Monday, October 20, 2008

ePrint: Durable Digital Objects Rather Than Digital Preservation and Professional Implications

This 14 page paper was deposited into ePrints in June 2008 and may be of interest to anyone focused on digital preservation.

Abstract: Long-term digital preservation is not the best available objective. Instead, what information producers and consumers almost surely want is a universe of durable digital objects—documents and programs that are as accessible and useful a century from now as they are today. Given the will, we could implement and deploy a practical and pleasing durability infrastructure within two years. Tools for daily work can embed packaging for durability without much burdening their users. Moving responsibility for durability from archival employees to information producers also avoids burdening repositories with keeping up with Internet scale. An engineering prescription is available. Research libraries’ and archives’ slow advance towards practical preservation of digital content is remarkable to outsiders. Why is their progress stalled? Ineffective collaboration across disciplinary boundaries has surely been a major impediment. We speculate about cultural reasons for this situation and warn about possible marginalization of research librarianship as a profession.

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Ben said...

What did you think of this paper, Jill? The author was pretty critical of the digital preservation communities surrounding archives and libraries. He essentially says that libraries have had their chance to get it right and haven't gotten very far, so let's turn the issue over to software engineers. Quite a striking paper, I thought.

Jill Hurst-Wahl said...

I think he has gotten some things quite correct. Some institutions think "that won't work for me", rather than being more open minded. (And I'm not just taking about digital preservation.) With the amount of information that needs to be preserved, we need the best resources working on the problem. That may not be libraries and archives, but software engineers who understand what libraries and archives are trying to do and who can propose a more global solution.

As librarians, we tend to want to do things ourselves. However, sometimes we should recognize that we're not the right people and hand the problem/job off to the correct resource. (Gee...and I'm still not talking solely about digital preservation.)