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Hacking Digital Stewardship at Computers in Libraries 2014

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Cherry blossoms on the tidal basin. Credit: Carla Miller
Cherry blossoms on the tidal basin. Credit: Carla Miller

While we officially welcomed Spring last month, April seems to be the unofficial start to conference season.  This week, NDIIPP staff are busy talking about the NDSA’s National Agenda for Digital Stewardship and NDIIPP’s personal digital archiving guidance at TLA’s Digital Libraries Roundtable on Friday, April 11 and at Personal Digital Archiving 2014 on April 10 and 11.  And yesterday, Butch Lazorchak, Trevor Owens and I spoke in the Digital Stewardship session at Computers in Libraries here in Washington, DC.

Computers in Libraries is an annual conference focusing on all aspects of library and information delivery technology for librarians and information managers. We were really excited to be on this year’s program, particularly to share information about the NDSA and its activities with such a broad group of professionals working in academia, government, industry and the non-profit secctors.  Since 2010 the NDSA has grown as a membership organization and members have access to a richer, collective exploration of digital preservation issues.

Yesterday in our session, we discussed the impacts of the 2014 National Agenda for Digital Stewardship (PDF) on digital preservation funding, policy and practice at a high level, but we also hosted an interactive discussion on using the Levels of Digital Preservation to help organizations address these pressures on a practical level.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, the National Agenda integrates the perspective of dozens of experts and hundreds of institutions to provide funders and executive decision‐makers insight into emerging technological trends, gaps in digital stewardship capacity, and key areas for funding, research and development.  You can think of it as a high-level document, but it also suggests digital stewardship and preservation activities in need of prioritization.

One of the important things to note about the Agenda is that it recognizes that while we may be able to perform digital stewardship actions alone, within our own organizations, to advance as a community of practice we can have a greater impact by banding together.  The Agenda brings together advocacy and coordination around policies and practices, which is one of the reasons we were excited to share it with the librarian and information managers in attendance.

Following an overview of the Agenda, we got into the meat of the session and focused on explaining the Levels of Digital Preservation, guiding participants through a workshop exercise to help them assess their own institutional readiness based on the guidance provided by the framework.

The Levels is a tiered set of recommendations for how organizations should begin to build or enhance their digital preservation activities.  During and after the session, some participants asked what strategies or tools the Levels document recommends related to storage, infrastructure and formats.  While the Levels can help institutions assess the level of preservation achieved for specific types of digital content in their custody, or their entire preservation infrastructure, it doesn’t recommend specific tools, services, formats, or types of storage.  It doesn’t cover such things as policies, staffing, or organizational support, but it can certainly help inform the development of polices or help organizations understand the types of resources required to support digital preservation activities.  It can also be used as a communications and advocacy tool within your own organization.  For example, you can use it to help facilitate conversations with your IT department or a third-party vendor when you’ve been given the task of building a digital preservation system.

Thanks to everyone who came to the session yesterday!  You can read about other sessions and activities that happened at CIL on their conference blog.

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