From the Field: More Insight Into Digital Preservation Training Needs

The following is a guest post by Jody DeRidder, Head of Digital Services at the University of Alabama Libraries.  This post reports on efforts in the digital preservation community that align with the Library’s Digital Preservation Outreach & Education (DPOE) Program. Jody, among many other accomplishments, has completed one of the DPOE Train-the-Trainer workshops and delivered digital preservation training online to the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL).

Jody

Jody DeRidder

As previously discussed on The Signal, DPOE has conducted two surveys to better understand the digital preservation capacities of cultural heritage institutions. The respondents provide insight into their digital preservation practice, what types of training are necessary to address their staffing needs and preferences for the best delivery options of training events. Between the 2010 and 2014 DPOE surveys, I conducted an interim survey in 2012 to identify the digital preservation topics and types of materials most important to webinar attendees and their institutions. A comparison of the information uncovered by these three surveys provides insight into changing needs and priorities, and indicates what type of training is most needed and in what venues.

In terms of topics, technical training (to assist practitioners in understanding and applying techniques) is the clear top preference in all three surveys. In the 2010 DPOE survey, the highest percentage of respondents (32%) ranked technical training as their top choice. This was echoed in the 2014 DPOE survey as well. In my 2012 survey, this question was represented by multiple options. (Each of the rankings referenced is the percentage of participants who considered training in this topic to be extremely important.) The top two selected were training in “methods of preservation metadata extraction, creation, and storage” (77%) and “determining what metadata to capture and store” (68%). Both of these could easily be considered technical training.

Other technical training options included:

  • File conversion and migration issues (59%).
  • Validating files and capturing checksums (54%).
  • Monitoring status of files and media (53%).
  • How to inventory content to be managed for preservation (42%).

These preferences are echoed in the DPOE 2014 survey, where respondents identified training investments that result in “an increased capacity to work with digital objects and metadata management” as the most beneficial outcome with a three-year horizon.

In the 2010 DPOE survey, the need for “project management,” “management and administration,” and “strategic planning” followed “technical training” in priority (in that order). By 2014, this had shifted a bit: “strategic planning” led “management and administration,” followed by “project management.” Last in importance to participants in both surveys was fundamentals (described as “basic knowledge for all levels of staff”).

Has the need for strategic planning increased? Topics in the 2012 survey that related to management included:

  • Planning for provision of access over time (the third highest ranking: 65%).
  • Developing your institution’s preservation policy and planning team (51%).
  • Legal issues surrounding access, use, migration, and storage (43%).
  • Self-assessment and external audits of your preservation implementation (34%).

Strategic planning might include the following topics from the 2012 survey:

  • Developing selection criteria, and setting the scope for what your institution commits to preserving (52%).
  • Selecting file formats for archiving (45%).
  • Selecting storage options and number of copies (44%).
  • Security and disaster planning at multiple levels of scope (33%).
  • Business continuity planning (28%).

Thus it seems that in the 2012 survey, strategic planning was still secondary to management decisions, but that may have shifted, as indicated in the DPOE 2014 survey. A potential driving force for this shift could well be the increased investment in digital preservation in recent years.

When asked in 2010 about the types of digital content in organizational holdings, 94% of the respondents to the DPOE survey selected reformatted material digitized from collections, and 39.5% indicated digital materials. In 2014 the reformatted content had dropped to 83%, deposited digital materials had increased to 44%, and a new category, “born digital,” was selected by over 76% of participants. Within these categories, digital images, PDFs and audiovisual materials were the most selected types of content, followed closely by office files. Research data and websites were secondary contenders, with architectural drawings third, followed by geospatial information and finally “other.”

Content

From the 2012 survey, with the numbers representing percentages of the types of content in organizational holdings.

In the 2012 survey, participants were only asked to rank categories of digital content in terms of importance for preservation at their institution. Within this, 65% selected born-digital special collections materials as extremely important; 63% selected born-digital institutional records, and 61% selected digitized (reformatted) collections. “Other” was selected by 47%, and comments indicate that most of this was audiovisual materials, followed by state archives content and email records. The lowest categories selected were digital scholarly content (institutional repository or grey lit, at 37%); digital research data (34%), and web content (31%).

Clearly, preservation of born-digital content has now become a priority to survey respondents over the past few years, though concern for preservation of reformatted content continues to be strong. As the amount of born-digital content continues to pour into special collections and archives, the pressure to meet the burgeoning challenge for long-term access is likely to increase.

In both the 2010 and 2014 DPOE surveys, an overwhelming number of participants (84%) expressed the importance of ensuring digital content is accessible for 10 years or more. Training is a critical requirement to support this process. While the 2012 survey focused only on webinars as an option, both of the DPOE surveys indicated that respondents preferred small, in-person training events, on-site or close to home. However, webinars were the second choice in both 2010 and 2014, and self-paced, online courses were the third choice in 2014. As funding restrictions on travel and training continue, an increased focus on webinars and nearby workshops will be best-suited to furthering the capacity for implementing long-term access for valuable digital content.

In the interest of high impact for low cost, the results of these surveys can help to fine-tune digital preservation training efforts in terms of topics, content and venues in the coming months.

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