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Digital Preservation at the National Book Festival 2013

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This past weekend I got to do one of my favorite things of the year: work at the NDIIPP Digital Preservation booth at the 2013 National Book Festival.

vintage media at the digital preservaiton booth, photo by Leslie Johnston
Vintage media at the digital preservation booth. Photo credit: Leslie Johnston

Why is it one of my favorite things to do each year? Because I get to hear from real people about what their personal digital preservation issues are, and what they hope the Library can do to help them.

People have asked what we are doing at a BOOK festival.  The Library has a pavilion where it demonstrates its own programs, and we have been privileged to be included the past several years.  We set up a table full of vintage media, from floppy discs to CDs, paper tape to punch cards, and even vintage computers.  People inevitably stop by out of curiosity: “I remember those!”  We listen to parents telling their incredulous children that they used to store data on those weird looking floppies.  We display all the media and hardware not just to draw people in, but to make a point: all media will eventually become obsolete, as will the hardware needed to read it.  We all need to actively manage our personal digital collections and migrate them over time to new media environments.

We also provide handouts and bookmarks with links to the personal digital archiving guidance online at the NDIIPP web site.

And we answer a LOT of questions. Some have general questions about the Library and its services. Some hope that the Library provides digitization services to help them migrate files off older analog or digital media (sorry, we cannot do that).  But most want to tell us about their pain:  10s or 100s of thousands of slides to digitize.  8mm home movies they want to migrate to digital.  Email services that shut down access to vital personal communications and records.

Some times they share their successes:  a book containing digitized images from a relative’s trip to China decades ago. A project to digitize materials at a school library.  Online searches that came up with digitized books and records at cultural heritage organizations that helped them document their family history.  We share in the joy of their successes, commiserate on their challenges, and provide guidance wherever we can.  The questions we get help us decide what new guidance documents to develop.

Some years there are definite themes. One year we were asked dozens of questions about slide digitization.  Another year it was video tape-to-digital conversion.  Last year there were quite a few questions about email export and migration.  This year I would not say I heard any one theme, but a lot of general concern.  And we received a lot of appreciation that we were there to answer questions. And that appreciation makes it all worthwhile.

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