Library in the News, 5/16: Digital Preservation

I was a few paragraphs into writing this post when, just a few minutes ago, the power in the Madison Building flashed off and back on again. Were it not for WordPress?s auto-save function (new in this version, thankfully!), I would have lost the entire thing.

The only reason I mention that is because ? and here?s the punchline ? this post was going to be about the ephemeral nature of digital information and the Library?s role in saving it. Which brings me back to my original opening:

As I write this post via a Web browser ? I will not say which one ? it makes me think back to the first time in ?another life? that I met Jim Barksdale in Mountain View, Calif. He was the relatively new CEO of Netscape at a time when the company?s Navigator (formerly Mosaic) quickly became the first widely used Web browser, in many ways helping ignite the public?s torrid love affair with the Internet that continues to this day.

Years later, it helps show the serendipity of life (my life, at least) that Barksdale would co-author an op-ed in today?s Washington Post about the importance of the Library of Congress? National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program and why this is a crucial time in the program?s history. (Let?s call it NDIIPP ? pronounced ?EN-dip? ? or the ?Digital Preservation Program,? for short.)


Barksdale is now a member of the Library?s NDIIPP Advisory Council.? He shared a byline on the op-ed with Francine Berman, who is director of the San Diego Supercomputer Center at UCSD, a key NDIIPP partner.? Here, as they say, are the ?nut grafs?:

An estimated 44 percent of Web sites that existed in 1998 vanished without a trace within just one year. The average life span of a Web site is only 44 to 75 days. The gadgets that inform our lives ? cellphones, computers, iPods, DVDs, memory cards ? are filled with digital content. Yet the lifetime of these media is discouragingly short. Data on 5 1/4 -inch floppies may already be lost forever; this format, so pervasive only a decade ago, can?t be read by the latest generation of computers. Changing file and hardware formats, or computer viruses and hard-drive crashes, can render years of creativity inaccessible.

By contrast, the Library of Congress has in its care millions of printed works, some on stone or animal skin that have survived for centuries. The challenges underlying digital preservation led Congress in 2000 to appropriate $100 million for the Library of Congress to lead the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program, a growing partnership of 67 organizations charged with preserving and making accessible ?born digital? information for current and future generations.

[?]

Unfortunately, the program is threatened. In February, Congress passed and the president signed legislation rescinding $47 million of the program?s approved funding. This jeopardizes an additional $37 million in matching, non-federal funds that partners would contribute as in-kind donations.

The full piece paints a good picture about the Library?s leadership in mounting a partnership to help decide what is the most critical content, and how to save it.

A special shout-out to others who are linking to the op-ed, including IP Democracy, Techmeme River, MemeStreams, Television Archiving, and Avant News.

8 Comments

  1. Business Consulting
    May 17, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    Auto save is a great feature isn’t it? The web has come a long way, but think how far we’ve come as a society with the advent of word processing software for PCs and the web versus the typewriter. I can’t imagine typing a letter on one of those ancient artifacts these days.

  2. Louisville Real Estate
    May 18, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    Amen to auto-save! What did we do before the advent of PCs and neat little technical devices?

    Interesting stat on the lifespan of websites, digital devices, etc. I must buck the trend because I apparently hold onto those things a lot longer than the average bird.

    Microwave society anyone?

  3. Dustin Brewer
    May 19, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    The web truly has grown since the old days of Mosaic, I can’t wait to see what the future brings for web sites and the way in which users interact with each other through the web.

  4. Okinawa
    May 19, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    There used to be websites that I would visit online just to read what old friends had said, the memories shared, etc. Lots of those sites are gone. The memories and connections are gone.

  5. Myspace Proxy
    June 2, 2007 at 6:12 am

    The web truly has grown since the old days of Mosaic, I can’t wait to see what the future brings for web sites and the way in which users interact with each other through the web.

  6. Myspace Proxy
    June 2, 2007 at 6:15 am

    Amen to auto-save! What did we do before the advent of PCs and neat little technical devices?

    Interesting stat on the lifespan of websites, digital devices, etc. I must buck the trend because I apparently hold onto those things a lot longer than the average bird.

    Microwave society anyone?

  7. Sophie Salmon
    July 6, 2007 at 4:43 am

    It’s amazing how far technology has really improved. Everything now can be done by a machine of some sort. The Internet has come a long way too. Before, web sites were purely made of text. Now they are a lot more appealing– with pictures and all. Not only has the World Wide Web become an information highway, it has also become the avenue for people to express themselves, meet new people, and make new friends. The autosave feature, aside from being very cool, is very helpful and useful as well.

  8. okinawa
    November 12, 2007 at 5:36 am

    Same here, I had the same experience there used to be websites that I would visit online just to read what old friends had said, the memories shared, etc. Lots of those sites are gone. The memories and connections are gone.

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.