deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Sustainability and Revenue Models for Online Academic Resources is a new report by Ithaka "sets forth a systematic understanding of the mechanisms for pursuing sustainability in not-for-profit projects". They say some very smart things, including "Assuming that grant funding will always be available is not likely to lead to a successful sustainability plan." and "Project leaders need to adopt a more comprehensive definition of ‘sustainability’.... It is incorrect to assume that, once the initial digitisation effort is finished and content is up on the web, the costs of maintaining a resource will drop to zero or nearly zero." (Emphasis mine.) They say some other things which I don't exactly disagree with but I think need to be carefully defined, such as "The value of a project is quantified by the benefits it creates for users", which needs to be carefully defined in an archives world where the value it creates for users might be "long term preservation of rarely accessed materials to benefit the global scholarly community". (At Open Repositories 2008, I heard a lot of conversation and presentations where people assumed that digital resources which weren't being heavily used had no value. As an archivist, I say them nay -- much of what we are preserving we are preserving for the future.)

But in any case, I read the report thinking "that's just what I've been saying". I'm thrilled that major reports are coming out discussing these issues.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
I've made a conscious choice not to try to become a Big Name Blogger in librarianship and archives. I've got too many strings to my bow already -- I am not a Bagthorpe! Unless maybe I am Jack. -- and it would be too much work to maintain that constant level of intelligent back-and-forth. Of course, there are negative side effects to not pushing my blog out there in the world. Sometimes I say something which I think is really important about sustainable digital preservation and I wish other people would contribute to the conversation so we can have some back and forth and develop the idea, and it doesn't happen.

Luckily, I'm not the only person talking about long-term economic sustainability. Brian Lavoie's "The Fifth Blackbird: Some Thoughts on Economically Sustainable Digital Preservation" is a good article I think everyone else in the field should read.

(Still, I'm going to be using my Operational Preservation Matrix for the next new project we start up here, and I'm going to keep track of how well it works to develop it further. Even if no one but me is interested, I think it's awesome.)
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
[Tagged as, among other things, otw, because even though I am dealing with these issues as a professional I think that The Organization for Transformative Works is very well-placed to be one of the few organizations prepared to confront operational preservation from the outset. After all, the OTW has to deal with one even more frightening aspect of operational preservation: it is an entirely volunteer-run organization which promises perpetual preservation. It takes a lot of planning and commitment to be prepared to follow through on a commitment like that. Luckily, the OTW has both.]

Introductory thoughts on Operational Preservation )

I would love to get comments from the community on this, because I truly believe that this could be a very useful model for organizations designing digitization projects. I know I'm going to prompt my institution to follow this matrix for all new digitization efforts.

Problem Statement: When an archivist deposits material in a digital archive, he or she often has assumptions that object is preserved in perpetuity, just as it would be worried a physical object. Depositors of digital material often have the same assumptions, as do institutional administrators. However, the assumptions of the software development and maintenance community do not assume permanence on the same scale in which archivists are accustomed to providing permanence. Moreover, administrators (and archivists) often have unrealistic assumptions about the labor and costs involved in daily operational maintenance to provide digital preservation, which are -- if not higher -- certainly different from the operational maintenance costs for providing physical preservation. Even worse, many digital preservation projects are funded by limited-duration soft money instead of out of an operational budget.

Or, in a nutshell, we need to remember that Digital preservation has an ongoing operational cost which cannot be provided within the archive.

Operational Preservation: To that end, I am proposing this matrix for new preservation and archival projects to see if they have thought of the requirements necessary for permanent preservation.

Anything calling itself a digital preservation project has to be prepared, in perpetuity, to provide all items down the left-hand column for all of the items in the top row. Funding is really a redundant item -- by "Labor", I mean funding for staff to provide all of the work involved, and "Physical facility" is really something which can be provided by funding -- but the fact that digital preservation requires ongoing operational money is too important to ignore. By "Bureaucratic support" I mean policies and procedures in place which support the operational business of preservation at an organizational level.

