One of the lessons learned by the Strategic Digital Initiative Working Group (SDIWG) last week is that it takes two posts to present a new policy document.  In this post, I will introduce the OSUL Digital Preservation Policy Framework which has been reviewed by the Executive committee and forwarded to the Strategic Digital Initiative Working Group (SDIWG) for incorporation into their work.  The framework was developed by a task force on Digital Preservation in conversation with many of you.  Members of the task force were Peter Dietz, Dan Noonan and me.

The framework document addresses a number of challenges including rapid growth and change in technology, sustainability, and need for expertise. The focus of this post will be the Purpose and Scope, and the Principles portions of the document.  For the presentation to Admin Plus, SDIWG members led discussions of case-studies illustrating issues facing the Libraries.  The discussion questions we used are included in the hope that they will stimulate further discussion in units across the Libraries.

Purpose and Scope

The Digital Preservation Policy Framework formalizes The Ohio State University Libraries’ (OSUL) continuing commitment to the long-term stewardship, preservation of and sustainable access to its digital assets. 

 The Policy addresses preservation of digital collections and resources for which OSUL is the primary custodian.

Digital curation takes a “whole life” approach to digital materials — selection, preservation, maintenance, management and archiving.  In alignment with the OSUL mission to create, acquire, organize, disseminate, and preserve scholarship, the policy framework makes explicit OSUL’s long-term commitment to stewardship of digital assets “to support research and anytime, anywhere learning”.  The scope of the policy is collections and resources for which OSUL is the primary custodian.  OSUL provides access to content owned and managed by others.  Such content is outside the scope of this policy.  The Libraries also provide access to digital resources through consortia and licensing agreements, but we cannot guarantee preservation for materials we do not manage.  These agreements of shared stewardship must be explicit regarding expectations of all parties involved and must include exit strategies for when conditions change.  Two recent examples of the need for exit strategies involve the collections in the Digital Resource Center (DRC) at OhioLINK and collections in Media Manager on campus.

Guiding Principles

  • The Libraries are committed to the long-term preservation of selected content.
  • Digital preservation is an integral part of OSUL’s processes.
  • Processes, policies, and the institutional commitment are transparently documented.
  • Levels of preservation and time commitments are determined by selectors, curators, in consultation with technical experts.
  • OSUL will participate in the development of digital preservation community standards, practice, and solutions.

OSUL will use consistent criteria for selection and preservation as for other resources in the libraries.  Materials selected for digital stewardship and preservation carry with them OSUL’s commitment to maintain the materials for as long as needed or desired.  In evaluating the analog content we offer to our users, some we try to keep “forever;” some we deem to be transitory.   Digital resources are no different; they are just one part of the Libraries’ collections.  In addition to this, the OSUL staff has a long tradition of problem solving and contributing our solutions to the larger community of information providers.  Likewise, we are committed to the development of standards and best practices for the preservation of digital materials.

How might these guiding principles affect your work?  Imagine that you are involved in bringing a guest speaker to the Libraries.  You think it would be great to make the presentation available on the Internet as a podcast.  Should the podcast be preserved in perpetuity?

In practice, decisions will often be made for categories of materials rather than for individual works.  For example do we want to capture and deliver podcasts of course lectures?  Do we want to preserve podcasts of a particular lecture series?  Do we want to preserve podcasts of conference proceedings?  If the answer to any of these is “yes,” the next question is for how long is the content needed?  A sustainable collection development policy will address categories of content; however, the questions for the category are similar to the questions for the individual item.  Here are some questions for you and others to consider:

  • What are the criteria for determining whether a podcast should be preserved?
  • For how long should the podcast be preserved?
  • Who should be involved in the decision?
  • What are the standards or best practices for preserving and/or presenting podcasts?
  • If best practices are lacking, is this a standard that OSUL wants to commit resources to develop?

Operating Principles

The Library will strive to:  

  • Develop a scalable, reliable, sustainable, and auditable digital preservation infrastructure.
  • Manage the hardware, software, and storage media components of the digital preservation function in accordance with environmental standards, quality control specifications, and security requirements.
  • Comply with the Open Archival Information  System (OAIS) and other appropriate digital preservation standards and practices.
  • Ensure that the digital archive is as interoperable as possible by utilizing open source options whenever feasible.
  • Ensure the integrity of the data.
  • Secure metadata (e.g.  administrative, descriptive, preservation, provenance, rights and technical) necessary for the use of the digital assets.
  • Comply with copyright, intellectual property rights and/or other legal rights related to copying, storage, modification and use of digital resources.

In a post last week, Terry Reese discussed the Guiding Principles for the Libraries Digital Initiatives Program.  The operating principles stated in the Digital Policy Framework closely align with that document in providing a direction for policy discussions related to the long-term management and dissemination of OSUL’s digital collections.  For example, let’s consider digital images:

  • Are we talking about the physical object only? What is the object or objects we need to preserve?  In the case of a reformatted image, do we need to preserve the photograph on paper?  A high resolution digital image?  Both?
  • Are multiple copies needed as insurance? In addition to a high resolution image, do we need to keep a lower resolution version or versions for web presentation?  The more versions we keep the more difficult it is track and manage them. Drawing from the experience of Goldilocks, what is “just right”?
  • What are the authentication needs to protect the integrity of the image?  If we’ve designated a high resolution image as our master, who has access to it?  What is a tolerable amount of risk to use the master to create presentation copies on the fly? What are the processes that need to be in place for monitoring and preserving the health of the master image?
  • Are different standards required for preservation and presentation?

Next week I will discuss the Categories of commitment, and Levels of preservation portions of the document.