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.



Update on My Project

Hello friends!
Spring is here, allegedly, although you wouldn’t know from the snow we got recently. But it’s beginning to warm up, the river is thawing, and Harvard Yard is filling up with robins and tourists…


Spring comes to Cambridge (taken on March 22nd)

The arrival of “Spring” also heralds the end of our residency…that May 31st deadline is on the horizon now.  In the next few months, I’ll be trying to tie up all the loose ends and finish up the project, and I thought I’d update you on what I’ve been up to so far.

The big news is, I officially finished the “self-assessment” phase of my project (also the longest phase). Hooray! If you recall from my earlier posts, I was using an Excel sheet to track how Harvard met the different metrics of the ISO16363 – green for things that are being done and documented, yellow for things that are being done but not documented, and red for things that are not being done at all. So now the spreadsheet is all filled in!



Zoomed out so you can see all the colors


Now that that’s all done (whew!), I’m working on summarizing my findings in a report. Then, with the report done, I’m going to attempt to make some data visualizations that show my results in a more visually appealing manner. Andrea has given me some questions, which I’ll share below, and which I hope to address with the visualizations and my report. They are:

  • Where do we stand related to the standard?
  • Where are the gap areas?
  • How can we characterize the gap areas?
  • How might we address the gaps? What would be a good strategy to approach tackling the gap areas?

In particular,  I am looking to see what the commonalities are, if any, among the gap areas. My hope is that I can suggest a few documents that could be made and could fill several gaps at once – this would allow the DRS to fill the gaps most efficiently. For example, one thing I’ve found so far is that many of the yellow areas are related to the ingest process, so it seems like a document about the ingest process could fill several gaps at once. In the coming weeks, I’m going to continue to look for those kinds of commonalities and try to display them visually. I got some good ideas from Helen at our workshop last week (which Jeff blogged about), and I hope I can find a good way to display all this information.

Also, outside of the main project, I’ve also been working on a few “twenty-percent” things, those professional development, non-project projects.

For example, the rest of the residents and I will be hosting a webinar in a few weeks for Simmons Continuing Education. We’ll be talking about different standards, such as ISO16363, and how these standards can be used for a gap analysis.

Additionally, during the last week of May, I’ll be participating in ALA Preservation Week here at Harvard. I’m going to have a table about Personal Digital Archiving, and I’ll be rotating around to different libraries and schools on campus and teaching students about how they can save their digital lives!

Finally, I’m recording a webinar, along with D.C. resident Jessica Tieman, which we’ll make available to other NDSR residents afterwards.

So…lot’s of stuff going on! It’s going to be a busy couple of months, so make sure to keep checking back here at our blog to see how things wrap up!



Digital Commonwealth Visit

Last week, a group of brave NDSR-ers trekked out during a snow storm to visit with staff from the Digital Commonwealth, which is based at the Boston Public Library.

As the blizzard raged outside, we met Tom Blake in the lobby of the library. Tom and his staff were kind enough to meet with us that morning – and they fought high winds and T  delays to get there!


Blizzarding outside the BPL. It was like a scene from The Revenant.

For those who are not familiar, here’s a short description of the Digital Commonwealth, taken from their website:

“Digital Commonwealth is a non-profit collaborative organization that provides resources and services to support the creation, management, and dissemination of cultural heritage materials held by Massachusetts libraries, museums, historical societies, and archives. Digital Commonwealth currently has over 130 member institutions from across the state.

This site provides access to thousands of images, documents, and sound recordings that have been digitized by member institutions so that they may be available to researchers, students, and the general public.”

The Digital Commonwealth both hosts and harvests materials. That is, they may store digitized or digital material on their own servers (hosting), or they include material hosted elsewhere (such as on DSpace, ContentDM, etc) as part of their collections and then link out to its original location.

They will also digitize materials for organizations, which I think is a pretty amazing service to provide! This means that organizations can get their materials digitized without having to buy expensive equipment or allocate staff to digitizing – which, I’m sure many of you know, can be a time-consuming task.  They will also help organizations to create and clean up metadata. They use a MODS metadata schema. You can read more about their metadata requirements here.

During our visit, Tom and his staff emphasized that the Digital Commonwealth is very access-driven, and this is reflected in their collecting. He said that if an organization comes to them with materials and makes a case for why users would want to access those materials, they will almost always take those materials in. In fact, I believe one of the Digital Commonwealth staff members at our meeting said that the phrase “But someone will want to use this!” is kind of like their kryptonite. (Hope I’m not giving away a big secret by saying that.) I thought this commitment to access and their focus on users was really admirable!


