These tutorials are available at the website in English, French and Italian. Another solid program is the one available from The Digital Preservation Training Programme. Run out of the U.K., by the University of London Computer Centre (ULCC) but also offering information online and a variety of courses in various formats, the program is designed to “provides the skills and knowledge necessary for institutions to combine organizational and technological perspectives, and devise an appropriate response to the challenges that digital preservation needs present.” (Update: Due to the efforts of experts at Virginia Tech and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill there are some wonderful modules, journal links, papers and reports available through the Digital Curation Exchange. They also participate in creating an entry at Wikiversity. See the Digital Library entry. Look at the Core Topics, Section 8 to find content specific to Digital Preservation). All of this is well worth checking out.
  3. Online Introductory Videos. YouTube has a number of light-hearted, high-level videos that can be useful in orienting administrators, funders and staff to the basics of digital preservation. Freely available and each being around five minutes in length, these are very useful.
  4. Online Training Videos. Some excellent training videos can be found here covering a wide range of digital preservation topics. Also available for free, these videos are a wonderful asset for libraries looking for low cost ways to get staff trained.
  5. Slides. The Slideshare website also offers a wide range of presentations on digital preservation. There are many, many presentations here, so expect to spend some time examining these with regard to the age of the presentation, credentials of those who posted them and overall suitability to your needs before disseminating widely. A good starting point is this set.
  6. Toolkits. The Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) has developed and made available some excellent toolkits for libraries to use in planning and assessing their readiness for digital preservation. The planning toolkit provides a questionnaire and sample policies that will assist in planning a digital preservation policy, an essential foundation for digital preservation services. The readiness toolkit offers a wealth of resources to use in assessing your library’s readiness to engage in digital preservation. Some other good policy toolkits can be found at the National Library of Australia’s website and yet another example is available at the the European website, Electronic Resource and Preservation Access Network.
  7. Degreed programs. For those library administrators wishing to have staff with degrees specialized in digital preservation there are some options. In North America, the University of Michigan, School of Information has developed a program that provides specialization in Preservation of Information. (Update: The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, School of Information and Library Science also offers a course in digital preservation and access - Course INLS: 752). In the U.K. the University of Dundee, the Center for Archive and Information Studies (CAIS) also offers programs in digital preservation. Of course, these represent a serious commitment of both staff time and library funds to send staff through this program, but for those institutions who want to seriously embrace this new opportunity for libraries, it would likely be a very smart investment.
Digital preservation represents a continuing and exciting new opportunity for librarianship and the ability to show demonstrable value. Librarians have expertise in metadata/taxonomy/ontology, access and preservation. When that knowledge base is updated and married with expertise in digital preservation, it creates a powerful new value proposition for parent organizations and administrators.

Also, as I note when we conduct the regional directors’ meetings: When you train staff in this field, you also need to be sure you’re offering them an attractive set of reasons to want to continue to be a part of your organization. This is because they will be entering a rapidly growing field of needed expertise. People with this knowledge are going to be in demand. Be forewarned.

Finally, if you’re coming to ALA Mid-winter in San Diego, Ex Libris is offering a seminar “Stop the loss of digital content—with Ex Libris Rosetta" on Saturday, January 8, 2011, 1:30 pm–3:30 pm (Pacific Time) at the San Diego Marriott & Marina (Register here). You’ll have the chance to hear a university librarian talk about his plans to boldly move into the realm of true digital preservation, and an executive program manager responsible for moving Rosetta into full production in a large library environment in a matter of just months, reveal how it was done. I think you’ll find it is a great opportunity to start building the foundation for success in implementing digital preservation at your library.