The Last Day

Hello all,

Today is the last day of our residency program! Over the last nine months, we’ve attended and presented at numerous conferences, organized and supported community events, written blog posts here, for The Signal, and our personal blogs, participated in webinars and workshops, and…oh yeah, completed entire projects at our host institutions. We held a Capstone event this week that allowed us to share the final outcomes of our projects with the public and to reflect on what we’ve learned. As we move on to the next phase, I know the lessons learned, challenges faced, and successes we’ve had will stay with us, and most importantly, so will the network and community we’ve built as members of the NDSR program. Thank you to Nancy McGovern, Andrea Goethals, and Kristen Confalone for coordinating this program and guiding us through the process. And thank you to Nancy, Andrea, Erica Boudreau, Joanne Riley, Andrew Elder, and Alix Quan for your support as our hosts and mentors. We appreciate all of the assistance and encouragement we’ve gotten from the greater community as well.


Signing off,

NDSR Boston

Documentation & Policies

As we near the end of the residency, I’ve mostly focused my efforts on writing documentation and policies for the State Library of Massachusetts. Prior to my project, there was limited or outdated documentation and no policies in place regarding the management of the library’s digital content. This is the position that many institutions are in when beginning to consider digital preservation; it takes a lot of effort and commitment just to begin, but it is important to do so. Writing both documentation and policies will hopefully go a long way in establishing a digital preservation program at the State Library.


In addition to much of the documentation being outdated, there also seemed to be a disconnect between what the documentation said and what the library staff was doing in practice (a common issue!). The documentation needed to be updated to reflect current practices, to act as a record of the decisions we’ve made through this process, and to ensure transparency in the State Library’s activities.

Knowing that documentation was a key deliverable of the project, I tried my best to document my activities as I went. For example, after meetings with institutions such as the Massachusetts State Archives and MassIT (the Massachusetts State IT Department), I typed up and organized my notes, then made them accessible to staff members through our shared server. These conversations informed some of our practice and I wanted the State Library staff to be able to refer to these notes later if needed. I also documented the process of testing and selecting a tool for batch downloading PDFs. We ultimately decided to use DownThemAll, a Firefox add-on, but I researched a few other options first. I included my notes on these options in documentation as a record of the decision-making process. In the last month, I made sure to review these notes and update them, as well as create documentation for any missing pieces.

We now have documentation on processes such as web statistics, batch downloading, renaming files with the command line, using Archive-It, creating and disseminating a survey to state libraries and archives, and our outreach methods. I hope this will help staff members better understand the decisions we made, the approaches we took, and how they can build on the work we’ve done through NDSR.

Policy Creation

In addition to documentation, policies are an important facet of a digital preservation program. Among other things, policies explicitly state an organization’s commitment to a program or project and defines an organization’s role and operating principles.

I wrote policy statements for the State Library’s collection development activities and their digital preservation program. First and foremost, these policies are meant to be working documents that are continually reviewed and revised over time. These are starting points to build on as the organization changes over time.

The collection policy statement is the culmination of what we learned through our analysis of the web statistics. After conducting the assessment, we had a list of the high and low priority documents we aim to collect and a description of the value-based judgments that led us to categorize documents this way. I feel that this adds a level of transparency not previously in place. This statement will be used as a guide when identifying and selecting valuable content moving forward.

The digital preservation policy statement describes the legal mandate that the State Library faces, the scope of the program, challenges faced, the roles and responsibilities of the State Library in tackling digital preservation, and more. Defining details such as the file formats we accept, our focus on collaboration, our intended audience, and our guiding principles allows the State Library to move forward in its efforts to preserve digital content with this as a reference guide.

Updating these policies or creating new policies as the State Library’s delves deeper into digital preservation is key.

Early in the NDSR program, we, as a group, assessed our host institutions against a few benchmarks to get an understanding of where our organizations stood and to better understand the steps we should consider in moving them forward. Using the Five Organizational Stages of Digital Preservation benchmark, I concluded that the State Library was at Stage 2, meaning that they were advancing from understanding the need for digital preservation to taking on a digital preservation project (NDSR!). Though no formal policies were in place, the State Library understood they needed to better manage the digital content in their collections and demonstrated a commitment to doing so through participation in the NDSR program. My hope is that a successful NDSR project, an assessment of the scope of existing content, an increased knowledge of how similar institutions handle these tasks, and the development of documentation and policies will all assist the State Library advance towards Stage 3, in which they build a long-term digital preservation program.

My fellow residents and I will be presenting our project posters at Harvard on Monday, May 23 from 3-4:30. Check here for more information and hope to see you there!


