The NDSA at 3: Taking Stock and Looking Ahead

Image credit:, published under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Denmark license

Image credit:, published under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Denmark license

The end of the year is a great time to take stock. I’m currently in the “have I done irrevocable damage to my body during the holiday snacking season” phase of stock-taking. Luckily, the National Digital Stewardship Alliance isn’t concerned with whether anyone’s going to eat that last cookie and has a higher purpose than deciding whether the pants still fit.

The NDSA was launched in July 2010 but really got going with the organizing workshop held December 15-16, 2010 here in D.C., which makes this December the roughly 3-year anniversary of the start of its work. The workshop refined the NDSA’s mission “to establish, maintain, and advance the capacity to preserve our nation’s digital resources for the benefit of present and future generations” and also established the NDSA organizational structure of 5 working groups with a guiding coordinating committee.

It didn’t take long for the working groups to self-organize and tackle some of the most pressing digital stewardship issues over the first couple of years. The Infrastructure working group released the results from the first Preservation Storage survey and is currently working on a follow-up. The Outreach group released the Digital Preservation in a Box set of resources that provide a gentle introduction to digital stewardship concepots (note to LIS educators: the Box makes a great tool for introducing digital stewardship to your students. Get in touch to see how the NDSA can work with you on lesson plans and more).

The Innovation working group coordinated two sets of NDSA Innovation award winners, recognizing “Individual,” “Project,” “Institution” and “Future steward” categories of superior work in digital stewardship, while the Content working group organized “content teams” around topic areas such as “news, media and journalism and “arts and humanities” to dive more deeply into the issues around preserving digital content. This work lead to the release of the first Web Archiving survey in 2012, with the second underway. The Geospatial Content Team also released the “Issues in the Appraisal and Selection of Geospatial Data” report (pdf) in late 2013.

The NDSA has also worked to inform the digital stewardship community and highlight impressive work with an expanding series of webinars and through the Insights and Content Matters interview series on the Signal blog.

Image credit:, published under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Denmark license

Image credit:, published under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Denmark license

And not least, the “2014 National Agenda  for Digital Stewardship” integrated the perspective of NDSA experts to provide funders and executive decision-makers insight into emerging technological trends, gaps in digital stewardship capacity and key areas for funding, research and development to ensure that today’s valuable digital content remains accessible and comprehensible in the future.

Over the coming year, the NDSA will expand its constituent services, working to integrate its rapidly expanding partner network into the rich variety of NDSA activities. The NDSA will also expand its interpersonal outreach activities through broad representation at library, archive and museum conferences and by engaging with partners in a series of regional meetings that will help build digital stewardship community, awareness and activity at the local level.

The next NDSA regional meeting is happening in Philadelphia on Thursday January 23 and Friday January 24, hosted by the Library Company of Philadelphia. We’re also in the early planning stages of a meeting in the Midwest to leverage the work of NDSA partner the Northern Illinois University Library and their POWRR project.

Look for more blog posts in 2014 that provide further guidance on the Levels of Preservation activity. The Dec. 24 post starts working through the cells on each of the levels, with an opening salvo addressing data storage and geographic location issues.

The NDSA has also published a series of reports over the past year, including the “Staffing for Effective Digital Preservation” report from the Standards and Practices working group. Look for a new report early in 2014 on the issues around the release of the PDF/A-3 specification and its benefits and risks for archival institutions.

The NDSA can look back confidently over the past three years to a record of accomplishment. It hasn’t always been easy; it’s not easy for any volunteer-driven organization to accomplish its goals in an era of diminishing resources. But the NDSA has important work to do and the committed membership to make it happen.

And like the NDSA, I’m looking forward to a healthier, happier 2014, putting those cookies in the rear-view mirror and hoping the pants will eventually fit again.

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