iPRES

iPRES is an annual international conference on the Preservation of Digital Objects.  Current research and projects are presented by authors of papers that have been selected by a comprehensive review process.  The papers tend to focus on technological research and from authors’ experiences in implementing and practicing different preservation strategies.  iPRES 2009 marks the sixth year the conference has been happening, and it is taking place October 5-6th at the Mission Bay Conference Center in San Francisco, CA.  The California Digital Library is acting as this year’s host and is thus leading the internal conference planning and local preparations.

Last year’s conference was hosted by the British Library and was held in London.  Previous to that, iPRES 2007 was organized by the National Science and Technology Library of China and was held in Beijing.  More information about previous conferences can be found here.

iPRES 2009 has posted a two-track draft program, which reveals that David Kirsh and a panel from members of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access will give the keynote addresses.

Also of interest to this year’s conference is the string of related events that follow it.  These events are taking place in San Francisco as well, and might make for exciting ways for iPRES attendees to tack on a couple of extra days to their stay in the city.

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Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC)

The Digital Preservation Coalition was established in 2001.  It is a UK-based non-profit whose members share the goal of raising awareness and sharing knowledge about digital preservation.  I think their first success in achieving this goal was to create an international organization of members.

Membership is open to all parties, given that they are non-profit or collective.  There are different tiers of involvement in which members can participate, from being a funding supporter of a specific project to full membership, which costs 10,000 GB pounds/year.  A list of members can be found here.

Mission

Reading through the mission of the DPC is like looking at a hit-list of many of the key issues of digital preservation efforts.  Primarily, it is easy to appreciate that the DPC recognizes the necessity of collaboration in an effective digital preservation strategy by openly stating the very harrowing admission that no organization can “address all the challenges alone.”  Sharing progress and ideas is fundamental to this effort.  But the DPC also encourages individual projects done by members in order to promote more homegrown institutional and sector-level preservation practices and policies.

My favorite part of their mission is this:
“Instituting a concerted and co-ordinated effort to get digital preservation on the agenda of key stakeholders in terms that they will understand and find persuasive.”

I’m glad that someone has taken this part of the digital preservation process to the battlegrounds.  No matter how well-planned and coordinated any digital preservation project may be, they all need funding.  And funding will probably have to come from parties that have not thought of or even necessarily heard of digital preservation and its importance.  Explaining the process and need is really Step 1 in any successful attempt to secure support and funding.

In general, I would think that digital preservation efforts are at an advantage for getting funding because once its goals are understood, it would be difficult for a truly invested stakeholder to overlook its relevance.  The DPC has really addressed connecting the dots between the people involved in digital preservation projects and the people who need to support these efforts in this part of their mission statement.

What the DPC Does

The DPC produces and shares information regarding research and practice within the digital preservation community.  They also work on promoting technology and standards, including coordinating recommendations for the 5-year review of the OAIS standard.  There is a clearly defined list of other goals and objectives here.

Their website is a comprehensive hub for their reports and activities, and also lists the projects of its members – arranged by type.  You will also find various training opportunities and a quarterly newsletter produced in concert with PADI.

The DPC also administers the international Digital Preservation Award.

What I think is probably their magnum opus up to this point is their Handbook.

The Handbook

This incredibly useful handbook is maintained by the DPC.  It goes far beyond the OAIS model guidelines by including more information and concepts, as well as information about selecting materials.  The handbook is meant to be “of interest to all those involved in the creation and management of digital materials,” and I think it really is.  A brief look at it will show you:

  • A who, what, why, how overview of digital preservation
  • A glossary of definitions and concepts
  • A run-down of media storage formats
  • Preservation strategies at the institutional level
  • Organizational, workflow, and institutional collaboration strategies
  • Acquisition and selection guidelines with an incredible supplementary flow chart for selecting materials

One final note I’d like to make regards the UK-centric view their mission proclaims this organization has.  This is an organization comprised of international members who are all making strides together in preserving global digital artifacts.  I think that just because the DPC is based in the UK, and it aims to place UK digital preservation strategies into an international context, we all stand to benefit from it as a resource and organization.  One shouldn’t be deterred from participating or from using what the DPC has to offer for this reason!

HathiTrust

“Hathi” is the Hindi word for elephant, and this project uses the elephant’s association with wisdom and memory in its name, HathiTrust.  HathiTrust is a shared digital repository whose content is composed largely of digitized books from the Google Books Library Project.  The idea to create the shared digital repository comes from Committee on Institutional Cooperation and the University of California system.  The associated universities are all partners in HathiTrust, and partnership is open to other research libraries.

As far as preserving the content within the repository, HathiTrust touts that it “provides a no-worry, pain-free solution to archiving vast amounts of digital content. You can rely on the expertise of other librarians and information technologists who understand your needs and who will address the issues of servers, storage, migration, and long-term preservation.”

HathiTrust envisions itself as becoming a very credible and large digital library as well as being able to provide a viable preservation service for its partners.

The Content and Google

In the HathiTrust shared repository, outside users will mostly find content that is in the public domain.  Due to copyright and licensing regulations, most the content that is currently in the repository cannot be viewed by non-owning parties.  In fact, only 16% of the total volume stored in HathiTrust are in the public domain as of August 8, 2009.  The FAQ also state that, “as it becomes possible to expand access to the materials through permissions or other agreements, other materials will be made available. HathiTrust has already been contacted by some rights holders wishing to provide broader access to their content.”
HathiTrust has made all of the public domain content available via search within the repository and through Google.  You can also browse a very cool visualization of the public domain content by the LC classification.  The search functionality of the full catalog is still under development in partnership with OCLC, but they offer this at the current time.

