Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

First Aid Training for Those on the Front Lines: Digital Preservation Needs Survey Results 2012

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

First Aid Training for Those on the Front Lines: Digital Preservation Needs Survey Results 2012

Article excerpt

"The dilemma for the cultural heritage preservation community derives from the lag between immediate need and the long-term transformation of digital preservation expertise." (1)


Every day history is being made and recorded in digital form. Every day, more and more digitally captured history disappears completely or becomes inaccessible due to obsolescence of hardware, software, and formats. (2) Although it has long been the focus of libraries and archives to retain, organize, and preserve information, these communities face a critical skills gap. (3) Further, the typical library cannot support a true, trusted digital repository compliant with the Open Archival Information System (OAIS) framework. (4) Until we have in place the infrastructure, expertise, and resources to distill critical information from the digital deluge and preserve it appropriately, what steps can those in the field take to help mitigate the loss of our cultural heritage?

The very "scale of the digital landscape makes it clear that preservation is a process of triage." (5) While educational systems across the country are scrambling to develop training programs to address the problem, it will be years, if ever, before every cultural heritage institution has at least one of these formally trained employees on staff. Librarians and archivists already in place are wondering what they can do in the meantime. Those on the front lines of this battlefront to save our cultural history need training. Surrounded by content under digitization, digital content coming into special collections and archives, assisting content creators in their research and scholarship, these archivists and librarians need to know what they can do to prevent more critical loss. Even if developing a preservation program is limited to ensuring the digital content survives long enough to be collected by some better-funded agency, capturing records in open standard interoperable technology neutral formats would help to ease later ingest of such content into a trusted digital repository. (6) As Molinaro has pointed out, those in the field need "the knowledge and skills to ensure that their projects and programs are well conceived, feasible, and have a solid sustainability plan." (7) For those on the frontlines, digital preservation education needs to be accessible, practical, and targeted to an audience that may have little technical expertise. Since "resources for preservation are meager in small and medium-sized heritage organizations," (8) such training needs to be free or as low-cost as possible.

In an effort to address these needs, the Library of Congress established the Digital Preservation Outreach & Education (DPOE) train-the-trainer network. (9) In six one-hour modules, (10) this training provides a basic overview of the framework necessary to begin to develop a digital preservation program. The modules formed the basis for three well-attended ASERL webinars in February 2012. (11) Attendee feedback after the webinars indicated a deep need for practical, detailed instruction for those in the field. This article reports on the results of a follow-up survey to identify the topics and types of materials most important to webinar attendees and their institutions for digital preservation, in the fall of 2012.


The survey was open from October 2 until December 15, 2012. Invitations to participate were sent to the following discussion lists: Society of American Archivists (SAA) Archives & Archivists (A&A), SAA Preservation Section Discussion List, SAA Metadata and Digital Object Round Table Discussion List, digital-curation (Google group), Digital Library Federation (DLF-announce), and the Library of Congress Digital Preservation and Outreach (DPOE) general listserv. Each invitation clarified that respondents need not be Association of South Eastern Research Libraries (ASERL) members in order to attend the free webinars or to participate in the survey. …

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