Keeping up with digital preservation

Hello readers!

Much has happened in the month since I posted last. My fellow residents and I have been busy attending conferences, participating in events both on-site and off, planning for future presentations, and working hard on our projects.

I feel that my project is in a good place with using web statistics to help us understand the scope of existing state publications and using that to define a collection policy. The team at the State Library has been wonderfully supportive and collaborative, and I feel very lucky to be working with them. I hope in a month or two, I will have a clear definition of what state publications are available through the State Library’s DSpace repository to share with you here.

The residents and I met this week to participate in a discussion with Nancy and Andrea, our program coordinators and the hosts at MIT and Harvard. We talked about preservation storage and protection, as well as what activities we are engaged in as part of our professional development. It was a reminder of how many opportunities exist to get involved in the field—a nice problem to have!

I started thinking about some of the ways in which I keep up with developments and news in the field of archives and digital preservation, and I thought I’d share some of those here. I’d also love to hear what kinds of ways you all engage with the profession; I’m sure there are so many I am leaving off my list.

Here are some of the methods I use to stay current:


  • Some of the conferences my fellow residents and I have attended or are planning to attend include: NDSA-New England, iPres, ALA-Midwinter, Code4Lib, New England Code4Lib, regional conferences/annual meetings, Archiving 2016, DPLAfest, SAA

Webinars/Classes/Continuing Education

  • We’re lucky to participate in webinars as part of the residency, with a webinar led by Nancy McGovern and a group discussion facilitated by Nancy and Andrea Goethals. There are also great webinars offered by NISO, SAA, NEDCC, continuing education programs (e.g., Simmons here in Boston), and more!


Listservs: I know there are some mixed feelings about listservs, but I really enjoy the digests. I like that there is a communal feel, and that there is a resource that allows you to engage with professionals outside of your institutions and region. I imagine it is especially useful for those lone arrangers out there.

  • I subscribe to the following listservs: SAA Electronic Records, SAA Preservation, SAA Web Archiving, SAA SNAP, SAA Women Archivists, Western Archivists, Archives & Archivists, ALA Digipres.

Twitter: I love Twitter as a means for engaging in brief, quick updates on what’s new and current in the field.

  • I follow a number of librarians, archivists, and institutions, who frequently post about their collections, projects, and programs. They also usually post URLs to articles, conferences, webinars, etc. that keep me up-to-date.
  • I also like the way that some roundtables/groups use Twitter to engage with their community, such as SNAP’s use of “SNAPchats”. Using a shared hashtag, SNAP facilitates discussions around relatable topics and creates an open forum for conversation through Twitter.
  • We also know that conferences now have hashtags they adopt so you can follow a conference from afar. This is a great way to get a sneak peek at what’s happening.

Other ideas that come to mind include volunteering, taking tours, participating on panels, or other social media platforms. Please share the other ways in which you keep up with what’s new and exciting—I’d love to add to this list.

Lastly, a very Happy Thanksgiving to you all! Give your family, friends, pets, and food a little extra love this year—I think we could all use it!


Getting Organized

Hello all!

I am back in Cambridge today after spending last week in beautiful Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where I attended the International Digital Preservation Conference, along with fellow residents Alex and Alice.  I enjoyed the opportunity to meet colleagues and to engage in discussions about common digital preservation issues – it was really helpful to hear about issues others have faced and how they tackled them. I’d like to say thank you to the organizers for making it happen, and also for allow us residents to volunteer!


Wilson Library, home of UNC’s special collections

There was a lot of discussion about audits and self-assessments at the conference, which I found especially helpful, since my project is focused on that. I thought I’d use my blog post today to talk about where I am in the process of self-assessment, and mix in a little bit of what I’ve learned from others so far.

Right now, I am working on the “gap analysis” aspect of the project. This means figuring out which of the ISO 16363 metrics we meet, and whether we have documentation to show that we do.  For those not familiar at all with audits – it’s basically like a really complicated matching game. Sort of. The ISO 16363 lays out a bunch of metrics (over 100 of them), each one describing a different thing that a trustworthy repository should do or have (i.e. a mission statement, a preservation plan, etc.) So, the repository needs to go through and decide if they meet those standards – and then provide documentation that shows that they do. After all, you can’t just say that you’re doing something, right? So, you match the documentation you have to the standards – or, sometimes, you make new documentation. If you’re not familiar, it might be helpful to just glance over the ISO 16363 standard.

Because there are so many metrics, I’ve found – and heard from others – that just getting organized can be really complicated. I realized I needed to have a space where I could put down all the metrics and then take notes about whether the documentation to meet those metrics existed. Inspired by the lessons from CLOCKSS audit process and their wiki, I created a wiki to help with this. I made a separate wiki page for each metric. I also spoke with fellow NDSR resident Jessica Tieman, of the DC cohort, who said she used a Sharepoint site for her gap analysis – so I thought a website seemed like a good way to go!

However, while at iPres, I heard from Maureen Pennock of the British Library, who also used a wiki for her audit. She said that the wiki was helpful during the audit process. She was able to use it as kind of a “scratch pad,” and record information she gathered related to a certain standard. For example, she said she took notes on the different wiki pages as she interviewed people in her organization. However, she added that while the wiki was helpful during the process, when it came time to create the final report of her findings, the wiki made things more difficult because all the information was on different pages.

