The following is a guest post by Kim Schroeder, a lecturer at the Wayne State University School of Library and Information Science.
Several years ago before the glory of the annual NDSA conference, professionals across America were seeking more digital curation literature and professional contacts. Basic questions like ‘what is the first step in digital preservation?’ and ‘how do I start to consistently manage digital assets?’ were at the forefront.
As we have worked toward increased information sharing including the invaluable annual NDSA and IDCC conferences, we see a disconnect as we return home. As we try to implement new tools and processes, we inevitably hit bumps beyond our immediate knowledge. This is being alleviated more and more by local meetings being hosted in regions to gather professionals for hands-on and hand-waving process sharing.
Lance Stuchell, Digital Preservation Librarian at the University of Michigan and I began the Regional Digital Preservation Practitioners (RDPP) meetings as an opportunity to talk through our challenges and solutions. The result is that over 100 professionals have signed up for our listserv since our call one year ago. We sent announcements out to Windsor, Toledo, Ann Arbor and throughout Metro Detroit to let people know that there is an untapped community of professionals that want and need to share their progress on digital curation.
In the last year we have held three meetings with more planned this year. The initial meeting included a discussion and eventually a survey to define our biggest issues as well as how best to craft the group. Other topics included a digital projects lab tour, a DSpace installation overview, and a demonstration of a mature Digital Asset Management system. Coming later this year, we plan to focus on metadata issues and a symposium on how to create workflows. Further information about the meetings is available at the Regional Digital Preservation Practitioners site.
The development of the list has been one of the more helpful pieces with folks posting jobs, practicum ideas, latest articles and technical questions. The volume of discussion is not there yet but it is off to a healthy start.
Mid-Michigan has also created a similar group that works with us to schedule events and share information. Ed Busch, the Electronic Records Archivist at Michigan State University (MSU) held a successful conference last summer at MSU and he said: “What my co-worker Lisa Schmidt and I find so useful with our Mid-Michigan regional meeting is the chance to network with other professionals trying to solve the same situations as we are with digital assets; hearing what they’ve tried with success and failure; and finding new ways to collaborate. All institutions with digital assets, regardless of size, are in the same boat when it comes to dealing with this material. It’s really nice to hear that from your peers.” They held another conference on March 14th of this year and the agenda is available (pdf).
The NDSA is also encouraging regions to join together beyond the annual meeting. Butch Lazorchak, a Digital Archivist at the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program
shared his thoughts on this. “The NDSA regional meetings are a great opportunity for NDSA members to share the work they’ve done to advance digital stewardship practice,” he said. “At the same time, the meetings help to build community by bringing together regional participants who may not usually find an opportunity to get together to discuss digital stewardship practice and share their own triumphs and challenges.”
Beginning a regional group is fairly easy as you send out announcements to professional listservs, but the tougher part is administration. Deciding who keeps the minutes, manages the list, hosts the next meeting and how to maintain momentum is a necessity. With the explosion in research, professional literature and expanding conferences we have more avenues to explore but we need the hands-on lessons learned from local colleagues to continue successful experimentation. We would encourage you to think about starting your own local group!