Anne R. Kenney and Nancy Y. McGovern, “The Five Organizational Stages of Digital Preservation”,;idno=bbv9812.0001.001;rgn=div1;view=text;cc=spobooks;node=bbv9812.0001.001%3A11.


ALA Preservation Week

Hello, friends,

As some of you might know, last week was ALA’s Preservation Week, which is an event that raises awareness about preservation activities in libraries. Across the countries, libraries hosted events and activities that taught the public about preservation, covering everything from collections care in libraries to how individuals can preserve their own books and photographs.


A few months ago, I decided I wanted to do some outreach as part of my “20% time,” and so, through talking with some of the preservation staff here at Harvard, I learned about preservation week. There was a committee that was planning events for the week here at Harvard. They also partnered with MIT to plan a big kick-off day on Monday. I got involved with the committee and was also able to plan my own digital preservation-related event as part of the festivities. The committee decided to have different “pop-up” tables at different libraries throughout the week – tables where visitors could stop by for a few minutes and learn something about preservation.

After thinking about what would be most interesting to students, staff and faculty here at Harvard, I decided to plan a “pop-up” on personal digital archiving. I thought this would be most interesting to this audience because it’s something a lot of people struggle with – how do they save all their stuff? How to they prevent loss? Or, sometimes, it’s something people don’t realize they should be thinking about – they don’t realize that all of their digital photos could disappear if they’re not careful! Yikes!

I called my event “How to Save Your Digital Life,” which I thought might catch people’s attention more than calling it, for example, “personal digital archiving.” It’s always good to add a little drama! Additionally, to catch people’s eyes, I borrowed some legacy media formats from staff here at Harvard, pictured below.  I thought people might get a kick out of seeing all these old formats (floppy disks! Tapes! Practically ancient relics!), and I thought it could also be a good teaching tool. It was a way to visually demonstrate to visitors how quickly technology can change, and how once-popular storage formats can become obsolete.



I set-up my “pop-up” table twice during preservation week – once during our big opening day, in Lamont Library, and once in the Loeb Design Library at the Graduate School of Design. The event in Lamont was very well-attended, and I got some visitors at Loeb, too, although it was a little quieter – the students were getting their work reviewed that day. For my table, I gave a little 2ish minute spiel about personal digital archiving – I talked about inventorying and prioritizing what you have, adding meaningful file names (like “Photos Spring 2016” instead of “stuff” or random numbers) and metadata to files, saving multiple copies, and staying aware of changes in technology. I also showed visitors how they could request their archive from social media sites, which I thought might be of interest to students. I also passed out little half-page tip sheets, the text of which I’ll include below. I got a lot of ideas for what to talk about from this handout I found online from MIT – thanks, MIT!

Overall, visitors seemed pretty interested in personal digital archiving (it also helped that I had snacks.) I got a lot of interesting questions – people seemed to be especially concerned about cloud storage and whether it’s a good idea. (My advice – it’s okay for a second or third storage option but you don’t want to rely on it entirely) . People were also curious about what file format to save their photos in, and how high resolution their photos should be (my advice- it depends on what you want to use them for. The answer is always it depends!).

Below is the text of my tip sheet. It’s a bit simplified – partially because I wanted to make it fit on half a page, and partially because I didn’t want to overwhelm people. But I thought it would be good to get people started – hopefully it got the students thinking about how they can keep their digital stuff safe!

Thanks for reading!


At my pop-up table. Photo by Priscilla Anderson.


Tip Sheet:

Save Your Digital Life

  1. Find It
    1. Where is your media? On your iPhone? Your computer? Google Drive? A CD?
  2. Prioritize
    1. What do you want to save? What’s important? Anything at risk for disappearing?
  3. Organize
    1. Use file names that are meaningful to you, organize files into folders. Add information like “song name” to songs or “dates” on photos.
  4. Save It
    1. It’s best to save at least two copies of your media. For example, one on your computer, one on an external hard drive.
    2. Even better, consider saving two or three copies in multiple physical locations. For example, one on your computer, on an external hard drive in your house, and one on an external hard drive elsewhere.
  5. Keep an eye on it
    1. Remember that technology changes. Stay ahead of these changes! Ex: If you had something saved on a floppy disk in 1999, you should’ve gotten your files off that disk before they stopped making computers with floppy disk drives.

Social Media – Many popular social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter offer archiving services where you can download things you’ve shared on the site. Search online for more information about these services.  If you think you might want something you posted online later, make sure it saved somewhere OTHER than that site.