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Just Released: Staffing for Effective Digital Preservation: An NDSA Report

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The following is a guest post by report co-authors and NDSA Standards and Practices Working Group members:

  • Winston Atkins, Duke University Libraries
  • Andrea Goethals, Harvard Library
  • Carol Kussmann, Minnesota State Archives
  • Meg Phillips, National Archives and Records Administration
  • Mary Vardigan, Inter‐university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR)

The results of the 2012 National Digital Stewardship Alliance Standards and Practices Working Group’s digital preservation staffing survey have just been released!  Staffing for Effective Digital Preservation: An NDSA Report (pdf) shares what we learned by surveying 85 institutions with a mandate to preserve digital content about how they staffed and organized their preservation functions. You may remember that The Signal blogged about the survey on August 8, 2012 to encourage readers to participate:  “How do you staff your Digital Preservation Initiatives?” As promised in that post and elsewhere, the results of the survey are now publicly available and the survey data have been archived for future use.

Staffing for Effective Digital Preservation: An NDSA ReportWe’ll highlight some of the significant findings here, but we encourage you to read the full report and let us know what you think – both about the report and the current state of digital preservation staffing.

The NDSA found that there was no dedicated digital preservation department in most organizations surveyed to take the lead in this area.  In most cases, preservation tasks fell to a library, archive or other department. Close to half of respondents thought that the digital preservation function in their organizations was well organized, but a third were not satisfied and many were unsure.

Another key finding is that almost all institutions believe that digital preservation is understaffed.    Organizations wanted almost twice the number of full‐time equivalents that they currently had. Most organizations are retraining existing staff to manage digital preservation functions rather than hiring new staff.

The survey also asked specifically about the desired qualifications for new digital preservation managers.  Respondents believe that passion for digital preservation and a knowledge of digital preservation standards, best practices, and tools are the most important characteristics of a good digital preservation manager, not a particular educational background or past work experience.

Other findings from the survey showed that most organizations expected the size of their holdings to increase substantially in the next year. Twenty percent expect their current content to double. Images and text files are the most common types of content being preserved. Most organizations are performing the majority of digital preservation activities in‐house but many outsource some activities (digitization was the most common) and are hoping to outsource more.

The survey provides some useful baseline data about staffing needs, and the NDSA Standards and Practices Working Group recommends that the survey be repeated in two to three years to show change over time as digital preservation programs mature and as more organizations self‐identify as being engaged in digital preservation.

What do you think? We welcome your comments on the current report or any recommendations about the next iteration of the survey.

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