Monday, June 15, 2015

Preserving the Born-Digital Record: Many more questions than answers

Preserving the Born-Digital Record: Many more questions than answers. James G. Neal. American Libraries. May 28, 2015.
The world is producing vast amounts of born-digital material. The volume, complexity, and dynamism of this information challenge us to think creatively about its capture, organization, and long-term preservation and usability. What is the role of the library? Is this a source of failure or opportunity for the global library community?

This is an issue of integrity, of the collective adherence to a code and standard of values, of maintaining human records as complete, unimpaired, and undivided as possible. The ability to consult the evidence and sources used by researchers and authors will be lost if those digital records are not available. The ability to research and investigate the history and current state of our world will be compromised if born-digital materials are gone or changed. The ability to access the sources of record will be difficult if they are deposited and dispersed into multiple and disparate sites. This is the challenge of repository chaos.

At the core of born-digital content preservation and archiving are four principles.
  1. We cannot preserve what we have not collected.
  2. We must enable access, which brings persistence.
  3. We must secure and curate the content.
  4. We must take care of the content as steward.
How does born-digital content fit into what libraries do? Libraries select, acquire, synthesize, preserve and archive information, and enable users to understand, use, and apply information. This supports teaching and learning, research and scholarship.

Quality equals content plus functionality. To make sure that the born-digital content is preserved and usable in the long term we must understand and accommodate the important characteristics of digital information. With born-digital resources we must also consider the relationship among form, text, and function, context, renderability, and versioning over time. "We see the inevitability of physical and format obsolescence, the importance of authenticity and provenance, and the role of standards such as globally unique identifiers."

The scope, depth, and cost of the threat mean that individual libraries adequately preserve born-digital content alone. We need to promote cooperation and new public–private partnerships. The Digital Preservation Network (DPN) is an example of this. "We will not have the technologies, tools, workflows, or standards unless we work together in new ways."

Libraries must take on responsibility for the preservation of born-digital content.

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