Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Digital Permanence: Our reliance on technology

Digitization and the creation of digital libraries both assume access to the necessary technology for those creating as well as those viewing. We assume -- both rightly and wrongly -- that what we have technically will always be as good as it is now.

The area of digital permanence looks at what we need to do to ensure that the digital images created today will be available for us to use in the future. We tend to think five or ten years into the future, but considering that we're still reading works written centuries ago, we do need to work towards a digital permanence that is "permanent."

However, it takes only one electricity outage or one disk drive go bad to remind us that, without technology, these digital images and digital libraries are meaningless. If we are betting on maintaining valuable information in a form that requires technology to view, then we need a plan to ensure that this information truly does remain accessible. Currently all we have is hope which can be dashed with one massive power outage.

What does this mean to you? Look at your storage options and ensure that you select the right option for the material. Perhaps you digitize for access, but store the original hardcopy items in an archive. Maybe you don't need immediate access, to you put your materials in compact/off-site storage. Or maybe the information is important/useful, but not critical, so you keep only a digital copy. Do what makes sense both for the short term (five years) and the long term (100+ years).

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