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Who Does What? Defining the Roles & Responsibilities for Digital Preservation

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This is a guest post by Andrea Goethals, Manager of Digital Preservation and Repository Services at Harvard Library.

Harvard Library’s digital preservation program has evolved a great deal since the first incarnation of its digital preservation repository (“the DRS”) was put into production in October 2000. Over the years, we have produced 3GB worth of DRS documentation – everything from security policies to architectural diagrams to format migration plans to user documentation. Some of this documentation helps me to manage this repository; in fact, there are a handful of documents I could not effectively do my job without. This post is about one of them – the “DRS Roles & Responsibilities” document.

Like many other libraries, Harvard Library has gone through several reorganizations. Back in 2000, the DRS was solely managed by a library IT department called the Office for Information Services (OIS). When the Library’s digital preservation program was officially launched in 2008, it was naturally set up within OIS. Then in 2012, digital preservation was integrated with its analog preservation counterpart in a new large department called Preservation, Conservation & Digital Imaging (PCDI). But, the IT staff who managed the DRS’ technical infrastructure were moved into a new department called Library Technology Services (LTS) within the university’s central IT. So essentially the management and maintenance of the DRS would now be distributed across departments. Once the reorganization dust settled, it became clear that there was a lot of confusion throughout the Library and even within the departments directly involved over who’s responsibility it was to do what, and even which were digital preservation vs. IT responsibilities. For example, who creates the DRS enhancement roadmaps? Is that a responsibility of digital preservation or of the system development manager? And how should decisions be made about preservation storage? Clearly that should be influenced by both digital preservation and IT best practices.

In response, in 2013, a small group of us met to consider a first draft of what now has come to be known as the DRS Roles & Responsibilities document. It was essential to the eventual buy-in of the division of responsibilities that the group was composed of the head of the 2 departments (PCDI and LTS) as well as myself (the manager of the digital preservation program and the DRS), and the manager of the library’s system development. Over the course of a few meetings we refined the document into something we all agreed on.

Since then we have continued to refine it whenever it’s clear that we forgot to define who has responsibility for something, or when multiple departments think they are responsible for the same thing. Having this document has proved enormously helpful not only in making the day-to-day operations more efficient, it has also improved working relationships, removing contention over responsibilities. Most recently we used the document as a guide for deciding which information belongs on websites managed by Digital Preservation Services vs LTS. It has also proved useful as a communication tool. Now we can better explain to other staff who to go to for what.

This document has now been used as a model within Harvard Library in other areas, to clarify responsibilities for a functional area that is distributed across departments. My hope in sharing this is that it might serve as a useful tool for other institutions – to clarify digital preservation responsibilities distributed across departments, or possibly even among different cooperating institutions.

Page one of the DRS Roles & Responsibilities document.

Version 6 of the DRS Roles & Responsibilities can be found at

Comments (2)

  1. Jamie, Thanks a lot for sharing this very useful document template as well as the helpful analysis and information. Best regards, Rada

  2. Id Love to have this Document

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