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.

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