The following is a guest post by Barrie Howard, IT Project Manager at the Library of Congress.
Last month the Digital Preservation Outreach and Education (DPOE) Program wrapped up the “2014 DPOE Training Needs Assessment Survey” in an effort to get a sense of the state of digital preservation practice and understand more about what capacity exists for organizations and professionals to effectively preserve digital content. This survey is a follow up to a similar survey that was conducted in 2010, and mentioned in a previous blog post.
The 17-question survey was open for seven weeks to relevant organizations and received 436 responses, which is excellent considering summer vacation schedules and survey fatigue. The questions addressed issues like primary function (library, archive, museum, etc.), staff size and responsibilities, collection items, preferred training content and delivery options and financial support for professional development and training.
Response rates from libraries, archives, museums, and historical societies were similar in 2010 and 2014, with a notable increase this year in participation from state governments. There was good geographic coverage, including responses from organizations in 48 states, DC and Puerto Rico (see below), and none of the survey questions were skipped by any of the respondents.
The most significant takeaways are: 1) an overwhelming expression of concern that respondents ensure their digital content is accessible for 10 or more years (84%), and; 2) evidence of a strong commitment to support employee training opportunities (83%). Other important discoveries reveal changes in staff size and configuration over the last four years. There was a marked 6% decrease in staff size at smaller organizations ranging from 1-50 employees, and a slight 2% drop in staff size at large organizations with over 500 employees. In comparison, medium-size organizations reported a 4% uptick in the staff range of 51-200 and 3% for the 201-500 tier. There was a substantial 13% increase across all organizations in paid full-time or part-time professional staff with practitioner experience, and a 5% drop in organizations reporting no staff at all. These findings suggest positive trends across the digital preservation community, which bode well for the long-term preservation of our collective cultural heritage.
One survey question tackled the issue of what type of digital content is held by each institution. While reformatted material digitized from collections already held has the highest frequency across all respondents (83%), born-digital content created by and for your organization trails close behind (76.4%). Forty-five percent of all respondents reported that their institution had deposited digital materials managed for other individuals or institutions. These results reflect prevailing trends, and it will be interesting to see how things change between now and the next survey.
The main purpose of the survey was to collect data about the training needs of these organizations, and half a dozen questions were devoted to this task. Interestingly, while online training is trending across many sectors to meet the constraints of reduced travel budgets, the 2014 survey results find that respondents still value intimate, in-person workshops. In-person training often comes at a higher price than online, and the survey attempted to find out how much money an employee would receive annually for training. Not surprisingly, the majority (25%) of respondents didn’t know, and equally as important, another 24% reported a modest budget range of $0-$250.
When given the opportunity to be away from their place of employment, respondents preferred half or full-day training sessions over 2-3 days or week-long intensives. They showed a willingness to travel off-site up to a 100-mile radius of their places of work. There was a bias towards training on applicable skills, rather than introductory material on basic concepts, and respondents identified training investments that result in an increased capacity to work with digital objects and metadata management as the most beneficial outcome for their organization.
DPOE currently offers an in-person, train-the-trainer workshop, and is exploring options for extending the workshop curriculum to include online delivery options for the training modules. These advancements will address some of the issues raised in the survey, and may include regularly scheduled webinars, on-demand videos and pre- and post-workshop videos. The 2014 survey results will be released in a forthcoming report, which will be made available in November, so keep a watchful eye on the DPOE website and The Signal for the report and subsequent DPOE training materials as they become available.