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First Aid on the Front Lines: Immediate Training Needs

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The following is a guest post by Jody DeRidder, the Head of Digital Services at the University of Alabama Libraries.

Have you been digitizing and managing digital content?  Are you the go-to person in your organization for accessioning digital materials into your special collections, or collecting electronic records for your archives? More than likely, you’ve not had specific training in how to manage these files long term, and with the growing concern about digital preservation, you’re worried about how to ensure your content is safe and continues to be usable.

Across the country, schools are beginning to offer certificates, residencies and degrees in digital preservation.  That’s great!  Maybe someday your organization can hire one of the graduates.  But what can be done right now?  What about those of you already on the front lines, in the field?  You need training too: low cost or free, easily accessible and targeted to your needs.  How will you administer First Aid to make sure your digital content lasts until those specialists come along?

After the huge success of last year’s Association of Southeastern Research Libraries Intro to Digital Preservation webinars, I sent out a survey in the fall of 2012 to find out which digital preservation topics and types of material are most important to those who want to see more of these free webinars. 182 people responded, and the results were clear.  The top three topics selected were:

  • “Methods of preservation metadata extraction, creation and storage”;
  • “Determining what metadata to capture and store”;
  • “Planning for provision of access over time.”

Beyond these top three results, the responses for ASERL members (37) and non-ASERL members (142) differed somewhat. It seemed that ASERL respondents were less concerned with “nuts and bolts” than the bigger picture; they cared more about developing selection criteria than in tackling file conversions.  While non-ASERL participants were more interested in checksums, file validations, and storage options, those from the research institutions ranked legal issues and audits above these topics.

Similar differences appeared in the comparison of the types of digital content respondents cared about most. Born digital special collections materials were most important to both groups!  However, ASERL respondents considered digitized collections the next most critical, followed by born-digital institutional records and then digital scholarly content, with digital research data only critical to a little over half the ASERL participants. Not surprisingly, non-ASERL participants cared more about born-digital institutional records than digitized collections, and had little concern for digital scholarly content or research data.  Web content ranked lowest for both groups.

This information should help us focus our training offerings and perhaps target specific audiences. In keeping with the survey results, ASERL is again offering a free series of more targeted webinars starting on April 2 (tomorrow!) and continuing through the month, all of which will be archived within a few hours.  I hope to “see” you there!

Comments (4)

  1. Thank you for this survey! It’s interesting to see that scholarly and research content preservation is somewhat low on librarians’/archivists’ priorities, given that those tend to get the most attention (and funding…).

    Could you provide more information on the makeup of the respondents? I’m surprised that digital archival material is so highly regarded, and scholarly comm so relatively low – were the respondents primarily archivists?

  2. I was one of the non-ASERL members (142) who was on the webinars last month, my first ever use of webinars. I was able to see the many messages, Q&As, but I was not able to send any of my input to the group. I do not know why. However for future reference, I did copy & past and put a copy into my computer database. I enjoyed the experience and look forward to participate again more webinars.
    Hibbard Casselberry, HLPS Historian & Past President (2002-2005),
    Hillsboro Lighthouse Preservation Society, Inc. a 501 (C)(3)
    671 Lakeside Circle #118, Pompano Beach, FL 33060 Phone: 954-782-3313

  3. Hi Alexander — The only questions I asked about the respondents themselves were whether they were from ASERL member institutions or not. My sense is that most of the ASERL respondents were either librarians or managers, and that most of the non-ASERL respondents were archivists/curators from smaller institutions, many from 1-person shops.

    Hibbard, I’m so sorry you weren’t able to contribute your feedback in the most recent webinar (which is NOT included in this survey) — Please send any unanswered questions to either me or the presenter. We’ll include them in the ones we’ll be answering by email. Thank you so much for your interest! Hope to see you in the next webinar — tomorrow!

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