OCLC Research 2012: Born Digital

This is the third posting in a miniseries of blog postings, looking back on what we’ve done in the last year. More to come!

One of the findings from our 2010 survey of special collections and archives in the US and Canada was that dealing with “born-digital” materials is one of the most challenging issues facing special collections. This is nothing new, but we realized that it was time to move past the “deer in the headlights” phase we seem to be in and move towards practical solutions based on emerging practice.

This year, Ricky Erway teamed up with Jackie Dooley and a crackerjack team of experts to push forward on born-digital solutions. The result is our Demystifying Born Digital project area, and two reports: You’ve Got to Walk Before You Can Run: First Steps for Managing Born-Digital Content Received on Physical Media, and Swatting the Long Tail of Digital Media: A Call for Collaboration.

You’ve Got to Walk is a gem of a report, informed by the group of practitioners who advise the Demystifying project. Its simple advice is encouraging, and practical. When we took a big stack of copies to the Society of American Archivists meeting, they were snapped up. This paper inspired the Jump In initiative — SAA’s Manuscripts Repositories section put out a challenge for archivists to take the Jump In pledge and take some of those first steps outlined in the report. Results will be discussed at next year’s meeting in August. We are of course delighted that this report has inspired action and look forward to hearing about the outcomes.

Swatting the Long Tail is a call for action more than it is a report. It calls for collaboration on transferring digital content from unstable physical media, and challenges the community to come up with an ecology of service providers.

More reports are in the works, and we’re looking forward to seeing what other action our work encourages, as well as what inspiration we can take from the community.