Preserving Digital Objects.
On April 29th I had the opportunity to attend “Preserving Digital Objects”, a day-long workshop at Genesee Community College sponsored by RRLC, Nylink & WNYLRC. The workshop was presented by Tom Clareson, the Director for New Initiatives at PALINET. I found the workshop to be excellent, and it exposed me to make new ideas and software options for working with and creating digital objects. I’m including some of my notes below.
- The latest study showed that CD life is about 5-7 years. I guess that means that all of my CDs from high school are probably just about dead by now. But seriously, this is something that people should take into consideration. If you back-up onto CD, you should have a plan to migrate materials before the 5 year mark to ensure that the information remains stable. And yes, DVDs are a better option, but they have a limited shelf-life as well.
- Three things are necessary for digital preservation: people, time and money. This means that we have to choose and make smart decisions about what, how and when to digitally preserve materials. A lot of money is spent on staffing (for scanning machines, entering metadata, etc).
- Digital backups should be located three states away. In case of Katrina-like disasters, a local offsite backup may not be adequate. Some libraries in New Orleans are still trying to recover from data loss and damages. Don’t let all of your hard work, time, and money go to waste by not being aware of disasters of all kinds (natural, hackers, viruses).
- Are people using the things we are digitally preserving? Yes, it might be nice to have an entire collection of something digitally preserved for the future. However, if no one is ever going to access those materials for research or even personal curiosity, what’s the point? Because preserving digital objects is so costly, this is why we have to make smart decisions about what we choose to spend time saving. This is where collaboration between digitization specialists and archivists comes into play. Archivists have been specially trained to determine what needs to be saved and the audience materials are accessed by. When creating digitization programs for your institution, include your archives to tap into their knowledge and expertise.
- Inventory existing digital collections, projects and practices. Most libraries are doing some or parts of all of these three things, but have no overarching standards or best practices. This leads to variations of quality and access that could be remedied by approaching the digital preservation situation from a global perspective by creating digital programs addressing standards, quality control, access, promotion and digital preservation.
- PRONOM – PRONOM is a resource providing information about different file formats. Very helpful and interesting!
A study by the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) found that the Florida Digital Archive by the Center for Library Automation (FCLA) was the closest to a trustworthy digital repository. This was a self-built system (as opposed to using a software solution like DSpace, Fedora, LOCKSS, or Greenstone). The NEDCC also provides a free Preservation Toolkit online.
Personally I think that digital preservation is fascinating. It incorporates many (if not all) of the aspects about the library field that I enjoy (digital libraries, technology, promotion, access). I enjoy the “race against time” aspect as well, as formats and technology expire and change. This was probably one of my favorite workshops in the past year, and I would recommend it for anyone interested if it’s offered again in the near future.