Operational Preservation Matrix
Labor Physical facility Bureaucratic support Funding
Existence of the datastream
in a file system or database
. . . .
Object access via handle/doi/uri . . . .
Maintenance, repair, and upgrade
of hardware (server, disk, etc.)
. . . .
Maintenance, patching, and upgrade
operating system
. . . .
(The following tasks are not as
essential, but still very important)
. . . .
Rolling forward file formats . . . .
Transferring data to more modern
repository and software tools when appropriate
. . . .
Modernizing user interface as appropriate . . . .

(Of course, traditional preservation of physical objects is also an ongoing operational cost. Physical objects require extensive physical facilities with narrow environmental limitations, they require re-housing and repair, they require maintenance and supervision. But these ongoing operational tasks can be performed by archivists with traditional skills. The technological operational tasks of a digital archive often can't be performed even by technologically-trained archivists, because the institution will have specific requirements about who is able to, say, maintain the network.)
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
All these papers will eventually be available in the Open Repositories 2008 conference repository. I'm linking to all of the placeholders; papers should be up soon.

This will be very limited liveblogging, because I'm typing in the conference and dictating betwen sessions, so I can't say much. Hopefully I'll get some good fodder for my upcoming sustainability post.


Repositories for Scientific Data, Peter Murray-Rust )

Session 1 – Web 2.0

Adding Discovery to Scholarly Search: Enhancing Institutional Repositories with OpenID and Connotea, Ian Mulvany, David Kane )

The margins of scholarship: repositories, Web 2.0 and scholarly practice, Richard Davis )

Rich Tags: Cross-Repository Browsing, Daniel Smith, Joe Lambert, mc schraefel )

Ow. I'm not doing this for the next session. I can blog at the breaks.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Okay, folks, I need your help. I am currently getting soaked in a brainstorm, and I'd like to get this idea down before I lose the details. But since this is a brainstorm, it might make no sense at all. Tell me if what I'm talking about is an incredibly stupid idea that will never work. Alternately, tell me if what I'm suggesting is ridiculously common, and everybody does it this way already, and how could I not have noticed?

The two-part problem:

1. As we investigate products for digital asset management in the library, it's extremely likely that no one product will solve all of our needs. We will perforce find ourselves with digital resources in a number of different products, and will need to design either a single front end, or we'll have to accept a certain amount of user confusion at not knowing which tool holds the resources they need.

2. It's entirely possible that a single asset might be simultaneously part of our institutional repository and yet necessary for our learning management software, or similarly dual-purposed. How do these assets get filed? In what product?

My idea: carefully design an institution-specific set of metadata fields for each purpose. One indicating institutional repository, for example, and another indicating learning management. Assign as many of these metadata fields as necessary to each asset, no matter what product the asset is stored in. Store the asset in a product which is best suited for that asset-type. Then, using some kind of harvesting (e.g. Z39.50, OAI), harvest the contents of the various products and repositories. Write an institution-specific search mechanism that knows how to search the harvested data for all, say, institutional repository items. Or for all items in the special collections.

This idea of course ellides several major problems: designing the metadata; building what is effectively a small-scale federated search tool; deciding the appropriate product for the appropriate kind of asset; submitting assets into a multitude of products, possibly by non-librarian users such as faculty members and students. But is there any meat to this idea?ed
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
As an aside, I'm really interested, as I look around the net, to see if other institutions have manged to have needs-driven digital asset management initiatives rather than tools-driven. The problem seems to be that all of these digital asset management projects (course materials, IR needs, exhibits, etc) occur all over an institution, and existing software projects have been organically slipping into other niches to fill needs. Need course materials stored? Let your course management monopoly package do it. Need to catalogue your e-journals, and then your local pre-prints? Let your OPAC software store them as well. There's exciting projects going on building more comprehensive and planned tools, but the needs are now, and users aren't just clamoring, they're using whatever they can find.

Are there potentially going to be products which will be good at storing IR text documents and websites and internal archival materials for preservation and display and multimedia objects for classroom and research use and and easy-to-use upload server for student work and whatever else comes up? Or should we resign ourselves that any good system will have to involve a number of technological solutions?

*reburies head in tool research*
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