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Mapping the Digital Galaxy: The Keepers Registry Expands its Tool Kit

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This past month, The Keepers Registry released a new version of its website with a suite of significant new features to help its members monitor the archival status of e-journal content. The Library of Congress has been one of the archiving institutions of The Keepers Registry and we thought this was a good time to learn a little bit more about this important initiative. Ted Westervelt, manager of the eDeposit Program for Library Services, interviewed the Keepers Registry team.

This Keepers Registry is a Jisc Service at EDINA. It is operated in partnership with the ISSN International Centre in Paris. The Keepers Registry team includes Peter Burnhill, Mary Elder, Adam Rusbridge, Tim Stickland, Lisa Otty and Steven Davies from EDINA and Gaelle Bequet, Pierre Godefroy and their colleagues from ISSN IC.

Ted: On its website, the Keepers Registry has a clear statement of purpose. Can you elaborate on the background of the Registry and how this was developed? What is the significance of this project for the digital preservation community?

Keepers team: The purpose of the Keepers Registry is to act as a lens onto the activities of archiving agencies around the world. It enables librarians and information managers to discover which journals and continuing resources are being looked after, by whom and how. Now funded as a Jisc service, the Registry was developed and is operated jointly by EDINA (University of Edinburgh) and the ISSN International Centre. This followed a project called PEPRS (Piloting an E-journals Preservation Registry Service) in which CLOCKSS, LOCKSS and Portico were active partners in the project phase alongside Konjinklijke Bibliotheek (KB, Netherlands) and the British Library (UK).

The importance of digital preservation for e-journal content has been widely recognized in the US and the UK, but until the provision of the Keepers Registry there was no systematic and easily accessible information (PDF) about the arrangements in place for individual journals. The Keepers Registry also records information on issues and volumes, not just serial titles.

Old College, University of Edinburgh, UK by user Sue Hongjia via Wikimedia Commons
Old College, University of Edinburgh, UK by user Sue Hongjia via Wikimedia Commons

The first version of the online Registry was launched in 2011. It was included in the portfolio of Jisc services at EDINA in 2013-14 shortly after the Library of Congress joined as a ‘Keeper.’

We continue to develop the Keepers Registry with a special injection of funding from Jisc in the Keepers Extra project. Now halfway through this two-year project we will host an open conference in Edinburgh later this year on September 7th, Taking the Long View. This will provide a showcase for each Keeper, including the Library of Congress, and bring them together to address the international dimensions of the challenge of increasing preservation coverage.

Ted: One of the goals of the Keepers Registry is to highlight e-journals that are at risk of loss. What specific actions on its part does the Keepers Registry think are most useful for accomplishing this?

Keepers team: We have just launched a new Title List Comparison feature that makes the process of discovering what is at risk of loss much quicker and easier. This enables a librarian (or a publisher) to upload lists of titles having ISSN and produce a report on which titles are being ‘ingested with archival intent’ and which are not known to be in safe hands. Archiving agencies can also use the Title List Comparison facility to find gaps in their collections and then take action to fill these gaps to inform local collection management decisions.

As noted, the Keepers Registry records information on issues and volumes, not just serial titles. This is important when archiving digital content from serials and other continuing resources. Recording the parts of serials is a demanding aspect for the keepers and the Registry.

We hope that will encourage cooperation between the Keepers organizations as they assess how to ensure complete coverage. We are very interested in how we can help the library community understand their collections better, and how to empower the community to take actions.

Ted: The list of the archiving agencies, which are part of the Keepers Registry is a substantial one. Could you tell us how you went about choosing them? To what extent are you soliciting the participation of other archiving agencies?

Keepers team: Thus far we do not have a formal definition of scope for who should and who should not be recognized as a ‘Keeper’ within the Keepers Registry. We know that is needed at some point. Instead, we have the yardstick that the Keepers Registry should report on the activities of organizations and initiatives that have ‘archival intent.’ This helps us decide that some operations geared towards providing current online access but without ‘archival intent’ are not on our target list.

We are actively seeking participation from two types of archiving organizations. The first are those which have a national mission to keep content over the long term. Often this means national libraries which had active programs of archiving of digital content that is published as serials and other online continuing resources. Countries vary on how this mission is allocated. The second are consortia of research libraries, again in different countries, who work together to create archival arrangements. The motive is to have such memory organizations declare what each is looking after and how. Researchers in any one country are dependent upon what is published, and archived, in other countries.

As part of the Keepers Extra project, we are also building on an idea once mooted by KB Netherlands, developing a set of recommendations for a safe places network. This is thought of as a global grouping that can advocate for increased preservation coverage of online continuing resources. Engaging new Keepers on board will be crucial to making progress. We would encourage any archives, libraries or repositories that would be interested in participating, to get in touch with us.

Ted: Most of the participating agencies are Western European or North American, which makes sense given the origins of the Keepers Registry. How actively are you looking at adding members from other parts of the world?

Cyberspace by user jstll via Flickr
Cyberspace by user jstll via Flickr

Keepers team: We have become well-traveled in our quest! The initial focus was on the UK, Europe and the USA as it was much easier for us to encourage participation from agencies in Europe and the US as we had existing contact and relationships with many of the original agencies.

However, we are very conscious of need for more international participation as mentioned earlier. There is now engagement with China and Canada and with active outreach to India and Brazil, as well as more countries across Europe.

National and regional activity is crucial for effective digital preservation of the scholarly and cultural record. Archival agencies rightly have collection policies, with mission to collect what is important to their communities. Space and resources are finite, so archiving involves making choices about the value of material and assigning priority of effort. But what is regarded as less valuable in one country may be recognized as valuable to another, which is why we are interested including international archiving agencies as Keepers. Researchers in any one country are dependent upon what is published, and archived for the long term, in other countries.

Ted: You are just now releasing a new version of the Keepers Registry, with some interesting new functionalities. One of these is the Title List Comparison, which you mentioned above. Who do you hope will use this and what do you hope this will do for them and for the mission of the Keepers Registry in general?

Keepers team: We anticipate that the Title List Comparison facility will prove very popular. This complements the simple search facility on the home page, to enable library staff to have archival information for a list of titles identified by ISSN. This was in test mode for a while during which we found the right balance of reporting of archival status. The Title List Comparison facility should allow libraries to have insight into the archival status of collections in order to assist informed decision making about subscriptions, cancellations and print rationalization.

We hope that the tool will also improve communication between the library community and the Keeper organizations themselves, as libraries make known their priorities for the serial titles that they discover are not being kept safe.  The Title List Comparison service is part of our Members Services; access to these requires membership, which is free of charge.

Ted: Another major functionality in the new release is the Machine to Machine Interfaces. Who do you expect will use this? What outcome would you like to see from launching this?

Keepers team: Librarians interact on a daily basis with a wide range of services and tools for serials. We want the information on archiving that we bring together in the Keepers Registry to be available and useful at the point of need – when there is need for a quick reference to make a measured decision. Those machine-to-machine interfaces are there to support linking tools from those other services, such as union catalogs, and even OPACs, as well as vendor platforms. In general, those ‘APIs’ are there so that others can do unimaginable things with our data – so please get in touch!

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