Friday, July 22, 2011

Puzzling over digital preservation – Identifying traditional and new skills needed for digital preservation

Puzzling over digital preservation – Identifying traditional and new skills needed for digital preservation.  Thomas Bähr, et al.  IFLA Conference paper, submitted: June 1, 2011. 
This is an excellent paper. The topic is important for all libraries:  “Preservation is a core competency of librarians, however, gaps still exist when it comes to being able to accept that role fully in the digital realm.” The topic is complex: "Digital preservation is not a single task but encompasses all strategies and measures taken to recover and maintain access to digital information." Maintaining digital cultural heritage requires new skills for content experts and technology experts.  In 2010 a Digital Preservation Outreach and Education survey of 481 libraries showed:
  • 27% of surveyed libraries had digital preservation staff;
  • 21% relied on a vendor
  • 14% stated that no one was responsible for digital preservation at their institution. 
  • 38% said various staff was assigned to digital preservation tasks as needed.
 The paper looks at the digital preservation skill needs and identifies gaps that exist.
  • The first step to digital preservation is to know what your holdings are.  Make a meaningful grouping of items to a collection level. 
  • Survey the collection for preservation needs.  Define approaches for surveying offline and online materials. Give attention to capturing carrier type details.  The survey of offline data should include a readability test and a rough overview of the formats.  
  • Know how to handle your digital materials for proper storage and proper processing, such as optical or magnetic media. You need to understand how the media works to do this. Good metadata, technical, bibliographic, etc. is required for proper handling and preservation of data, which increases the skill level needed.  
  • Sustainability of access requires an awareness of what the future is bringing.  Content knowledge in the digital age is more than knowing the intellectual information of an item; it includes the knowledge of presentation and usability of a digital object, as well as the user’s expectations.
  • Preservation strategies and action are always based on risk assessment and planning. These require a profound knowledge of library and technology processes as well as digital preservation practices.
  •  Institutions with a stewardship for digital cultural heritage need “appropriate staff to support activities related to the long-term preservation of the data,” and the digital preservation specialist must be committed to “lifelong learning”.
  • “As digital preservation is a global problem, active involvement in the national and international community is of immense importance.”

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