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Plans for Assessing Preservation Storage Options and Lifecycles at MIT Libraries: An NDSR Project Update

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The following is a guest post by Alexandra Curran, National Digital Stewardship Resident at MIT Libraries.  She participates in the NDSR-Boston cohort.

Hello readers, and happy holidays!

Alexandra Curran, NDSR-Boston Resident at MIT Libraries
Alexandra Curran, NDSR-Boston Resident at MIT Libraries

Looking back at the last few months of my residency working in collaboration with the Digital Preservation Unit (DPU) at MIT Libraries and especially their Lead for Digital Preservation, Nancy McGovern, I realize that I have had a tremendous opportunity to learn from experts in the field. My previous experiences focused primarily on digital collections from an access rather than preservation perspective.  They stemmed from my interest in data management and compositing during my film school days and continued into my library work. Throughout my work and education, I utilized best practices and standards to manage and create workflows and lifecycles in order to make content available. They were inherent in everything I did, but I knew that I still had much to learn in regards to digital preservation.

MIT Libraries is the host of the Digital Preservation Management (DPM) workshop series. The Five Organizational Stages of the DPM model that was co-developed by Anne R. Kenney and Nancy Y. McGovern and published in 2003 are: “The Five Organizational Stages of Digital Preservation.”

  1. Acknowledge: Understanding that digital preservation is a local concern;
  2. Act: Initiating digital preservation projects;
  3. Consolidate: Seguing from projects to programs;
  4. Institutionalize: Incorporating the larger environment; and
  5. Externalize: Embracing inter-institutional collaboration and dependency.

My project is contributing to the transition by MIT libraries to Consolidate (stage 3). I have already attended my first DPM topical workshop on digital forensics and we are using the DPM model as a frame for my preservation storage project.

My project outcomes and deliverables will consider preservation storage using the three legs of the DPM stool: organizational infrastructure, technological infrastructure, and resources framework. My results will contribute to future policies about preservation storage, a term that Digital Preservation at MIT Libraries is promulgating as a more holistic term than Archival Storage in OAIS, at MIT Libraries.

A big part of this project is contributing to the collaborative assessment process with the DPU, members of MIT Libraries IT staff, and content curators within the Libraries.  In support of the evaluation, I have been studying relevant digital preservation standards, such as Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS) and Trustworthy Repositories Audit & Certification: Criteria and Checklist (TRAC). These will guide the review of potential preservation storage services and options for MIT Libraries. Some factors under consideration during the assessment include:

  • Whether the service is open source or proprietary;
  • How storage nodes are managed;
  • What type of preservation security services/mechanisms they use and how they work;
  • What disaster recovery policies and procedures they have implemented; and
  • How their exit strategy, if they have one, works.
Preservation Storage in the Management of Digital Content Workflow at MIT Libraries
Preservation Storage in the Management of Digital Content Workflow at MIT Libraries

In addition to reviewing standards, I will work with content curators at MIT Libraries to identify the digital content they intend to preserve, that is not currently in preservation storage. Next I will develop a plan for how that content might be moved to preservation storage.  I will review the Libraries’ digital content workflow to determine if additions will be necessary to move existing digital content into preservation storage. I am looking forward to working with researchers in the Libraries’ very cool, Digital Sustainability Lab to examine the ways in which potential preservation storage options might function and how they might collaborate with current tools. Based on the results of the assessment, I will create recommendations about good enough, good, and optimal options for the Libraries to consider when choosing preservation storage services and lifecycles. I plan to share updates and outcomes from the project through the NDSR Boston blog, the digital preservation website at MIT, presentations at NDSR Boston and other events.

The project is only one part of the residency requirements. The residents have the opportunity to identify and engage in a range of professional development activities. So far, I have participated in a range of professional development activities as a way to learn about the community and to introduce myself.  I presented at the New England National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NE NDSA) conference in September. In November I volunteered at iPRES at the University of North Carolina (UNC), where I learned about the fascinating recent digital preservation developments. During iPRES I particularly enjoyed the Preservation Storage Community Discussion, a very relevant session for my project. Many repositories are grappling with digital preservation storage and it was great to be there for the discussion. The Policy and Documentation Clinic was a helpful and insightful seminar because, hopefully, the outcomes and implications of my project will inform the preservation storage policy and planning here at MIT Libraries.

I look forward to returning to UNC in January for CurateGear 2016. The NDSR Boston residents will be one of participate in the Preservation Administrators Interest Group (PAIG) presentations at ALA Midwinter on January 9th at 9 am. And we will host our mid-year event on January 26th from 3pm-5 pm at Harvard. I hope to see you there!

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