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Digital Preservation

July 7, 2010

I want to take a bit of time today and talk about digital preservation for two reasons: 1. it is a subject close to my archivist/librarian heart and 2. I don’t think it is taken seriously. What I mean by not “taken seriously” is that while I think a lot of people are concerned about digital preservation and believe that something needs to be done, many fewer people actually take any concrete steps toward actually preserving digital data. For instance, when was the last time you backed up all your computer files? Do you have a back-up server in case the main one in the archives or special collections fails? Is the back-up server in another physical space than your main server in case of physical disaster? Do you understand and apply all those metadata schema, checksums, and other preservation measures with your collections?

I think one of the problems that advocates of digital preservation face is the fact that it is almost overwhelming to think about preserving digital materials. The sheer volume in terms of information and the complete intangibility of the records makes it very difficult to wrap one’s mind around preserving the materials. Not to mention the fact that so much of the actual data and records reside on obsolete media. Who hasn’t opened a box in the archives and sighed when a pile of floppy disks is in the box?

Luckily, there are resources out there to help with digital preservation. If you have any favorite resources, please leave them in comments. I’m not going to go into the nitty-gritty of preservation metadata or the controversy surrounding the argument of whether digitization is a preservation or access strategy. Instead, I’m just going to highlight some helpful resources to help you get started.

The Library of Congress has created a nice, short video titled, Why Digital Preservation is Important for Everyone (And they have a transcript! Yay, for accessibility!). It’s great to use to market the importance of digital preservation to those outside of the information professions. Maybe you could use it as part of your National Preservation Week events next year. Or use it in your information literacy courses when teaching about digital content and the importance of backing up your files (i.e. homework). Also, the Library of Congress is a fantastic resource for digital preservation information.

You can now access the iPres 2009 Conference Materials. This is a fantastic resource–full papers, videos, presentation materials, and more from the conference. If you want to delve deeper into the digital preservation quagmire, this is a definite must-read/view resource.

If you want to get an international perspective on digitization, check out the National Library of New Zealand: National Library Digitisation Strategy 2010-2015. It is always a good idea to see what other nations are doing with regard to digital assets, especially our fellow librarians and archivists from New Zealand (and Australia) who are quite advanced when it comes to theorizing and implementing digital preservation programs.

And something, just because it is fun: NARA launches new logo. Let me know what you think about it. It reminds me of some cartoon eagle, but I can’t remember from which cartoon. I think it is nice (and goodness knows it is difficult to design a good logo), though I would have liked the logo to incorporate some sense of the future and digital aspect of NARA’s work.

In other news, I thought I should highlight a Free Workshop: “Make a Connection! Librarians & Teachers Team Up for Student Success”. If you are in SoCal, you should check it out and blog about it. I, unfortunately, won’t be able to attend, but it sounds like a really interesting workshop.

I also thought I should highlight Lifehacker’s How to Downgrade Your iPhone 3G[S] from iOS 4 to iOS 3.1.3 after talking with a few people who were unhappy with the “glacial performance.” So if you would like to downgrade, check out the article–make sure to read it all the way through before starting so you don’t lose any data (and good luck).

Before leaving you, dear reader, I just wanted to thank everyone who has checked out the new blog theme and told me they liked it. That makes me happy. And, if you are curious, the new header is a mashup of two photos I took of collections in the University Archives at my university.

The Waki Librarian will be back on Friday with more fun for your reading pleasure. Until then, enjoy your day, read a lot, and I’ll see you back here soon.

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