The following is a guest post by Victoria Priester, a 2011 Junior Fellow working with NDIIPP.
During my first week as a Library of Congress Junior Fellow I was given the North Carolina Public Outreach and Education Project. The project’s objective was to send resources and information about personal digital preservation to public libraries, community colleges, historians, and genealogists in the state. I used email and follow-up phone calls to draw attention to NDIIPP personal archiving guidance, as well as the program’s Facebook page and Twitter stream.
With fifty great states to choose from, I wondered at first why we focused on the Tar Heel State. I soon learned that the State Library of North Carolina has been in the forefront of digital preservation, and was eager to work with us. It was a match made in personal digital preservation heaven!
I executed the project in three steps: design, implementation and follow-up. We had a number of conversations internally, and also with the state library, about planning the project. The implementation and follow-up steps took some focused effort: sending a few hundred emails and select phone calls to determine the success of the mailing. As the intern, I provided the brawn needed in steps two and three.
After sending out the emails to some selected NC librarians, historians and genealogists I marveled at how with just the click of a send button we were able to launch the venture.
But contrary to my initial conclusion, more work was needed to get things going. Although many of the emails had been successfully delivered, I quickly found that they alone were not a sufficient.
My fellow preservationists at NDIIPP had predicted that there may be some disconnect between sending and reading emails. I confirmed their prediction during my first few follow-up phone calls. The email recipients were consistently telling me one thing: “I haven’t read the email, but I will now.”
There were perfectly valid reasons for why they had not read the email. Several recipients informed me that the email had made it into their spam box rather than their inbox. Some said that they hadn’t noticed the email, while others had just been too busy to open it and take a close look.
It was the second half of the statement “I haven’t read the e-mail, but I will now” that was truly encouraging. Although many people had not read or even noticed the NDIIPP email, there was a willingness to work with us on personal digital preservation education.
The follow-up phone calls were a crucial element to our project. The people at the other end of the phone call were unaware that they were speaking with an intern. What they did realize was that the Library of Congress felt that personal digital preservation was important enough to warrant an individual phone call. We were willing to reach out and connect with them, and that connection proved to be the motivating factor in sharing NDIIPP’s resources about personal digital preservation.
I view this project as a success. Its success can be attributed to a well designed project plan as well as the human element of the follow-up calls. In order to share, there must be give and take; in a world of digital interactions, an extended hand can make all the difference.