Sep 27 2016

Digital POWRR in Atlanta!

We still have a few spots available for our Digital POWRR Workshop taking place on Monday, Oct. 10, 2016 at the Atlanta History Center in Atlanta, GA.

This is a FREE, hands-on workshop that deals with the “How” of digital preservation, rather than the “Why” by providing hands-on, practical experience. Attendees will practice the accession of a digital collection using a simple, open source tool; learn about several digital preservation tools and services; and create an institution-specific action plan for making progress towards digital preservation goals.

To learn more and to register for the workshop, please visit http://digitalpowrr10102016.eventzilla.net

Please note that this is not a workshop on how to digitize materials. However, the curriculum could be helpful to implement a digital preservation plan into a digitization project. The skills taught can be applied to both born-digital as well as digitized collections.

This workshop is made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor and is generously co-sponsored by the American Association for State and Local History.

We hope to see you in Atlanta!

 

Aug 05 2016

Slack off with Digital POWRR!

We have been really busy this year taking our workshop on the road and meeting so many wonderful folks. We’ve been looking for the best way to stay in touch with you, as well as add new insightful voices to the conversation. In this quest to find a suitable platform for keeping in touch we ran into other projects who are using Slack. Slack is a free team communication/messaging service. It’s a veritable Swiss-Army knife of collaborative tools! We are hoping to use various Slack channels for hosting live chats with former workshop participants – to catch up with you and see how you are moving forward with implementing lasting digital preservation strategies in your world. We also welcome folks who have not taken a workshop, but who are interested in contributing to an ongoing conversation about all things digital preservation related. Come one, come all!

Slack is free to join, but we need to add you to our team. Please fill out this short form with your info, and we will get you added right away! We look forward to chatting with you.

May 18 2016

POWRR was nominated for another award!

POWRR is pleased to announce that we have been nominated for the 2016 DLF Comm/Cap Award!

The DLF Comm/Cap Award is awarded to a team, project, or person whose “efforts contribute to our ability to collaborate across institutional lines and/or work toward something larger, together. The Comm/Caps are about community spirit, generosity, openness, and care for fellow digital library, archives, and museum practitioners and for the various publics and missions we serve.”

We would also like to congratulate our fellow nominees!

In addition, POWRR would like to thank the Digital Library Federation for nominating us!

May 05 2016

Digital POWRR Workshops!

On June 9, we are conducting a FREE, day-long workshop in St. Paul entitled From Theory to Action: A Pragmatic Approach to Digital Preservation Tools and Strategies and we have about 10 spots left! We have another free workshop on July 7,  in San Antonio,and there are about 25 spots left!  These full-day workshops are made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The workshop was created as a result of an IMLS-funded study on identifying practical digital preservation solutions for small- and mid-sized libraries. We will not be addressing the “why” of digital preservation; rather, we are preparing for the “how.”…providing hands-on, practical experience. Attendees will practice the accession of a digital collection using a simple, open source tool; learn about several digital preservation tools and services; and create an institution-specific action plan for making progress towards digital preservation goals.

To learn more and register for the workshop on June 9, go to http://digitalpowrr06092016.eventzilla.net

To learn more and register for the workshop on July 7, go to http://digitalpowrr07072016.eventzilla.net

There are also a few travel scholarships still available. 

To apply for St. Paul, go to http://www.macalester.edu/library/oberlindsconference/powrr/

To apply for San Antonio, go to https://tdl.org/powrr-workshop/

Registration is limited to 30 participants. If registration exceeds past the 30 participants, please add your name to the waiting list and we will contact you if there are any cancellations or openings. We encourage each institution to send only 1-2 representatives so that we may have a greater number of institutions able to participate.

 

This workshop is made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The St. Paul workshop is co-sponsored by Oberlin Group and ACRL-DCIG. The San Antonio workshop is co-sponsored by Texas Digital Library.

Mar 22 2016

Some Assembly Required – Micro-services and Digital Preservation

This blog is reposted from one that originally appeared at http://drewvandecreek.blogspot.com/ on March 15, 2016.

The following is a brief discussion of the findings of the Digital POWRR Project’s recent white paper, bringing out themes that the white paper’s length restriction obliged its authors to downplay.