Also, here is the link to the notes from the iPres audit workshop, for those interested. Notes from most of the sessions are available online.

I can see how the wiki would make writing the report difficult. However, I’ve decided to continue on with the wiki, for now.  I think it will be helpful for taking notes as I proceed throughout the project, and I like that it’s something that people could continue to add to and work on. I also like the structure of it – how you can nest the sub-sub-metrics within the sub-metrics.  (That is possibly the nerdiest sentence I’ve ever written).


The wiki. Note the nesting. (And, in case you were wondering, my desktop background is a picture I took in Switzerland. Switzerland is the best.)

A page for a specific metric, with the description of the metric and possible documentation we have to support it.

A page for a specific metric, with the description of the metric and possible documentation we have to support it.

Additionally, to help me further visualize what documentation we have and what we don’t, I’m in the process of creating an Excel document where I’m listing the metric and supporting document – or a document that could be created to support that document.  If there is more than one document to go along with a metric, I list them individually.  That way, once I’m finished, I could use the “Sort” filter on Excel to list by document type, if I wanted to see how one document can apply to many standards. This will hopefully allow us to see which documents will have the most impact. It’s likely that one document could support many standards (they did that in the CLOCKSS audit, if you look at their wiki) so if we need to create new documentation, we might be able to create just a few documents instead of, you know, a hundred.

Sample of the Excel document

Sample of the Excel document

Finally, I am planning to create a Word document with some really high-level, general summaries of the metrics. I’m imagining that I might write a short paragraph summarizing each of the three sections, and then suggest documentation that could provide evidence for those sections. I think it’s very possible that a few pieces of documentation could meet many requirements – I saw this in the CLOCKSS audit.

In summary, I’m hoping that by getting organized, I can figure out what documentation we’re missing, and whether one or two new documents could effectively fill all those gaps.

One last thought: Is there something ironic about creating new documents to organize all your documentation? Possibly…Also, do any of you have any thoughts on how to get organized for an audit?  Finally, here’s some more pictures of Chapel Hill, just because:

Good ole Manning Hall, home of the library school.

Good ole Manning Hall, home of the library school.

Franklin Street in fall colors

Franklin Street in fall colors

Policy Planning from iPres

I’m writing to you from the 12th International Conference on Digital Preservation (iPres) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  It’s been heartening to talk to other digital preservationists and see that we are all facing the same problems. It was also great meeting all my #digipres Twitter icons in person.

Lanyard with USB

The lanyards came with a hidden USB drive containing all the papers and session abstracts.

My favorite session so far was the Policy and Practice Documentation Clinic organized by Maureen Pennock and NDSR’s own Nancy McGovern.  Recently at the JFK Library I have been creating a framework for our digital preservation policy.  It has mostly consisted of reading other institution’s policies and stealing all the best stuff – with a plan for attribution of course.  If you want to follow in my thieving footsteps SCAPE put together a collection of published preservation policies and is continuing to collect policies as they are submitted.

The Policy and Practice Clinic taught me the importance of taking your time and not trying to create every policy and procedure in one go.  And with this new knowledge, a new plan!

  • Create a Digital Preservation Principles – What are we dedicated to?  What are the principles that stand behind our digital preservation program?
  • Run the principle statements by key stakeholders  – These are the administrators that provide funding, the IT team that will implement technology, and the archivists who will perform the preservation actions.  I need their help if this policy will be implemented past my 9 months.  It’s important to include key stakeholders early and often.
  • Write what digital preservation actions are happening now – It’s vital to understand what is happening to preserve digital content now in order to address gaps.  It’s much easier to say what you plan to do once you know what you are currently doing.  And speaking of plans…
  • Start writing a Digital Preservation Plan – Nancy McGovern made a great point about the difference between a policy and a plan.  A policy is ‘what we do’ and a plan is ‘what we will do.’  Since my focus is to improve digital preservation at the library, the plan is my first priority.
  • Go back to those key stakeholders- remember when I said ‘early and often’?
  • Create Procedure Documents – We need to figure out how we are going to live up the principles I’ve laid down.
  • Make sure the procedures are realistic – Who can tell me if it’s realistic? You guessed it, the key stakeholders!  

I’m sure this plan will require tweaks and updates as I go, and that is why I want stakeholders input at every level.  I’m only here for nine months (two of which are already behind me) so it’s incredibly important that they are invested in carrying the digital preservation torch after I’ve left.

After the presentations by Nancy and Maureen we split into groups and commiserated over our digital preservation woes. I learned that if your institution doesn’t like the word ‘preservation’ call it ‘long term access.’  Whatever it takes to get the buy-in.  My favorite idea was to make the technology enforce the digital preservation policy for you.  People are much more likely to perform these preservation tasks if the system doesn’t give them a choice.

Maureen Pennock was also kind enough to tell us about a new development in the digital preservation world.  The Digital Preservation Handbook is getting an update!  Keep an eye out because the new handbook is coming in April 2016.

If this post was not enough iPres for you, you’re in luck!  Community notes were taken through Google Docs and they are available here.  And you can always read the iPres twitterverse by searching #ipres2015.