Friday, April 30, 2010

Digital Preservation Matters - April 30, 2010

Digital Preservation: An Unsolved Problem. Jonathan Shaw. Harvard Magazine. April 27, 2010.

With the advantages of digital, why do libraries not embrace the digital future now? One of the main obstacles is the issue of preservation. For books: "the greatest risks to printed material are the environment, wear and tear, security, and custodial neglect." For digital: using data is one of the best ways to preserve it because you know it is usable; digital data must be read and checked constantly to ensure integrity. Another concern about digital is that current formats may not be readable in the future (reference to June 2009 New Yorker cover). Born digital materials are not as easy to save since they have many different formats. This is difficult for librarians keeping records of the university's intellectual life, because of both the legal and digital challenges. "We are in a period of unprecedented lack of documentation of academic output."


Gutenberg 2.0. Harvard's libraries deal with disruptive change. Jonathan Shaw. Harvard Magazine. April 27, 2010.

In the scientific disciplines, information, from online journals to databases, must be recent to be relevant. Books in libraries to some seem more like a museum. Some think that massive digital projects will make research libraries irrelevant. The future of libraries is clearly digital. "Yet if the format of the future is digital, the content remains data. And at its simplest, scholarship in any discipline is about gaining access to information and knowledge." Access to the information will mean different things and be done in different ways. In the meantime, "Who has the most scientific knowledge of large-scale organization, collection, and access to information? Librarians."

How do we deal with large scale collections and the access to the information? "We ought to be leveraging that expertise to deal with this new digital environment. That's a vision of librarians as specialists in organizing and accessing and preserving information in multiple media forms, rather than as curators of collections of books, maps, or posters." The role of libraries isn't going away, but it is changing.

The idea that libraries will be stewards of vast data collections raises very serious concerns about the long-term preservation of digital materials. The worry is that the longevity of the resources has not been tested. There are 3 copies of the 109 TB Harvard repository. It is in a constant process of checking and refreshing to make sure everything is readable.


The Floppy is Dead: Time to Move Memories to the Cloud. Lance Ulanoff. PC Magazine. Apr 26, 2010.

The decision by Sony to stop producing 3.5-inch disks marks an end to that format. The end of any popular format can have a ripple effect on the technology world. If the data is not migrated to later formats it could "trapped on its obsolete format". All media will become obsolete sometime, it is the natural progression of technology. Since change is inevitable the article suggests everyone consider cloud-based backup storage options. It suggests that this is better than storing data on eventually-to-be-obsolete media.


Google is not the last word in information. Lia Timson. Sydney Morning Herald. April 29, 2010.

Interesting article concerning primary and secondary sources, what is on the internet and how it gets there, special collections, etc.

  • "Better still is the lesson and the realisation that information and history don't just appear on Google. Someone has to publish it onto the web, put it there in the first place."
  • "As educators we must ask that assignment bibliographies include more than just "three websites". We must insist on a variety of media as sources, including interviews with real people, be they witnesses, historians or surviving relatives, and even insist on trips to the local library."
  • … researching is much wider and deeper than searching online.


A Gentle Reminder to Special-Collections Curators. Todd Gilman. The Chronicle of Higher Education. April 29, 2010.

Article and a librarian's experience trying to use special collections. The "job is not to keep readers from your books but just the opposite: to facilitate readers' use of the collections."


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