The information science and cultural heritage communities have developed a variety of guidelines and standards that can enable an organization to achieve high levels of digital preservation.[1] Many practitioners have struggled to fashion the technical infrastructure necessary to realize them, however. Information professionals serving medium-sized and smaller institutions lacking large financial resources have especially have found it difficult to study and comprehend the complex challenges presented by the need to curate and preserve digital materials in a programmatic manner. Unsure that they understand the issue well, many have hesitated to address it.

Many larger institutions have also not yet devised the means to curate and preserve their digital materials in a programmatic manner, but in one instance a state university system has given rise to a coherent and practicable way forward. Representatives of the California Digital Library have addressed the University of California’s extensive and diverse digital curation and preservation needs by devising and coordinating the operation of a set of free-standing but interoperable applications, each performing a single or limited number of tasks in the larger curation and preservation process. They described their method as a micro-services approach. While they conceived this arrangement with an eye toward producing an infrastructure able to function in a large institution’s wide variety of work environments in a context of rapid and pervasive technological change, a micro-services approach can also help medium-sized and smaller institutions to identify and meet a very different set of digital curation and preservation goals.

A Micro-services approach

In 2009 California Digital Library staff members began development of a new approach to the curation and preservation of digital objects produced by the ten-campus, $25 billion, 238,000 student, nearly 20,000 faculty member University of California system.[2] Seeking to dispense with the assumption that the curation and preservation of digital objects required the installation and operation of a single, long-lived application combining the necessary functions behind one user interface, they proposed to employ a set of twelve independent but compatible applications, or micro-services, each responsible for performing a single function within the digital curation and preservation process.  They described utilities devoted to data preservation as identity, storage, fixity, replication, inventory, and characterization. Utilities devoted to data curation included ingest, index, search, transformation, notification and annotation. The developers of the micro-services approach to digital curation and preservation made a number of compelling arguments for it. Small, relatively simple utilities would pose fewer challenges in their development, deployment, maintenance and enhancement than a large, integrated system, especially in the context of constant technological change. In addition, users could easily adapt a set of distributed services to local conditions in different divisions and departments of the university, and easily replace each of them upon their obsolescence.[3]

The authors introducing a micro-services approach to the information science community seemed to worry that their colleagues and users would look askance at a technical arrangement that they viewed as somehow incomplete or piecemeal. At the same time that they praised its simplicity and flexibility, the authors emphasized that librarians and developers could put a set of interoperable utilities together to provide a very large university community producing digital materials in increasing numbers, size and type with the ability to curate and preserve them in a fully comprehensive manner.[4] In 2010 the California Digital Library introduced Meritt, a new repository developed using the micro-services approach.[5] Available to the entire University of California Community today, Merritt provides long-term preservation of digital materials and also enables users to share data. It makes its functions available via a user interface and an Application Programming Interface enabling machine to machine communication. As of March, 2015 Meritt contained approximately 1.5 million digital objects, some containing over 10,000 individual files or occupying over 100 GB of storage capacity.[6]

The Challenge: Digital Curation and Preservation at Medium-Sized and Smaller Institutions

In a 2011 report Merritt’s developers recommended a micro-services approach to digital curation and preservation to other members of the Association for Research Libraries, emphasizing how a strategic combination of individual services could produce “the complex global function needed for effective curation” at large institutions.[7] At about the same time, the Digital POWRR (Preserving Digital Resources with Restricted Resources) Project (http://digitalpowrr.niu.edu/), a team of librarians, archivists and other stake-holders from medium-sized and smaller Illinois institutions lacking large financial resources, used financial support provided by an Institute of Museum and Library Services National Leadership Grant (LG-05-11-0156-11) to begin a study of the problems that the curation and preservation of digital objects presented to their organizations, and how they might address them.

The POWRR institutions were, and remain, members of CARLI, the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois, but its leaders informed the study team that while they recognized the digital curation and preservation challenges their members faced, they also lacked the financial resources necessary to begin to address them.

