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Piggybacking to Avoid Going Down the Rabbit Hole, or What I Learned at the First DPOE Workshop

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The following is a guest post from Sam Meister, Digital Archivist, Mansfield Library, University of Montana-Missoula.

During the week of September 20 – 23, 2011, a group of individuals from all across the United States descended on the Library of Congress to attend the Digital Preservation Outreach and Education (DPOE) initiative’s first ever Train the Trainer Baseline Workshop.  We came from a wide array of geographical locations (including all the way from Hawaii!) and various types of organizations, ranging from academic libraries and state archives to historical societies, public libraries and many others.

The author receiving his workshop certificate from DPOE Program Director George Coulbourne.
The author receiving his workshop certificate from DPOE Program Director George Coulbourne. Photo credit: Abby Brack.

As we went around the room introducing ourselves on the first day, it became clear that while we came from different backgrounds and levels of experience, we were all there because we were engaged in the issues and challenges of digital preservation and desired to be a resource of knowledge for others in our regions.  Having worked in the field of digital archives and preservation for a few years now, but being relatively new in my current position as Digital Archivist at the University of Montana-Missoula, I was excited to learn more from this group of people and see what they would all bring to the week’s activities.

We were in the room with a group of instructors who are all heavy-hitters in this contact sport we call digital preservation, including Nancy McGovern, Robin Dale, Mary Molinaro, Katherine Skinner, Michael Thuman and Helen Tibbo. The knowledge, experience, and ideas that this group of instructors would share with us over the course of the week were invaluable and integral to our comprehension of the concepts and curriculum framework we were presented.

As the first group of trainers to review, analyze, revise and disseminate this curriculum, the result of a multi-year development process, we would be the “pioneers” for the DPOE program. To me, this made clear the role and level of responsibility that would be expected of us throughout the rest of the workshop and beyond.  (As a recent migrant to the great western state of Montana, I also appreciated the applicability of the pioneer terminology.)

The stage now set, we spent the next day and a half being exposed to the core principles and concepts for the workshop (Audience, Content, Instructors, Events) and the six modules that make up the curriculum (Identify, Select, Store, Protect, Manage, Provide).  I furiously took notes during these sessions as Nancy McGovern and the other instructors provided excellent examples of using stories to illustrate difficult concepts, as well as potential audience exercises.

Still digesting what we had just learned, we broke into our regional groups and began planning for the specific module we would be presenting over the course of the next two days. This is where we experienced the positive power of the breakout session. We shifted from being an audience of listeners to actively engaging and developing specific strategies to present the material of our module.  Having our instructor, Katherine Skinner, on hand to guide us when we strayed was highly beneficial.  I appreciated how this practice session mirrored the type of breakout exercises that we would be embedding in the future regional workshops, and to me this is the moment where our new community of digital preservation trainers really started to solidify.

Graphic from Sam's presentation group illustrating the need to protect digital content from unauthorized access. Credit: User dullhull on Flickr.

As the groups presented their respective modules over the next two days, it was exciting to see how creative and resourceful each had been in their revisions and modifications.  All the groups did a fantastic job of utilizing humor, imagery, and personal stories to discuss the concepts that could otherwise seem challenging to a group of novice practitioners.  It was evident that this group of digital preservation trainers had great ideas and had worked together to develop presentations that articulated the key concepts and objectives in a unique and approachable way.  The feedback sessions that immediately followed each group’s presentation were highly valuable to provide praise as well as constructive criticism where needed.

The week seemed to fly by, and before I knew it, it was already the last day and we were pondering next steps.  A number of excellent ideas for initial regional workshops were discussed illustrating the various ways the participants planned to spread the digital preservation gospel in their home regions. There is a strong feeling of momentum and a sense that this network will continue to expand (exponentially?) over time.  As this first round of trainers ventures out into their regions to conduct workshops, the knowledge base of resources, lessons learned, and creative ideas will continue to grow as well, fueling the network and the feeling that as a community we can successfully address the needs of managing and providing access to digital content now, and into the future.

Comments (3)

  1. ” …excellent ideas for initial regional workshops were discussed illustrating the various ways the participants planned to spread the digital preservation gospel in their home regions.” — I and others in southeast Florida are looking forward to attending regional workshop in our area. Please advise us who attended from Florida & their e-mail addresses. Thank you.

  2. I am Florida Lighthouse researcher and archivist since 1970.
    I am a “plank owner” (charter member) of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, Inc. (FTHP) in 1978, and charter member of the Florida Lighthouse Association, Inc. (FLA) 1989, charter member the Hillsboro Lighthouse Preservation Society, Inc. (HLPS) in 1997 and charter memberthe Florida Key Reef Light Foundation, Inc. (FKRLF) 1998, all are nonprofit corp. 501 (C)(3)s.
    Being an archivist, I receive many requests for information on Florida Lighthouses. If I do not know the answer, I usually know where to get the requested info.

  3. Thank you, Hibbard, for reading, and for the interesting comments about your activities. Please write to [email protected] and we can write you personally about one or more attendees from your area who can give further information on DPOE and try to assist you in the topic area of digital preservation education. Please note that our workshop attendees have varying levels of expertise in this topic area, from novice to experienced.–George Coulbourne,
    Office of Strategic Initiatives, Library of Congress

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