Thursday, March 26, 2015

Letter to the editor concerning digital preservation of government information

DttP letter to the editor re digital preservation of government information. James R. Jacobs.  ALA Connect. January 26, 2015.
Digital preservation is an incredibly important topic for government information professionals. This letter, in response to previous article, includes several important points for all libraries.
  1. Preservation of born-digital information is a very real and important topic that the government documents community needs to understand and address. In a single year, more government information is born-digital than all the printed government information accumulated by all Federal Deposit libraries in over 200 years.
  2. Digitization of print information is not a preservation solution. Instead it creates new digital preservation challenges and is really just the first of many costly and technically challenging steps needed to ensure long-term access to content.
  3. Access is not preservation; it does not guarantee preservation or long-term access. 
    1. Access without preservation is temporary, at best. 
    2. Preservation without access is an illusion.
  4. Digital preservation is an essential activity of libraries. It cannot be dismissed as the responsibility of others. Digital preservation requires:
    1. resources, 
    2. a long-term commitment,
    3. an understanding of the long-term value of information (even information that is not popular or used by many people), 
    4. a commitment to the users of information.  
  5. Relying solely on the government or others to preserve its information is risky. “Who is responsible for this preservation?” Libraries should take this responsibility. Libraries can take actions now to promote the preservation of digital information
  6. Preserve Paper copies. The Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) is successfully preserving paper and micro-form documents. "We often hear that “digitizing” paper documents will “preserve” them, but we do not need to convert these documents to digital in order to preserve them". While digitization can provide better access, usability, and re-usability of many physical documents, it does not guarantee the preservation of the content. Worse, there are repeated calls for digitizing paper collections so that the paper collections can be discarded and destroyed. Such actions will endanger preservation of the content if they do not include adequate steps to ensure digital preservation of those newly created digital objects. 
  7. Smart-Archive the Web. Although capturing web pages and preserving them is far from an adequate (or even accurate) form of digital preservation, it is a useful stop-gap until producers understand that depositing preservable digital objects with trusted repositories is the only way to guarantee preservation of their information. Libraries should use web archiving tools and services such as Archive-It.
  8. Promote Digital Preservation. Libraries should be actively preserving digital government information. The time of 'passive digital preservation' or looking to others to take care of digital preservation is long past. We can work with others, not leave the work to them.

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