Early in the three-year investigation period, POWRR team members prepared a case study of each of the participating institutions, describing it in broad terms while paying particular attention to the composition of its digital collections and the unique challenges they presented; the details of its pertinent technical infrastructure including content management systems and repository software in use; and a self-assessment summary and review of current digital curation and preservation activities, if any. At each of the five campuses, team members identified digital content known to be vulnerable to loss, but realized that they had not developed programmatic solutions to mitigate that risk. Upon gathering and reviewing the relevant information, team members identified the practices and policies that they believed could most help their institutions to improve their curation and preservation of digital objects. They then performed a gap analysis by identifying the obstacles that had prevented their organizations from achieving the desired outcomes. Common factors impeding digital preservation efforts emerged from the gap analyses, including a lack of available financial resources; limited or nonexistent staff time dedicated to digital preservation activities; and insufficient levels of appropriate technical expertise.[8]

The case studies allowed the research team to perceive a state of affairs more complex than the raw data described, however. Lacking the time necessary to stay abreast of frequent developments in the field of digital preservation, the expertise or technical infrastructure necessary to install and maintain complex software solutions, and/or the funds to pay for ready-to-use products that may exist, librarians and archivists at POWRR institutions often felt overwhelmed. Faced with what seemed to be an enormous undertaking, and hesitant to commit scarce resources to the adoption of an integrated digital preservation utility, many found themselves unable to take even the first steps toward curating and preserving their digital materials.[9]

Micro-services and Smaller Institutions

Soon after beginning their investigation, members of the Digital POWRR team discovered a basic misunderstanding thwarting their progress towards the development of more effective digital curation and preservation programs. They had understood digital curation and preservation as a black and white issue: either an institution had implemented successful digital curation and preservation measures or it had not. Behind this assumption lay another: that successful digital preservation activities required the use of a single application integrating a number of necessary tasks behind a single user interface. Their research soon led them to realize that recent scholarship has emphasized that practitioners should rather understand digital curation and preservation activities as an ongoing, iterative set of actions, reactions, workflows, and policies.[10] Such an approach means that practitioners do not have to begin digital curation activities by creating or selecting a comprehensive technical solution appropriate for large sets of digital materials over a long period of time. Instead, they can start by taking small first steps to triage digital collections and identify means by which they might cumulatively enhance the curation and preservation of those found to require immediate attention, while working to bring the issue to the attention of colleagues and administrators and, ultimately, advocate for resources necessary for the implementation of additional capacity. Put another way, information professionals at institutions lacking effective digital curation and preservation measures can benefit by focusing their efforts on the activities by which they can curate and preserve digital content in the next six to twenty-four months rather than waiting a decade to devise an ideal solution. Professionals in the cultural heritage sector accustomed to thinking in terms of centuries may find this to be a curious approach, but to wait is to risk the loss of unique materials.

The National Digital Stewardship Alliance’s (NDSA) Levels of Digital Preservation can provide practitioners seeking to employ this approach with a yardstick by which they might measure their progress toward improved digital curation and preservation capacity. The NDSA describes the Levels as a work in progress, intended to provide a readily-usable set of guidelines useful for professionals and/or institutions in various situations, ranging from those just beginning to think about how to curate and preserve their digital assets more effectively to those planning the next steps in enhancing existing systems and workflows. The guidelines speak to five functional areas that represent the core of digital preservation systems: storage and geographic location, file fixity and data integrity, information security, metadata, and file formats. The Levels do not help to assess the efficacy of digital preservation programs as a whole since they do not consider important matters such as policies, staffing, or organizational support.[11]

In addition to providing information professionals at smaller institutions with an understanding of their present digital curation and preservation capacities, reference to the NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation can help them to recognize discrete steps by which they can improve their curation and preservation of digital objects. These may include activities such as improving storage practices from reliance on stand-alone media (e.g. CDs and portable hard drives) to the use of networked or geographically distributed servers, which the Levels mark as moving a single square to the right in one of their functional categories. Researchers have made resources discussing fundamental activities like these freely available.[12]

Institutions can begin to move closer to a goal of stabilizing and preserving digital materials by taking a number of the small steps forward as described in the Levels. They should not hesitate to take Level 1 actions that they could readily achieve today while they devote their energies to deliberations considering how to move from Level 2 to Level 3. Thinking of digital curation and preservation activities as an ongoing activity, and the NDSA Levels of Preservation as a measure of progress, resonates with two fundamental understandings at the heart of a micro-services approach: first, that digital curation and preservation is an uncertain process in which continuous, rapid technological change often renders monolithic, integrated applications cumbersome and outdated; and second, that simple tools focused on a specific aspect or aspects of the process, often available at no charge, can prove more helpful.

