Wishing and Working for Safe Data As a Digital Preservation Intern

The following is a guest post by Tess Webre, an intern with NDIIPP at the Library of Congress.

Tess Webre

My interest in digital preservation began many years before I started my master’s degree. I was working on a long and arduous project and located a very helpful looking resource created in the 1980s at a local library. Unfortunately, the program was located on a 5¼-inch floppy disk that ran on a DOS operating system. The librarians assured me that I could access the data on one of their machines, yet I was dismayed to find that it didn’t work when I went to use it. It was extremely frustrating that I could access the printed operating manual, which gave enough information to show that this resource would be helpful, but could not access the resource itself. The librarians and I tried several options, but we gave up after a few weeks and I moved on to other print resources from the same time period.

Returning home from the library after my final unsuccessful visit, fuming over the unfairness of the world and consumed with self-pity, I did the only thing that could make me feel better about my unsuccessful research: more research. I learned about the realities of digital obsolescence, bit rot and the possibility of a digital dark age. I also learned about migration, emulation and the term “digital curation.” The more I researched, the more I found the subject fascinating.

I like to tell this story when friends and family members ask me why it is that I am getting my master’s degree in Library Science, which is to say, extremely often. Interestingly enough, the most common response is surprise that this type of activity would be within a library’s purview; their expectation is Marian the librarian from the Music Man. I tell the story and say that it is my goal as a librarian is to prevent this, and other types of obsolescence, and to teach individuals how do the same thing. I hope to accomplish many tasks with this internship, but getting closer to this goal is the most important.

Forty years of removable storage, by avaragado on Flickr

The main question is how to accomplish this during the time I’m at the Library of Congress. I am looking forward to expanding my knowledge of digital preservation and outreach by working with the wonderful people here. As an intern I am looking forward to increasing awareness by assisting in the creation of a new resource on personal digital preservation. I hope to keep readers up to date on new developments in the world of digital preservation. I also plan to increase general understanding of the realities of digital preservation for a younger audience by using the blog to provide information on educational resources.

Until next time, I wish you all safe data.

Tess is a graduate student at the University of Maryland getting her master’s in Library Science with a concentration in Archives, Records, and Information Management. Her interests include digital preservation, programming, as well as web design. While interning here, Tess will be contributing to the Signal throughout the Spring Semester.

 

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