I was initially interested in visiting the Digital Commonwealth because, over the course of the residency, I’ve begun to wonder about how smaller organizations with limited resources can participate in digital preservation. To me, digital preservation seems like a resource-demanding endeavor. You’ve got to pay for storage, pay for staff to process and preserve digital materials, pay for digitizing or technologies to manage born-digital materials – plus you need to have the expertise in your staff and the support from your administration. I was concerned that small organizations, such as local historical societies, wouldn’t be able to participate in digital preservation because their limited resources. But it’s not as though they could just ignore digital preservation – they probably want to digitize materials, or they might have a donor with born-digital materials. So what are small organizations to do?

I think the Digital Commonwealth is a great example of a solution to this problem. It allows small organizations to benefit from the resources and expertise available at larger organizations. It also gives smaller organizations a wider audience – because their materials are available on the digital commonwealth website, alongside materials from a variety of other organizations.

At the meeting, we discussed examples of this kind of resource sharing in other places, such as the Connecticut Digital Archive. I would be curious to hear if you, reader, know of any others, or know of examples where many small organizations have come together to pool their resources. Also, are you also concerned about small organizations and digital preservation? Why or why not?

Thanks for reading!


Harvard Yard in the snow

Hanover and Holiday Party

Hello Everyone!

I think I can speak for all of us residents when I say we’ve had a busy – and exciting – December.

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Earlier this month, we took a resident road trip up to Hanover, New Hampshire for the New England regional Code4Lib conference, which was hosted at Dartmouth University. We had a great time and learned a lot. We also had some fantastic gelato! I’d go back to Hanover just for that gelato…



Fellow residents Alice and Jeff presented and gave a really fantastic overview on what digital preservation is and how to get started. They did a great job of explaining things in a way that was easy to understand and comprehensive.

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Aw yeah, file formats (Slide from Alice and Jeff’s presentation)


Stefanie and I presented on how to build a better digital preservation community. We discussed the pros and cons of current methods of communication among professionals (list-servs, Twitter, blogs). To summarize: Pros: There’s a lot out there. Cons: Sometimes it’s hard to find what you need, sometimes it feels like there’s too much out there, and sometimes it feels like the same voices are speaking over and over. We also suggested some possible alternatives (resource-sharing websites, Meetups).

We then opened it up to discussion about ways to build community and got some really great feedback from the audience.  Someone suggested that maybe there should be a central directory of all resources, but then that raises the question: Who would maintain it? Someone suggested that the app Slack could be a good method of communication and mentioned that there’s an NE Code4Lib Slack.  Someone else made a good point, saying that perhaps it’s a good thing that there are so many resources and methods of  communication, because that’s evidence of a strong community.  People seemed very interested in the idea of having meet-ups, and we are hoping to plan an informal meet-up in the next couple of months…stay tuned for more information!

In other news, we had the host event here at Harvard yesterday. For those not familiar, each institution in NDSR has a host event during one month of the year. It’s an opportunity for us all to come together. I worked with Kristen and Andrea to plan it, and we decided that, with it being so close to the holidays, everyone might enjoy a nice NDSR Holiday party. So, we had snacks, as well as digital preservation-related crafts and carols!

If you would like to make your own digital preservation holiday crafts, I’ve included pictures below as a guide. As you can see, we have a binary garland chain – To make it, you simply cut out 1’s and 0’s out of construction paper, cut little holes in them, and string them together. I would recommend looking up what one letter is in binary – if you try to do multiple letters, it might take you a while.


Binary chain

We also have a three-legged stool ornament, both 3D-style and flat.


Celebrate digital preservation harmony

Finally, to spread digital-preservation cheer, consider singing some of these carols, which I re-wrote to celebrate all aspects of digital preservation, from OAIS to obsolescence:

The Twelve Days of Digital Preservation

Rudolph the Red-Line Reindeer

Floppy Disks

Rockin’ Around the 16363

Happy holidays to everyone! Please let me know in comments if you end up singing any of the carols. You know you want to! As my friend Buddy the Elf says, the best way to spread digital preservation cheer is singing loud for all to hear!

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

The Future of Libraries

Hello world!