Practitioners can only make use of individual micro-services tools if they understand which roles they play in the larger digital curation and preservation process, and how they might contribute to progress through the Levels. To this end, the Digital POWRR Project depicted the several stages of a prospective workflow as a pathway to digital preservation.[13]See below.

POWRR’s Overview of the Path to Digital Preservation

Micro-services tools typically perform only a single or limited number of the tasks or functions that make up each stage of this process.  For example, functions within the ingest portion of a digital preservation workflow employing micro-services might include file copying; fixity checking; virus scanning; file de-duplication; and unique identifier generation.[14] The figure below provides a list of micro-services functions making up the more general pathway to digital preservation.

Functionality within POWRR’s Path to Digital Preservation

An understanding of the discrete tasks and functions that comprise each stage of a digital curation and preservation workflow can provide practitioners at medium-sized and smaller institutions lacking large financial resources with an opportunity to assess how adding specific functions to their existing practices can benefit them. Likewise, a reliable registry of available digital curation and preservation tools, including those providing only a single or limited number of the functions depicted in Figure 3, can help information professionals to determine how they can perform those functions most readily in local circumstances. The COPTR(Community Owned Digital Preservation Tool Registry) web site (coptr.digitpres.org) provides information about hundreds of tools and services that address some aspect of digital curation and preservation, ranging from single-function applications to more robust and complex utilities. The costs of the tools/services noted in COPTR vary from those that are freely-available via open-source communities to those that are cost-prohibitive for many smaller institutions. Practitioners should realize that open-source applications may require programming expertise. COPTR’s description of an individual tool includes a brief descriptions of its general usability and the technical expertise it requires, as well as a record of recent development activity. The Digital POWRR Project study found that in many cases active user groups supporting a particular tool already exist online. Many tool developers also make themselves available to individuals and groups wishing to learn to use their application. [15]

Understanding digital curation and preservation activities as incremental, and using tools lending themselves to this approach, information professionals at medium-sized and smaller institutions lacking large financial resources can make the small first steps needed to begin to make progress through the NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation. For example, practitioners may accession and inventory a collection of digital materials using a free, simple ingest tool called Data Accessioner and a common spreadsheet application. To learn more about how to do this, visit the POWRR website.

Meg Miner of Illinois Wesleyan University, a member of the Digital POWRR Project team, described Data Accessioner’s usefulness in performing the functions described above in Figure 3 as Auto Metadata Harvest and Package Metadata thus:

I use Data Accessioner (DA) to capture technical metadata as I move files from transfer media to my as-yet non-bit-level storage device. I use DA-MT (Data Accessioner Metadata Transformer) to aggregate the file information from xml to something I can understand: file types, quantities and sizes by type. I store the aggregate information in my regular accession files (currently a spreadsheet). My accession information and an Access copy are in a different hard drive from the Master copy and XML. Someday I will move the accessions with content I think is most at-risk (due to format or other unique attribute) into a bit-checking storage environment…. this workflow costs me no money, no technical expertise (beyond downloading Java and two processing files via ZIP) and very little extra time. With DA, I am capturing all the recommended technical information for use by a back-end preservation system. With DA-MT I can track growth rate of digital content overall, make a case for purchasing better storage, and keep an eye on where all the at-risk file types are in the interim.[16]

In this case, use of a single, open-source tool requiring no programming skills or other technical know-how has helped a single archivist, working alone, to gather important information about her institution’s digital collections which, as she notes, will prove indispensable in the longer-term construction of a larger digital curation and preservation system. The discrete, specialized tools that characterize a micro-services approach also can ultimately help this practitioner and others like her to build such a system, adding new functions and capacity to an emerging digital curation and preservation workflow customized to address local needs and idiosyncrasies, including the particular characteristics of individual collections.

