Session Summary: Moving Forward with Digital Preservation at the Library of Congress

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation (NDIIPP), its leader Laura Campbell from the Library of Congress outlined the lessons that have been learned over the course of the project, observing that strategy is one thing, execution is another.

NDIIPP’s mission is to develop a national strategy to collect, preserve and make accessible significant digital content, especially information that is created in digital form only, for current and future generation. Their current network consists of 170 partners, with an architecture for preservation that provides for preservation and access, and a national collection of digital content that runs to around 300 terabytes.

Their initial approach was to focus on natural networks, which grew up in local pockets, and learnt about the tools and services that were needed to support these partners. They saw roles and responsibilities evolve, found that resources were scarce and that these resources have been under increasing pressure over the last couple of years due to the fiscal crisis. Campbell highlighted that these local networks do not yet share and make all of their information available, but there is currently a major tide shift in that direction. Barriers still remain connected with a lack of public policy incentives and there is a critical need for professional development, so NDIIPP are working with others to work on courses to roll out to the wider community in response to this need.

Campbell discussed the mixture of public and private partners in the network, which means that there are people working with others who they would never normally work with and new relationships developing. She gave the example of 40 national libraries, all working to develop tools and technologies to preserve websites in their countries, which are now working together to share experiences. NDIIPP worked with NSF to launch the first ever NSF sponsored digital preservation programme. Campbell observed that these are major sea changes. They are working at a macro level to change the way people think and hopefully reduce costs, whilst leveraging what they could do alone and learning from one another.

She went on to outline the types of collections on which they focus. This covers a wide range of materials, including social science data sets. They also have material for Congress, including election sites, websites from the end of the Bush term; e-journals, geospatial data, audio visual data, websites and culture heritage data. Some of these collections are huge and all represent amazing learning.

Access remains a huge challenge and remains their main area of focus, but they have learnt that one approach does not fit all. To illustrate this focus, Campbell outlined NDIIPP’s goals for 2010 which include the launch of an NDIIPP portal, giving full coverage for all partner collections, tools for finding, access and sharing.

Campbell described how they have worked on creating standards and federal agencies digitization guidelines, including standards for still images and audio visual, to help establish common practices. She also outlined their work with the creative industries to “preserve creative America” by creating standards for archiving, standardising metadata for stock photos, recommended work flow practices and bringing commercial groups together in a way that would not normally be possible in commercial practice.

NDIIPP continues to work on an architecture that creates a shared environment for validation and storage, delivering content, and produces more discovery tools. Campbell admitted that there are still outstanding issues on copyright exceptions which affect preservation, but described how they have fought for rights to retain public interest in private records.

She outlined the communication and outreach that their work has involved, including over 12,000 subscribing to their newsletter and a series of videos on iTunes.

Campbell went on to describe NDIIPP’s current transition from a programme of modelling and testing to an ongoing stewardship alliance – the National Digital Stewardship Alliance. They have a 10 year content collection plan and will be focusing on content communities including public policy on the web, digital news and geospatial information. She emphasised that they would welcome data from those areas and that they want to enhance their focus on educational outreach for those outside the network. They are also interested in working internationally, so opportunities exist to join the network.

Campbell concluded by reaffirming that no execution is perfect. There is lots of room for iterations and improvements, so NDIIPP is looking for more people to join and work with them.