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Why a National Digital Stewardship Alliance Student Group?

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This is a guest post by Kim Schroeder, Wayne State University Lecturer and WSU NDSA Student Group Faculty Advisor.

At the NDSA Student Conference. From left: Left to right, Alexandra Orchard,Laura Gentry, Dale Russell, Aubrey Maynard, Kim Schroeder, Lisa Phillips
At the Library of Congress NDIIPP/NDSA Conference. From left: Left to right, Alexandra Orchard,Laura Gentry, Dale Russell, Aubrey Maynard, Kim Schroeder, Lisa Phillips

Sometimes a professional conference offers you nothing new. Sometimes it changes your direction. Sometimes and perhaps more critically, it confirms your route.

I suppose I look at the NDSA as my professional Global Positioning System. Since 1994 when I began digitizing archival material, I worried about the legacy of this digital work. I watched poor systems out market stronger products, proprietary formats abandoned by their manufacturers and descriptive content lost through poor migrations. I tell my students that my job is akin to the character “Chicken Little.” For an archivist the sky IS always falling.

When I went to my first Library of Congress NDSA conference, I heard not only from many warning the doom of certain formats but a lot of positive presentations on projects and technological innovations. I felt less alone in my work and more able to focus with my colleagues to tackle the greatest challenge to archivists since our aged profession began.

As I left this conference, I thought deeply about how I could communicate this information to my students and how I could replicate this for them. The only possible answer was to create a  student group at Wayne State University, where I teach.

I asked in my classes if students would be interested in participating in such a group. There was a very strong, if not overwhelming interest. In analyzing the structural options for the group, I had a clear answer, to allow the students to create their own infrastructure. This has to be their group and I was only there for guidance.

Since then other groups have contacted our officers and asked for advice. Below are some recommendations for students interested in creating their own group:

  1. Email NDSA and ask about starting a student group.
  2. “Interview” faculty advisors. Speak with multiple instructors in your school to garner interest and gauge who would be most passionate about your group.
  3. Understand the different NDSA Working Groups and introduce their priorities in the student kick-off meeting. Vote on the goals of your group. Contact the NDSA group that most models your goals and ask for professional support. This can build relationships that lead not only to projects but to mentors.
  4. Have a lot of external communication that is professional. Check out our blog and Facebook page. We even have password protected working pages when we are planning tours, seminars, and projects.
  5. Connect with your regional professionals. Have Digital Preservation professionals present to you or give you a tour. Contact institutions and offer to research a problem for them.
  6. Report on your hard work. Publish or present posters at professional associations. It is important that professors, practitioners and other students know about your efforts. This will publicize your commitment to the profession and make it easier to find a job when you graduate.

I’m happy to say that our students been very productive. We presented a poster at the NDIIPP/NDSA partners meeting in 2012, where we also premiered a video Public Service Announcement to raise awareness about digital preservation. Our work has drawn some wonderful notice and praise.

Why start a student group? I will let our students speak for themselves.

WSU NDSA has provided me with opportunities to network, learn, and be involved in amazing projects concerned with digital preservation. It is also a cutting edge organization concerned with a topic that most people know little about but affects their everyday lives. Its educational value is unsurpassed as I learned digital preservation skills and content, worked collaboratively with students from all parts of the country, and had opportunities to present at regional and national conferences. It also has equipped me with ways to talk about digital preservation in everyday conversation, such as the Library of Congress’ Twitter archive.  –Laura Gentry WSU SLIS Student and NDSA Student Group Secretary

Throughout my time in the group, I have done research for various projects, taken meeting minutes, worked on our blog and Facebook pages, traveled to Washington DC for the presentation of our PSA at Digital Preservation 2012, been one of the on-line hosts for our October colloquium, and co-produced a poster presentation. I feel connected to the members of our group. It is a privilege to work with such talented, passionate, and dedicated individuals. I also won my first election as Vice President of WSU NDSA this past September. WSU NDSA is providing me with valuable knowledge, experiences, and skills that not only benefit me now, but in the future. –Aubrey Maynard WSU SLUS Student and NDSA Student Group Vice President

If anyone is considering starting another student group, feel free to email me at [email protected].

And when you do form your own student chapter, let the world know about it!

April 10: typos corrected.




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