Higher Ed published an article today about the challenges that libraries face with preserving their ever-increasing digital holdings. As a digital librarian with a keen interest in digital preservation, this news ain’t new – digital repositories have been around for several years, and initiatives like LOCKSS (lots of copies keeps stuff safe) and Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine provide opportunities to preserve ephemeral digital content. From my own experience, it has been an uphill battle of Sisyphean proportions when trying to convince others of the value of digital preservation (and the reality of digital deterioration) – many enthusiasts get swept up in the “access 24/7 now” notion without giving thought to the preservation hangover tomorrow.
My particular pet peeve is hearing folks tout optical media (CDs, DVDs) as a means for digital preservation of digitized images. In a previous job, we burned all of our digital images on Mitsui Gold CD-Rs (following best practice at that time), keeping one copy in the photoarchivist’s office and one copy in off-site cold storage. A few years later, we were moving those images off CDs into an online repository. We quickly discovered many digital images were corrupted or unreadable – and our backup CDs were just as bad. If we had opted for storing a hot copy on a backed-up harddrive or repository, perhaps we wouldn’t have had such sorrows.
Our corrupted data:
Check out articles written by Paul Conway, one of the thought leaders on digital preservation. I had the pleasure of hearing him speak when I was at UNC Chapel Hill. He asserts that while preservation of paper items translates into restricted use of the item, preservation of a digital items translates into increased use thus increased likelihood of migration and viability of the digital item time. Think about it…cool stuff.