This is Julie, the NDSR resident at Harvard.  The residency is getting off to a smooth – and busy! – start.  In order to get myself orientated and ready to tackle the project, I’ve been reading up on the ISO 16363 standard, attending meetings, and getting to know people across Harvard.


One exciting thing about being at Harvard and in Boston: There’s always something cool going on! For example, today I attended a discussion on “Libraries: The Next Generation” with fellow NDSR Resident, Stefanie.  This event was part of HUBWeek, a series of events about the relationship between art, science, and technology.  All week, all over Boston, there have been events and discussions about everything from coping with climate change to the future of privacy. This particular event examined “how libraries are drawing on their past and using technology to create new resources for scholarship and education.” It featured a panel made up of Dan Cohen of the DPLA, Jeffrey Schnapp of Harvard,  and Andromeda Yelton, a freelance  librarian and technologist.

I wanted to attend this discussion because, well, first of all, I care about libraries and their future. And I think the DPLA is really cool. But most of all, I think that digital preservation, libraries, and archives are already inter-connected and will only become more intertwined in the future.

The panel raised and discussed a lot of interesting questions:  What is the role of the library in the digital age? How do libraries best serve their users? How do we make best use of a library’s physical space? How do we protect users’ privacy while still providing access? What skills will librarians need in the future? How can we create metadata that reflects the needs of the people who use the materials, rather than the bias of the people who create the metadata?

I particularly liked one definition of the role of libraries given by Andromeda, who said that libraries are a place where people are transformed through access to knowledge and other people.

The panelists went back and forth, debating these issues and taking questions from the audience. And then…imagine my surprise and delight when the conversation turned to everyone’s favorite topic…digital preservation!

FRED station at UNC Chapel Hill

FRED station at UNC Chapel Hill

One digital preservation issue they discussed: How can libraries deal with the rapid changes in technology? How can we provide continued access to digital materials when the technology we use to access them changes so quickly? For example, Dan mentioned that he had previously used the Oyster e-book service, but Oyster went out of business, and he lost access to all his books.  This also brings up another related issue: The problem of using private services to store your digital objects. What happens if those services stop working or go out of business?

The panelists also discussed how libraries have always been institutions that store collective memory – as one of the panelists said, libraries are “in the long-term” business. But will they be able to continue doing so in the digital age?

The panel also discussed another one of my interests: digital curation.

A man in the audience voiced in concern that, in the digital age, where anyone can write anything online, it may become more difficult to find quality writing and information. And, what if the only voices that come through are the ones that are really popular? As an example he said, “what if there’s a radio station that only plays Taylor Swift?” To which Stefanie and I replied, “Uh, that sounds awesome.”

The panelists pointed out that this increased authorship could actually be a good thing. Sure, it means that there are a lot of terrible zombie novels out there, and you might have to search through a bunch of them to find the one you actually want. But it also means that people who might have been ignored by traditional publishing and media now have a chance to have their voice heard. And, the panelists pointed out, the influx of information means that libraries will only become more important in the future, because libraries can help people sort through this information to find what they actually want and need.

I thought it was interesting that digital preservation and digital curation were being discussed here in terms of how they might serve the general public. That is, it seems that so far, digital preservation has mostly focused on serving academic institutions, as well as museums and archives. I don’t hear many people talking about digital preservation in public libraries, for example. But, as this panel shows, it’s clearly an issue that the public librarians are grappling with and will continue to face, as they try to help their patrons use services like Kindle.  It also seems possible that, in the future, public library patrons will want be asking questions like, “How do I save my tweets?” and “How do I get this file off my old floppy disk?” But so far, I don’t see much discussion the digital preservation community about how digital preservation might be needed in public libraries. But maybe I’m not looking in the right places? Someone tell me if I’m not.

Stacks at the Boston Public Library

Stacks at the Boston Public Library

Finally, a couple themes seemed to run throughout the panel: First, the importance of communicating with the people who will actually use your service, whatever it is. Second, the importance of collaboration among librarians/archivists/information people in order to tackle these tricky problems.

It certainly gave me a lot to think about, and I’m sure I’ll keep mulling over these questions and many others throughout the residency…And if I have any brilliant insights, I’ll be sure to share them here on the blog. And if you, dear readers, have any brilliant insights, be sure to share them in the comments!

My dad reading at one of my favorite libraries, the Summit County Library in Park City, Utah.

My dad reading at one of my favorite libraries, the Summit County Library in Park City, Utah.