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Graduates To Sow Seeds of New Training Program Across U.S.

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The following is a guest post from Ellen O’Donnell, Senior Technical Writer, on assignment to the Office of Strategic Initiatives from the National Institutes of Health.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  The Nevada State Library and Archives. The local history center of the Hartford, Conn., Public Library. These organizations and 21 others involved in some way with stewardship of digital materials―from classic films to copies of priceless historical images and critical electronic records―were represented among graduates of the first Library of Congress train the trainer workshop in digital preservation.

Participants in the DPOE Train the Trainer Workshop
Participants in the DPOE Train the Trainer Workshop, Library of Congress/Abby Brack

The DPOE Baseline Workshop was the test run of a workshop model designed to produce a national corps of trainers equipped to teach others basic principles and practices of preserving digital materials.

The Library’s James Madison Building, in Washington, D.C., was the site of the event, held September 20-23. The inaugural class of 24 professionals was selected from a nationwide pool. All had at least some experience with community-based training and some acquaintance with digital preservation.

“What a great group they were,” said Laura E. Campbell, Associate Librarian for Strategic Initiatives/Chief Technology Officer. “They came from as far away as Hawaii, Texas, Idaho and Maine, and represented a range of cultural heritage institutions.  We learned from their expertise and experiences at the same time we offered them a unique training model. We hope that the work will ultimately help address the very serious challenges we have as a nation in digital preservation and curation.”

The workshop’s sponsor was the Library of Congress Digital Preservation Outreach and Education program.  DPOE’s mission includes fostering national outreach and education to encourage individuals and organizations to actively preserve their digital content.  It is committed to sharing high-quality digital preservation training across the U.S., eventually making it available and affordable to virtually any interested organization or individual.

“What’s unique about this workshop,” said George Coulbourne, Executive Program Manager, “is that we designed it for people who are going to be actual practitioners of digital preservation. This is not for administrators or managers, but for the novice practitioner. It’s also intended to be as open-source and low-cost as possible.  There aren’t many―if any―other educational offerings we know of out there that meet this description and are this thorough. We hope this event accelerates a new national movement in open, accessible digital-preservation training.”

Instructor Mary Molinaro is Associate Dean for Library Technologies at University of Kentucky Libraries and a member of DPOE's steering committee, Library of Congress/Abby Brack
Instructor Mary Molinaro is Associate Dean for Library Technologies at University of Kentucky Libraries and a new member of DPOE's steering committee, Library of Congress/Abby Brack

The students came to D.C. not only to learn, but to take back and present what they learned in their home regions, including by holding one or more training events in digital preservation by mid-2012.

“Several participants have already planned their events,” Coulbourne continued. “Two others want to start statewide digital-preservation training activities in their states. To me, this is reflective of the high levels of enthusiasm and momentum that we saw. Another indicator of the interest out there is that traffic to DPOE’s website went up nine times over from January to July 2011.”

The workshop was not only a national event, but a regional one for the Northeast. Coulbourne added that DPOE hopes to hold a second event in 2012 in another region.  He emphasized, “DPOE can only do what it does through collaboration. One aspect is that we welcome contacts from public- or private-sector organizations that might be interested in partnering with us on regional or national events and services.”

Workshop content was built around a set of core training principles DPOE developed through its research (e.g., a national needs-assessment survey and a review of leading curricula) and its work with experts, and structured around six key functions in digital preservation. Students learned not only theory but hands-on practice, which they then developed into a sample “workshop” presented to their colleagues.

In their evaluations, participants noted the training will help in managing expectations of a regional workshop; regional team building; being exposed to a diverse range of presentation styles; building community; and sharing challenges.

“I was concerned about learning how to teach the basics of digital preservation in a practical way to audiences from smaller institutions with few resources,” one wrote.  “These modules seemed very doable, practical, applicable, and action-oriented, even though it is still hard to counsel folks on finding resources/funding to do this.”

Areas in which suggestions were received included increasing the content on how to build trainer confidence and manage workshops effectively (e.g., preventing them from becoming consulting sessions and handling difficult participants) and repacing some segments.

“We want to thank our terrific instructors, too,” Coulbourne said. The lead instructor and content developer was Nancy McGovern, Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, University of Michigan, and a contractor to DPOE. Other instructors were Robin Dale, LYRASIS; Mary Molinaro, University of Kentucky Libraries; Katherine Skinner, Educopia Institute and MetaArchive Cooperative; Michael Thuman, Tessella; and Helen Tibbo, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Society of American Archivists.

Another key DPOE service, Coulbourne said, is its new national calendar of training opportunities in digital preservation. “We hope that everyone will help get the word out about this valuable resource for the community and the public,” he said.

A content edit was made on 10/20/2011.

Comments (2)

  1. i wanna detail.

  2. As educators and facilitators of information, we are required to preserve knowledge, heritages, cultures in the minds of future generations. Our duties as civic minded individuals and global stewards demands of that we continue to , ” pass the torch” of knowledge.
    This project best secures that mission in the ever dynamic and exponentially accelerated pace of knowledge acquisition, preservation and distribution.
    I, for one applaud this endeavor , this insightful and farreaching perspective of the preservation of human culture.
    Please contact me at 915-383-8652 or at [email protected] so I may be considered for training in this cadre.
    Respectfully Yours,
    Jeri Hallberg Harmon, M. Ed,
    von Schiller Home School,
    NASA Explorer Schools, Education Advocate

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