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Black and white photograph of woman with pin curls operating machinery in Baltimore.
Marjory Collins, photographer. Title: "Woman winding the armature of a trolley motor in the armature shop of Washington terminal, maintenance plant of the Baltimore Transit Company. This woman was first employed by the company during the last war. No new women have been hired in the maintenance plant in this emergency." Baltimore, Maryland. April 1943.

Stayin’ Alive: How Community and Maintenance Support Digital Preservation

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Today’s guest post is from Genevieve Havemeyer-King, a Senior Digital Collections Specialist in the Digital Collections Management and Services Division.

“Development is maintenance.” Brian Marick, “Agile Manifesto” co-author

This year marks the fifth anniversary of the Digital Collections Management Compendium’s public debut on The Digital Collections Management and Services Division officially launched the Compendium via The Signal in 2019 after initiating the project in 2017. Emerging as part of a larger effort (PDF) to take stock of the Library’s digital collections, this release was the culmination of two years of gathering, drafting, and centralizing documentation on how we preserve and provide access to digital content. The Compendium now serves as the public face of a formal program that evolves to address the unique needs of stakeholders within the digital landscape. As we enter a new year, we wanted to take the opportunity to share a status update and highlight the ongoing work of ensuring the Compendium continues to support the Library’s Strategic Goals by guiding how we sustain access to knowledge and creativity, provide trustworthy and authoritative data through peer-reviewed policies, and enhance our staff’s digital collection management capabilities through experimentation and skill sharing.

The numbers don’t lie

While the public version of the Compendium is a resource to visitors and practitioners in the field, an internal version provides Library of Congress staff more detailed guidance on specific organizational systems and workflows and is crucial to Library work. A peek at our internal usage statistics gives an impression of the Library’s digital landscape. Since their launch in 2017, the internal pages have received nearly 16,000 page views, with over 11,000 since the 2019 public announcement on

The most visited internal page, titled Use of Approved Inventory Systems (public version available at this link), describes the Library’s approved systems and requirements for inventorying and establishing administrative control for the Library’s permanent digital collections, which is top of mind as we prioritize enhancement of systems used for safeguarding our digital collections. Nearly as popular is our page on Processing Digital Collections Content (public version available at this link), which defines criteria and levels of processing for digital content. In 2021, this item provided important guidance in the development of digital access workflows (PDF) for recordings within the Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature and the PALABRA Archive.

Another highlight of our analytics shows heavy usage of Digital Collections Management Compendium Governance and Maintenance (an internal-only entry), which defines the responsibilities of the Digital Collections Management Compendium Review Group, who represent the foundation of our Compendium program maintenance process.

The popularity of these three pages may reflect the importance or complexity of these three core activities in digital collection management: inventory, processing, and policy development. Repeated visits to the Governance and Maintenance page speaks to how the work of policy documentation is a never-ending process that is key to digital collections management.

Screenshot of the Digital Collections Repository interface; a new inventory and collection management system
A snapshot of items inventoried within the Library’s new internal Digital Collections Repository, a new internal system which is in development to support continued safeguarding our digital collections.

Maintaining the Compendium: the review process

Beyond page views, the impact of the Compendium can be seen in how staff point to it in support of decisions or directions within the digital content lifecycle. As a peer-reviewed resource, the Compendium allows staff to more effectively advocate for change or enhancements related to services. When the policies themselves need to change, guidance elements are brought up for review to determine if they align with new tools or methodologies that are under consideration.

Much of the Compendium’s strength lies in this review process, which ensures that it remains a living document. Digital Collections Management and Services (DCMS) has succeeded in maintaining both public and internal versions by coordinating with stakeholders across the Library. In depth discussion of each piece of guidance allows for the documentation to capture nuances within the complex work of migrating, preserving, and providing access to born digital and digitized collections content. Additional resources, such as our Compendium Glossary (which also exists as an internal version), facilitate this process by aligning terminology for stakeholders who come to the Compendium with diverse technical backgrounds and perspectives to ensure a mutual understanding of terms across the digital content management lifecycle.

This maintenance work is coordinated by a small team of DCMS staff who review and track revisions, schedule review periods, perform administrative updates, reach out to subject matter experts, recruit new review members, and keep a pulse on changes within the Library or in the field that may warrant updates. The editorial work of reviewing and collaborating on changes falls to the Compendium Review Group. With representatives from the Library Collections & Services Group (LCSG), the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO), Office of the Librarian, Congressional Research Service (CRS), the Office of General Counsel (OGC), and the U.S. Copyright Office, the Review Group ensures that each item within the Compendium aligns with formal Library of Congress Regulations & Directives and departmental and community-wide best practices.

Digital Formats entries for Digital Acquisitions File Formats and Digital Surrogate Creation and Management
Two DCMC entries and their revision history.

Some challenges to maintenance include working around more immediate priorities (like collection processing!) and striking a balance between the needs of so many divisions and diverse digital collection types. At the 2021 iPres International Conference on Digital Preservation, the team presented a paper detailing the 2019 launch of the Compendium (PDF) , concluding that “…the ongoing maintenance and revision of the DCMC is a core part of efforts to improve our approach to digital collections management,” and that statement remains true. Digital collection management is a lifelong process that requires adaptability and ongoing conversation, and the Compendium provides a wonderful platform for exchanging ideas within such a large institution as we collaborate to analyze collection issues and risks, weigh resources, and craft language that defines our daily work.

Building on community
Creating a community of shared practice and documentation for digital collection management starts by sharing knowledge and publicizing the Compendium. Our team has carried out this internal dissemination through an internal listserv and a monthly virtual event series called Digital Library Practitioners. The meeting sessions are informed by staff activities and cover a range of topics. We’ve had about 50 meetings since the series started, and more recently we heard from colleagues about their work on the Mellon funded Computing Cultural Heritage in the Cloud (CCHC) initiative, investigations into artificial intelligence, and automation tools for increasing productivity, to name a few. These events provide a venue for analyzing workflows through the lens of the Compendium to see how this resource is guiding or informing our processes, allow us to share communications about the Compendium and keep up on one another’s work, and help reveal topics for which we might want to explore creation of new guidance.

Powerpoint slides from the 2023 Computing Cultural Heritage in the Cloud InitiativeData Jam
Eileen J. Manchester presenting takeaways from the CCHC Data Jam. April 24, 2023.

In refining guidance, we gain a deeper understanding of how Library staff use and reference the Compendium. Since we’re also interested in how documentation and policy development might be approached differently, we’d love to hear from other institutions. How do you maintain your internal documents and collaborate with internal partners? What platforms have you worked with and what has inspired change over the years? Share in the comments!

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