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On Tuesday, Lauren Corbett and I attended part one of a four part series of webinars on digital preservation hosted by ASERL. John Burger provided the introduction for the webinar and told us that the attendance was somewhere near five hundred, when normally the turnout for an ASERL webinar is about fifty. I guess that is a testament to the murky landscape of digital preservation! We were lucky enough to have Lisa Gregory of the State Library of North Carolina as the speaker for the first installment. I enjoyed her presentation immensely and especially appreciated her breakdown on how to get started and her encouragement to not be overwhelmed by the process. I will refrain from adding links and references in my post, as Gregory does that quite well in her materials. I encourage you to take a look at her slide deck and handout, she provides great resources and insight.
The presentation was broken into two sections. The first part on planning and first steps truly spoke to me and are applicable to my immediate work in our current digital preservation. The second section was a brief overview of PREMIS and how it applies once you have made inroads to digital preservation.
Lisa began the conversation by encouraging an assessment and inventory of all of the possible places your institution may have materials appropriate for digital preservation, including workstations, hard drives, removable media, content management systems, and mobile devices, to name a few. Her apt description of this as a “HOT MESS” helped to lighten the dread that the previous list had instilled. What followed was a concise and encouraging list of steps we can take to begin the very necessary.
The process begins with “Reconnoiter”-which Gregory describes as information gathering. She recommends reading current practices, successes, and implementations of digital preservation before getting started and after you have begun. This process, along with all of the following steps, are iterative and constantly changing. Digital preservation is a moving target and so is the literature to support it.
Following an understanding of strategies to implement digital preservation, Gregory suggests an “Assessment” of your digital content. Where is it hiding? Who is working with it? Make a list, a plan, a file naming system, and write it all down!
The assessment leads to “Documentation”-your policies, your plans, your best practices. She mentioned being transparent to your stakeholders and sharing workflows with involved parties. Again, this step is not a fixed point, and will need review regularly to keep up with changing materials, people, and strategies.
What is documentation without “Communication” the next step? Assessing and documenting does nothing unless you share those tools with users, administrators, and peers. Digital preservation is not happening in a vacuum, communications makes the process easier for everyone.
Finally, you have to “Implement” all of the steps into the “nitty-gritty” of digital preservation. There is a point where you just have to start. You have to consider storage, obsolete media, organization, workflows, and metadata when you begin (and continue) the process. What I found most helpful was the fact that Gregory said you don’t have to know it all or be perfect, you just have to start. Of course, laying the best groundwork will make you more successful, but she encouraged us to “do the research and just go for it.”
I look forward to the next three parts of the digital preservation webinars and am happy to have anyone join in on the sessions. Let me know if you’d like to sit-in or discuss the webinars.