Most of the public domain content of this shared digital repository comes from books that have been digitized through the Google Books Library Project. Google partnered with institutional libraries to digitize books that are hard to find and may otherwise be unavailable.  HathiTrust stemmed from some of the libraries in this partnership banding together to create a way to preserve and share their copies of the digitized books…independently of Google.

Having two sources of the same digitized content might sound a little redundant.  The Google Books Library Project corresponds directly with Google’s mission to make the world’s information accessible.  However, when we look a little more closely at the Library Project’s goal, it seems that Google is really trying to create some sort of visual card catalog, and is less concerned with the actual content.  Google also does not have the historical role that research libraries do in creating consistent access to materials.  Additionally, HathiTrust is focused on the long-term retention and storage of the digital content.  We can’t be sure of what Google’s plan is.  So perhaps it’s good that there is another project attempting to serve researchers and the public good that has corporate or commercial ties.

HathiTrust aims to include digitized content from printed materials (including journals) that extend beyond the scope of the Google digitization project.  They also hope to include born-digital materials and, eventually, items from institutional repositories.

Accessibility and Preservation Benefits

In my mind, one benefit of HathiTrust’s efforts that concerns a large number of potential researchers is that fact that it will provide an opportunity to remotely access items from libraries’ collections that would have otherwise required travel…or would have made side by side comparison an impossibility given the fragile and protected nature of many rare library items.
But why limit the benefit of accessibility to scholars?  One thing about digitization is that it can create a user audience where there once was no audience…so it is impossible to say how the general public can utilize newly available resources.

As for libraries, becoming a partner in the program will enable a library to store vast amounts of digital content, be it a special collection that has been digitized, endangered books (rare, brittle, etc.), purchased ebooks, and other digital items.  This will be a huge benefit to libraries who cannot start or handle a digital collection and storage project on their own.  The partner library will provide all the bibliographic data records for items to be ingested, and HathiTrust takes on all the hardware, staffing, and migration concerns.

Even non-partner libraries and their patrons will find an enormous benefit to utilizing HathiTrust: “HathiTrust is making bibliographic records for the public domain HathiTrust materials available so that institutions around the world can load them into their online catalogs, alerting users to the availability of these digitized volumes.”

Funding

HathiTrust is a non-profit, with no intention of becoming for-profit.  The original partners from the CIC and the University of California have apparently provided a large sum of the project’s existing funding.  Further partnerships from joining libraries will continue to provide funding.  The library partners will be charged once upon joining depending on the number of volumes they are adding to the repository using a per GB calculation system.

OAIS Reference Model Part II: The Model

Welcome to Part II of my OAIS Reference Model crash course!  By now you probably have noticed that I have refrained from including in this post any of the many graphed images that are in the OAIS reference model document.  This is because before I had a basic understanding of the model, these images seemed supremely complicated and confusing…kind of like Power Point slides with too many words.  I hope that what I provide here is a substantial enough understanding of the OAIS model to make the images less frightening when you do eventually encounter them.

Model Roles:

To start, it is important to recognize the three types of people that will be affiliated with a repository within the OAIS framework: the Producers of the repository’s content, the Managers of the content and repository, and the Consumers who use the content stored in the repository.  Each phase of the preservation process effects these three roles.  The ingest, the processing and storage, and the accessing of digital objects

The Model in Brief:

The document for the OAIS reference model has several key areas of content:

  • Terminology: An awesome vocabulary and glossary for the operations and information structures of repositories is located in Section 1.
  • Mandatory responsibilities: A list of the things that a repository must do in order be considered an OAIS-type repository comprises Section 3.  One particular action that this section calls for is identifying a designated producer/consumer community and ensuring that the information within the repository (metadata, etc), should be independently understandable (and accessible) by this community.  This means that “the community should be able to understand the information without needing the assistance of the experts who produced the information.”  Read this for more detail about the other mandatory responsibilities.
  • A model for ingesting, storing, and providing access to stored items, including a very smart model for capturing each item’s metadata (Content Information) and preservation metadata (Preservation Description Information).  Together, this data is discussed as an item’s “packaging information.”  It is intended to include information about an item’s context in order to fulfill one of an OAIS-type repository’s mandatory responsibilities.  This is all discussed in Section 2.
  • An outline for administrative management of the repository and the OAIS functions is presented in Section 4.  This discusses working with the creators of the digital objects and the objectives behind the day-to-day mangement of the repository. The administrative role also oversees the general planning and governance of the repositories, and include policy and preservation decisions.
  • Actual preservation methods: Preservation processes such as digital migration and emulation are examined in Section 5.  Preservation Planning is obviously a central part of any repository’s role.
  • Archive and repository interoperability: concepts behind repository interoperability and federation are discussed and explained in Section 6.  Heavy cooperation between repositories to develop common local standards in order to make this a possibility.

By following the OAIS model and the mandatory responsibilities which it entails, a repository will gain recognition as an OAIS-type archive or repository.  It is beneficial for a repository to be recognized as such because it means that the well-documented archival standards of the OAIS model will have been applied to help ensure the effective long-term storage, retrieval, and preservation of digital documents.  Another benefit is that communication with similarly-purposed OAIS repositories will be easy and fluid.

OAIS in Action:

DSpace and Fedora are two repository software platforms that have included OAIS-compliance capabilities in their product.  This helps pave the road for any repository that is built using either of these open source systems to follow procedures from the OAIS model.

What I would love to find or collect is a list of actual digital archives and repositories that are following the OAIS model either by the book or in some variation.  If anyone has a suggestion, please post a comment!