Micro-services tools can also help practitioners adopting more robust tools. They should not assume that an application bundling many digital curation and preservation functions together with a single user interface will necessarily provide an entirely comprehensive and worry-free experience. In many cases developers of more extensive applications have assumed that their users have already performed NDSA Level 1 triage activities (e.g. moving data from disparate storage media to more secure locations and performing minimal inventory and/or simple metadata creation). For example, POWRR researchers found that Curator’s Workbench provided mechanisms for importing MODS records that its developers assumed already existed, but not an intuitive interface for creating MODS records from scratch. This presents information professionals at many institutions with a significant gap between their digital materials’ present condition and that state necessary even to begin curation and preservation activities with their new utility. While individual micro-services tools can enable practitioners to build a local digital curation and preservation system in an incremental fashion, some of the most basic tools can also prepare digital objects for ingestion into and storage within more elaborate applications.

Research libraries and archives presently face the difficult prospect of devising technical means by which they may curate and preserve the large volume of digital objects that their stakeholders and staff members have created, and will create. Guidelines and standards describing effective practices presently exist, but many information professionals have encountered great difficulty in providing the infrastructure necessary to follow them and provide enhanced levels of curation and preservation. The California Digital Library (CDL) has described and implemented what it describes as a micro-services approach to the problem. Dismissing the familiar means by which information professionals have addressed other large challenges in their field, that of selecting and installing a large, integrated application, CDL staff members have advocated the development and strategic deployment of independent but interoperable utilities devoted to performing specific, finite functions contributing to the larger curation and preservation process. They have argued that administrators and developers responsible for digital curation and preservation functions may devise, deploy, maintain, upgrade, adapt and replace discrete, simple utilities far more easily than a single application combining many functions behind a single user interface. In addition, a distributed system allows units of a large university system, varying widely in their practice, to adapt it to their use. Functioning together, twelve micro-services utilities have provided the university’s ten campuses with a comprehensive digital curation and preservation infrastructure known as Merritt.

A review of digital curation and preservation challenges facing smaller institutions lacking large financial resources suggests that the micro-services approach can benefit them as well. The same benefits that recommended it to the University of California apply to smaller institutions. Information professionals serving them may deploy, maintain, upgrade, adapt and replace simple applications performing specific functions more readily than they might install, manage, improve and, in a worst case, abandon and replace, a comprehensive digital curation and preservation system. Due to its modular nature and the amount of open-source applications available for use in a micro-services arrangement, units within these institutions stand a better chance of adapting one to their needs than an integrated, more comprehensive system. Information professionals employed at medium-sized and smaller institutions lacking large financial resources can also benefit from a micro-services approach to digital curation and preservation for another reason. Many have often reached the same misconception that the designers of the micro-services approach originally noted: that an all-or-nothing approach, taking years to select and implement, represented the only approach to digital curation and preservation services. Believing that they lacked knowledge of the available applications, information professionals at smaller institutions most often declined to seek the significant financial resources necessary to make a selection, and took no other constructive steps toward enhancing their digital curation and preservation practices. A micro-services approach provides them with an opportunity to break this pattern of inaction and begin curation and preservation activities.

In this context the Digital POWRR Project study encouraged information professionals at medium-sized and smaller institutions to take basic, simple measures mitigating their materials’ risk of loss, no matter how limited their scope and effectiveness might seem. Measuring their progress by reference to the National Digital Stewardship Alliance’s Levels of Digital Preservation, smaller institutions might begin to improve their curation and preservation of digital collections through a series of small steps. The use of individual tools performing discrete functions can allow practitioners beginning curation and preservation activities where none have previously existed to perform initial triage on their digital collections and improve their practice over time, in part by expanding and customizing their technical infrastructure incrementally, building a set of applications best suited to local needs. Tools performing an individual or limited number of specific functions contributing to enhanced levels of digital curation and preservation can prove especially useful in this context. Aware that many practitioners that might benefit from these tools have little or no awareness of their existence or functions, the Digital POWRR Project made information describing the several stages of a digital curation and preservation workflow, the discrete activities making up each, and tools performing these functions freely available online via the COPTR web site.

