Midyear Review and Reflections

With the mid-point of our National Digital Stewardship Residencies just around the corner I thought this would be a good time to reflect on the first half of my residency. This program has been an incredible experience as a new graduate, fresh out of library school – I graduated two weeks before moving to Boston, so really fresh. I’ve learned a lot already, and I look forward to five more months at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

Having specialized in digital curation during school I felt like I had a strong understanding of digital preservation. However, as in most fields, things are a little different once you start work in an institution. Making plans for a digital preservation program is difficult even with years of institutional knowledge, coming in as a short term resident makes it that much harder. My first month was focused on getting to know the systems and their idiosyncrasies, interviewing staff about procedures, and reading all the documentation, past and present. It was important to look past how we do things now to see the history behind these decisions and consider the way procedures could be improved. So much of documentation is about capturing decisions so you don’t have to guess at the reasoning behind current procedures.

Despite the difficulties in assessing an institution as a new archivist, there are significant benefits to this position. As a new hire (and new to the field in general) residents can be more objective in their assessments. They may be more likely to question previous decisions since they weren’t there for the original decision making. 

I came to the JFK Library equipped with my digital preservation training and a ton of questions. Some of which were easily answered – Where’s the coffee? – and some of which I’m still working on – Which digital preservation storage option best fits our requirements? I recently completed my gap analysis and I’m currently researching possible paths for moving forward. More project updates from myself and the other residents will be presented at the Mid-year Event and I will make my slides available soon after.

In writing for the NDSR Boston blog I’ve discovered that writing about my work forces me to interrogate my own process and decisions. Since reflection and self-assessment is vital to improvement, I decided to write about archival work more often. I created a personal blog to help me achieve this goal and I have been regularly posting project related tidbits, workshop recaps, and more general insights on libraries/archives. If you are just starting out in the field I highly recommend writing about your work as much as you can, professional articles and presentations to informal blogs – it’s worth it.

Residents aren’t just focusing on projects though. 20% of our time is dedicated to professional development activities. We recently presented brief project updates to the Preservation Administrators Interest Group at ALA MidWinter. I’ve also attended more informal meetings like the New England Code4Lib and the metadata themed #Mashcat event. It’s been great to step out of my digital preservation niche and learn about different kinds of digital library projects. I’m also currently working on a presentation for the national Code4Lib meeting, to be held in Philadelphia in March. I will be co-presenting with NDSR alum, Shira Peltzman on implementing ‘good enough’ digital preservation, because you can’t wait for the perfect situation to get started. 

Now that I’ve been to all these events it’s time to host one of my own. Each resident is responsible for organizing some kind of event at their host institution. We have decided to make our event a public Digital Preservation UnConference to be held on February 23rd. All the current residents and mentors will be in attendance but we want to have discussions beyond NDSR to include everyone in the digital preservation field. I’m excited about the unconference model because the program is decided on by attendees. If there is something you want to talk about, but no one else has proposed a session – propose one yourself! More information for proposals and registration is available on the website.

NDSR Boston Goes to ALA-MW

On Saturday, January 9, 2016, the residents from this year’s cohort of the National Digital Stewardship Residency program in Boston made a trip to the Convention and Exhibition Center on Boston’s waterfront. Boston was the site of this year’s ALA Mid-Winter Meetings. Our mission was to spread the word about the NDSR program and to let the American Library Association know about our digital preservation projects and how they are progressing.

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I want to extend a big thank you to Frances Harrell of the North East Document Conservation Center for introducing me to Laura McCann and Kate Contakos, the co-Chairs of ALA’s Preservation Administrators Interest Group (PAIG). Laura and Kate gave us a warm welcome and top billing, allowing us to give our presentations while the morning’s first cup of coffee was jolting everybody to attention.  

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I gave a brief presentation introducing the NDSR program. Then we each talked about our individual projects; describing the projects and summarizing our outcomes to-date. After a presentation about a project involving the preservation of electronic news, we all sat together on stage for a question and answer session.

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I am pleased to report that our presentations garnered enough interest to elicit several questions. There were project specific questions as well as a general question about our thoughts on the NDSR program. There was a request to Julie to share the Excel sheet and Wiki she created to manage the dozens of metrics she is investigating in her ISO 16363 focused project. The inquirer thought the fruits of her labor would be a useful tool to others preparing for TRAC certification. In the interest of saving time for the remainder of the agenda, the Q&A had to be ended before all the questions could be answered.

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On Sunday, I spread my wings and flew from the NDSR Boston nest to give an individual presentation on the importance of digital preservation. The presentation was categorized as an Ignite Presentation and employs a unique format. There is a five minutes time limit and a mandatory twenty slides. The slides progress automatically every 15 seconds. It was challenging. The fastest five minutes of my life. I got some positive responses afterwards and I am glad I did it.

Next up? The NDSR mid-year event. I’m all warmed up!

Thanks, Jeff

P.S.  If you want to join us for the NDSR mid-year event, it is scheduled for January 26th from 3 until 5 pm in room 021 of 90 Mt. Auburn Street in Harvard Square (with social event following).

Upcoming NDSR Events

Hello, and hope you all enjoyed the holidays! Winter has officially arrived in Boston, just in time for ALA Midwinter. Bundle up!

Speaking of ALA, we’ll be sharing the progress we’ve made on our projects at the Preservation Administrators Interest Group (PAIG) on Saturday, January 9th in the Boston Convention & Exhibit Center Room 160AB. The program runs from 8:30-11:30 am. We’re excited to present on what we’ve accomplished so far, and what we are hoping to do in the next five months of our residency. Here is the full agenda for the PAIG meeting.

We also have our NDSR mid-year event coming up on January 26th, from 3-4:30 pm at 90 Mt. Auburn Street, Room 021. This will be another chance to learn about our projects and to celebrate our achievements thus far.

We’re looking forward to sharing our work with you and to continue building a collaborative community around digital preservation. Thanks!