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Digital Preservation for the People!

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The following is a guest post by Jefferson Bailey, Strategic Initiatives Manager at Metropolitan New York Library Council, National Digital Stewardship Alliance Innovation Working Group co-chair and a former Fellow in the Library of Congress’s Office of Strategic Initiatives.

“Brooklyn Public Library (Ingersoll Memorial), Prospect Park Plaza, New York. General view from Park Plaza.” Image from Wikimedia Commons via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. LC-G612-T-3909
“Brooklyn Public Library (Ingersoll Memorial), Prospect Park Plaza, New York. General view from Park Plaza.” Image from Wikimedia Commons via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. LC-G612-T-3909

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to teach a personal digital archiving workshop at the Brooklyn Public Library Information Commons, the Central Library branch’s new center consisting of meeting rooms, a training lab, and open workspace with a variety of multimedia computer workstations. Having helped run a number of personal digital archiving events at D.C. area public libraries as part of Preservation Week 2012, I believe in the role that public libraries can play in helping provide guidance to the general public about preserving their digital materials of personal importance. As many public libraries begin to emphasize and extend the role they play in helping citizen and individuals create, document, and preserve digital content, much of it of potential social and historic value, there is evermore chance to advocate for personal digital archiving directly with the local community through workshops and special events.

NDIIPP, of course, provides a wealth of guidance on personal archiving for individuals.  NDIIPP also provides guidance to libraries and other institutions planning and running an event or program through the Personal Digital Archiving Day Kit. Ongoing interviews and case studies featured on The Signal, such as posts calling for more citizen archivists  and posts highlighting the work of public libraries teaching personal archiving, are just a couple of other ways the program has spread the word about personal digital preservation.

BPL Information Commons. Image courtesy of Brooklyn Public Library
BPL Information Commons. Image courtesy of Brooklyn Public Library

My workshop, “Save Your Digital Stuff,” was largely built on the NDIIPP’s guidance and attendees had question both expected, such as about file naming practices for digital images and scanner and format recommendations for digital conversion, as well as questions unexpected, such as how to preserve one’s online dating profile. Workshop participants were also interested in the overall role that archivists play in preserving digital information and some minor hilarity ensued when the conversation turned to digital wills and one inquisitive attendee wanted clarity on the difference between an archivist and an actuary.

As is often the case, workshop attendees evinced a mild bewilderment at how best to manage and save what often feels like a deluge of digital content but were interested in practical strategies and tools for how best to undertake saving their digital stuff. I emphasized that knowing what you want to preserve is one of the most crucial steps in personal archiving and that, after you have accomplished that, the rest of the steps fall in place naturally.

Overall, it was a fun event and I continue to think that public libraries, many of which provide technology training to the public and many of which also house local history collections, are ideally situated to help proselytize and advise citizens and communities on how best to preserve their valuable digital materials. I look forward to continued collaboration between public libraries and preservationists on supporting digital preservation for the people.


  1. So. . . what was your advice to the person who wanted to preserve the online dating profile, especially since this is likely held by a for-profit entity?

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