Notes

[1] See, for example, the Digital Curation Centre’s Curation Lifecycle Model, which features checklists for practitioners, at www.dcc.ac.uk/resources/curation-lifecycle-model.  Also seeReference Model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS): Recommended Practice CCSDC 650.0-M-2 (2012) at http://public.ccsds.org /publications/archive/650x0m2.pdf andSpace Data and Information Transfer Systems – Audit and Certification of Trustworthy Digital Repositories (ISO 16363:2012), accessed July 9, 2015, www.iso.org/obp/ui /#iso:std:iso:16363:ed-1:v1:en.

[2] “The University of California at a Glance,” The University of California, 2015, accessed July 9, 2015, www.universityofcalifornia.edu/sites/default/files/uc_at_a_glance_011615.pdf.

[3] Stephen Abrams, Patricia Cruze, and John Kunze, “Preservation is Not a Place,”International Journal of Digital Curation 1, no. 4 (2009):8-21; Stephen Abrams, John Kunze, and David Loy, “An Emergent Micro-Services Approach to Digital Curation Infrastructure,”International Journal of Digital Curation 1, no. 5 (2010): 173-174.

[4] Abrams, Kunze, Loy, “An Emergent Micro-services Approach,” 184.

[5] www.cdlib.org/cdlinfo/2010/09/16/deposit-save-share-find-that-content-and-data-new-uc3-services-launch/, accessed May 6, 2015.

[6] https://merritt.cdlib.org/docs/merritt_handout.pdf; Meritt Service Update: March 2015, accessed May 6, 2015, www.cdlib.org/cdlinfo/2015/04/24/merritt-service-update-march-2015/.

[7] Tyler Walters and Katherine Skinner. 2011.  New Roles for New Times: Digital Curation for Preservation. (Washington, DC: Association for Research Libraries, 2011), 53.

[8] Jaime Schumacher The Digital POWRR Project: A Final Report to the Institute of Museum and Library Services, accessed July 9, 2015, http://hdl.handle.net/10843/13678.

[9] A. K. Rinehart, P-A. Prud’homme, and A. R. Huot, “Overwhelmed to Action:  Digital Preservation Challenges at the Under-RIsourced institution,” OCLC Systems & Services, 30, no. 1 (2014):28-42www.emeraldinsight.com /journals.htm?issn=1065-075x&volume=30&issue=1&articleid=17106334&show=html; M. Proffitt, “Something’s Got to Give:  What Can We Stop Doing in a Time of Reduced Resources?” RBM:  A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, & Cultural Heritage, Fall 2011, no. 12: 89-91, accessed July 9, 2015,http://rbm.acrl.org/content /12/2/89.full.pdf+html

[10] Gordan J. Daines, III, “Module 2: Processing Digital Records and Manuscripts,” ArchivalArrangement and Description, ed. Christopher J. Prom (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2013), 87-143.

[11] National Digital Stewardship Alliance.  The NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation, accessed July 9, 2015, www.digitalpreservation.gov/ndsa/activities/levels.html.

[12] See, for example, Julianna Barrera-Gomez and Ricky Erway Walk This Way: Detailed Steps for Transferring Born-Digital Content from Media You Can Read In-house (Dublin, OH: OCLC Research, 2013 ) www.oclc.org/content/dam/research/publications/library/2013/2013-02.pdf.) Also see the DP 101 page on the Digital POWRR Project website.

[13] Jaime Schumacher, Lynne Thomas and Drew VandeCreek From Theory to Action: Good Enough Digital Preservation Solutions for Under-Resourced Cultural Heritage Institutions,(Washington, DC: Institute for Museum and Library Services, 2014), 6.http://commons.lib.niu.edu/bitstream/10843/13610/1/FromTheoryToAction_POWRR_WhitePaper.pdf

[14] Schumacher, Thomas and VandeCreek, From Theory to Action, 8-13.

[15] Ibid., 11.

[16] Meg Miner, “Preservation Processing Update.” Digital POWRR Project (blog), October 25, 2014, http://digitalpowrr.niu.edu/processing-update/

Mar 01 2016

Digital POWRR Workshop in Little Rock!

