The following is a guest post by Kate Zwaard, a Supervisory Information Technology Specialist in the Library of Congress Office of Strategic Initiatives.
I used to have a note on the wall of my office that said “get the records off the floor.” It reminded me that making sure the collections are safe comes first. Once that’s conquered, there are other steps we need to take to ensure usability over time, but sometimes the obvious thing gets you 90% there.
As stewards of digital content engaged in complex calculations of risk and making educated predictions about the future, we still have to keep in mind that our primary responsibility in preserving content is to be able to accept things, know what they are and give them back when asked.
In August I joined the Library of Congress as a supervisory digital media project coordinator in the Repository Development group. My first assignment is to take on the management of the Content Transfer Services (CTS) project, a system we use to administer content lifecycles for digital collections in the library. CTS keeps an inventory of the content it ingests and a record of events that can serve as a user-readable audit trail and provenance record.
It also helps us make sure that files don’t become corrupted or lost in the handoffs between storage systems. Library staff managing digital projects can also use CTS to create workflows that meet the needs of their project and reflect the variability of their content. Automating workflows lets us get content from delivery to the web much faster and more reliably. The inventory in CTS lets us know that when we accept something, we’ll be able to return it later when asked.
I come to the Library of Congress from the United States Government Printing Office where I was responsible for digital preservation in the development of FDsys, the information system GPO uses to manage and provide access to Federal publications from all three branches of government. At GPO, I designed our METS, MODS, and PREMIS implementation and ensured that our infrastructure and processes met the best practices for trustworthy repositories (PDF, 973 Kb). I was the primary author on the agency’s revised strategy for electronic content authentication (PDF, 181 Kb) and served on the PREMIS editorial committee. I look forward to using some of these experiences to contribute to the great work that the Library of Congress is doing to ensure the continued usability of some of our nation’s most important digital treasures.
One of the phrases that I often use to describe CTS is that it helps us know “what we have, where it is, and who it belongs to.” That’s our first step in getting our digital collections into a more consistently managed state in aid of preservation. It may seem basic, but it’s crucial foundation for all other future preservation activities.