A Very Special Episode about Digital Preservation

In getting ready to make a transition from digital preservation and repository development at the Library of Congress to digital preservation at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), I was asked if I would write a post about what I’ve been doing and what I will be doing at NARA.

Don’t mind if I do.

Going Away Card, made by Abbie Grotke, photo by Leslie Johnston

Going Away Card, made by Abbie Grotke, photo by Leslie Johnston

In my six years at the Library of Congress I’ve had the great opportunity to be involved in many areas of operations. The things I do are not normally scoped as part of digital preservation, but that’s the spin to everything that I do.

My nominal day job is that I oversee the development of repository services at the Library. So on the surface, I oversee software development. Break that down, however, and many of the goals for our repository services are in support of digital preservation. Our ingest services focus on the verification of fixities, creation of fixities if none accompany the files, format characterization and inventorying.  Our inventory services include auditing and reporting.  Our quality review and workflow services reduce the amount of direct human interaction with files, hopefully mitigating some risks.

I got to work with two projects that are seemingly all about access – the National Digital Newspaper Program and the World Digital Library.  But both have strong preservation components.  NDNP provides a mechanism for historic newspaper page images and accompanying OCR and metadata to be stored in multiple managed locations to reduce risk of loss.  WDL provides a distributed architecture for its access component, but the Library also provides preservation services for the collections.

I have for years worked with NDIIPP.  I have been a point of contact for partner organizations working on tools and technical infrastructure for digital preservation. Much of my job is putting the right people together, or remembering that presentation I saw or that article I read and getting the information to someone who’d make use of it.

Quite a bit of my job at the Library is also that sort of consultation.  I have had the pleasure of working with collections inventory and security, helped put processing workflows for digital collections into place and talked a lot about digitization.  I am enormously proud of the strides we have made in inventorying the Library’s digital collections so we can better track and monitor them. I am very proud of the last 3 years serving on the Library’s Digital Preservation Working Group, which has developed technical guidance on digital preservation for the the Library staff. I am proud of the outcomes of years of work documenting the preferred digital formats for the Library’s collections. I am especially proud of the way we have integrated digital preservation into the planning for projects.  It’s not just something we talk about: now it is something we DO.

And in my new position?  That’s still an open book.  I will be the first person in the role and I am looking forward to learning about the challenges, which I know are similar to what I have faced in the last 6 years.  There are issues with the accretive proliferation of file formats. Email is an increasing issue. Personally Identifiable Information is a concern in making collections and records available.  And the issue of scale effects ingest, bandwidth, processing and delivery of items, not to mention storage and preservation.

I will miss the Library of Congress. But I am not leaving digital preservation, so I look forward to continuing to see and working with my colleagues at the Library and with all the NDIIPP and NDSA partner organizations.

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