On April 22, we are conducting a FREE, day-long workshop at Little Rock Central Library entitled From Theory to Action: A Pragmatic Approach to Digital Preservation Tools and Strategies and we have about 10 spots left! This full-day workshop is made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The workshop was created as a result of an IMLS-funded study on identifying practical digital preservation solutions for small- and mid-sized libraries. We will not be addressing the “why” of digital preservation; rather, we are preparing for the “how.”…providing hands-on, practical experience. Attendees will practice the accession of a digital collection using a simple, open source tool; learn about several digital preservation tools and services; and create an institution-specific action plan for making progress towards digital preservation goals.

To learn more and register for the workshop, go to http://digitalpowrr04222016.eventzilla.net/

This workshop is co-sponsored by the Society of Southwest Archivists. The POWRR team appreciates their support and generosity. To learn more about SSA, click here.

Registration is limited to 30 participants. First priority will be given to members of the Society of Southwest Archivists. If registration exceeds past the 30 participants, please add your name to the waiting list and we will contact you if there are any cancellations or openings. We encourage each institution to send only 1-2 representatives so that we may have a greater number of institutions able to participate.

 

This workshop is made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and is generously co-sponsored by the Society of Southwest Archivists.

Oct 15 2015

2015 NDSA Innovation Awards

The National Digital Stewardship Alliance’s Innovation Working Group has announced their slate of 2015 NDSA Innovation Award winners. We are incredibly pleased and humbled to announce that the Digital POWRR team has been selected as one of the winners of this great honor.

The Innovation Awards “highlight and commend creative individuals, projects, organizations, and future stewards demonstrating originality and excellence in their contributions to the field of digital preservation.” The full slate of winners for 2015 include:

Future Steward: Lauren Work, VCU Libraries

Individual: Ben Welsh, LA Times

Organization: Digital POWRR

Project: Documenting Ferguson, Washington-University at St. Louis

Stacey Erdman will accept the award on behalf of the POWRR team at a ceremony on November 4, 2015 at the iPres conference in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The team will also be featured in an upcoming blog post on the Library of Congress’ The Signal blog. The POWRR team has drawn on the expertise and many wonderful resources created by the NDSA in our work, and thanks the Innovation Working Group for bestowing this great honor on us!

 

 

Sep 01 2015

POWRR Wins an Award!

POWRR is pleased to announce that we have won an award! The Society of American Archivists (SAA) presented POWRR with the Preservation Publication Award. Two of our POWRR team members, Stacey Erdman and Aaisha Haykal, attended the annual meeting in Cleveland, Ohio and accepted the award on behalf of the project. The Preservation Publication Award is given to “authors or editors of an outstanding published work related to archives preservation.” POWRR was awarded this honor for our white paper, where we discuss our three year research, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, investigating affordable, scalable digital preservation solutions that can be successfully implemented at under-resourced organizations.

In addition to our white paper, POWRR has reached out to share our information with such under-resourced organizations. During the course of 2015-2016, POWRR is traveling the country giving workshops and providing practical, hands-on solutions for information professionals from small and under-funded institutions looking to begin digital preservation practice. The POWRR workshops are made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Celebrating 50 Years of Excellence.

We are very grateful to the SAA for awarding us with the Preservation Publication Award and acknowledging our work to help small and mid-sized institutions meet their digital preservation goals.

Aug 04 2015

About the black hole…

This blog is reposted from one that originally appeared at http://drewvandecreek.blogspot.com/ on July 31, 2015.

This is funny.

In the course of preparing an article with my colleague Jaime Schumacher I came across Ross Harvey’s “So Where’s the Black Hole in our Collective Memory?: A Provocative Position Paper” (January, 2008), which suggests that the digital preservation community has been overly alarmist in contending that digital materials are succumbing to a variety of risk factors, rendering them unavailable for future use.

Harvey maintained that – at least in 2008 – researchers had not presented enough evidence to demonstrate that digital materials loss was taking place on a meaningful scale, and asked for further data. Our article provided such data, so I decided to include Harvey’s request in the text.

This meant that I needed to provide a citation for his paper, of course. I had previously found it available online via the Digital Preservation Europe web site at http://www.digitalpreservationeurope.eu/forum/phpBB2/, but on July 29, 2015 I could not find a copy of it online – at all. I tried again yesterday and today. No luck.

Just to be clear, I was unable to find a copy of a 2008 paper arguing that digital preservation advocates had overstated the threat of digital data loss, including that presented on the web. How ironic.

Remembering a certain pop singer’s misuse of the word “ironic” in a hit song some twenty years ago, I turned to the Oxford English Dictionary for a definition of “irony.”

I found, as the third meaning of the noun – “a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what was or might be expected; an outcome cruelly, humorously, or strangely at odds with assumptions or expectations.”

I would note that this occurrence certainly seems to contrary to Mr. Harvey’s expectations – at least from 2008, but it is not contrary to my own.

Our paper on digital data loss among university faculty will be published shortly by the International Journal of Digital Curation. It corroborates digital preservation advocates’ familiar contention that data loss is indeed taking place.

Feel free to mention our findings in presentations to campus stakeholders and conversations with individuals unaware of the threat of digital data loss.

You might also use the Ross Harvey story for an icebreaker or a laugh midway through a talk.

Ultimately I provided a citation for Harvey’s paper from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, which seeks to address situations like this by providing access to an archive of web pages, organized chronologically. In effect, it seeks to provide snapshots of the web at given dates.

Mr. Harvey would certainly contend that his paper’s existence on the Wayback Machine proves his point – that digital data disappearing from its original place of online presentation can very often be retrieved elsewhere. And so it was.

The Wayback Machine is far from comprehensive, however. It is also little-known among those outside the library and information science community.

Harvey also may have retreated from his intentionally provocative 2008 proclamation. Even if he has, this situation creates  a potentially useful anecdote in the ongoing effort to convince those outside the community of practitioners that the threat of digital data loss is real.

May 30 2015

POWRR + daily life

With the work of POWRR ended and workshops about our findings continuing, I find myself with no remaining excuses…time to get down to POWRRing on in my own world! May was a busy month for sharing my recommendations. I wrote out the complete thought processes behind my decisions in a recently published case study. And I enhanced my digital collection creation policy to articulate my philosophical foundation for selection and preservation actions. That document is incorporated in our library’s collection plan and so will be regularly reviewed by a library and a campus committee.

POWRR demonstrated that a free and simple tool can help us extract technical metadata and that it folds easily into our regular accessioning workflows. We feel confident that this small but positive step offers some assurances for preparing digital accessions for future preservation storage. I created a flowchart this month to illustrate these steps, and if you look closely you will see they were cropped from a larger picture:

IWU DP flowchart

IWU digital preservation workflow [click to enlarge]

Even at the smallest of institutions, none of us operates in a vacuum. We need to discuss these issues with other people in our workplace. These folks may not be aware of the need for digital preservation let alone how to protect collections without the benefit of full preservation storage and access systems. We addressed this in the POWRR findings, too, and we have handouts and exercises in our workshop to help plan for these conversations. Recently I discovered there might be other questions about what we do.

Last week I began engaging with others on digital collections workflows and I was surprised at the level of interest in and confusion about how I make decisions. The talks we are been having include how we might combine work done in different parts of the library. Our goal is to seek efficiencies where we can, so gaining a deep understanding of what everyone does is a critical first step.

I prepared a detailed document explaining the types of e-records decisions I make from an acquisitions standpoint, but I could tell the discussion wasn’t going well. Why I chose to make some things accessible in some ways over others seemed to the the primary question.

I decided to create a flowchart based on one I found at the University of Utah and that we’ve been mentioning in POWRR workshops. When I sat down to adapt it for a larger collections discussion, it became clear that many decisions I make every day went beyond the scope of the original tool. So to educate my community on how I go from selection to preservation to access, I came up with this:

IWU archives workflow

Complete IWU archives selection-storage workflow [click to enlarge]

The specific IR and digital library products we use may be different from yours, but maybe this workflow has similarities with yours? I’d love to hear how others are doing these things!

Writing about my plans and talking about my decisions with others helped me understand my own ideas better. It’s quite clear to me that when we get down to doing our work, there will always be something we didn’t think about before. My challenge is to remain open to others’ ideas and experiences as we go on through planning what will work in my institution. So with other departments in my library I will continue to test and explore options for our full collections’ lifecycle. The POWRR project gave me good ground to launch from and the journey continues!

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