Libraries, archives and museums today all have the common responsibility of managing digital information. Whether its born or reborn digital stuff, seeing it through its life cycle involves capturing, naming, describing, nurturing, keeping it alive, letting it speak, and ultimately letting it die or depositing it into cryonics.
Preserving digital data means ensuring the proper cryonic conditions are ideal for a long-term stay in the final resting place. Ten years ago, a group of really smart people realized that this particular piece of the digital problem would likely be the most difficult one. Preserving Digital Information, the landmark study published by the Task Force on Archiving of Digital Information, co-sponsored by RLG and the Commission on Preservation and Access (now Council on Library and Information Resources) issued a set of nine recommendations that have shaped our preservation agenda and informed numerous digital preservation projects.
In 1996, Recommendation number 7 proved to be one of the most controversial and difficult to tackle. It reads: “Institute a dialogue among the appropriate organizations and individuals on the standards, criteria and mechanisms needed to certify repositories of digital information as archives.” At the time there were only a few repositories that were actually storing digital content and the thought that there could possibly be a way to “certify” them seemed impossible.
RLG, never an organization to shy away from the hard problems, 5 years ago began discussing with OCLC ways the two organizations could cooperate to create infrastructures for digital archiving. RLG took the lead in work to define and gain consensus on the characteristics of a sustainable digital archives.
A group of jointly appointed international experts participated in the effort, which produced the May 2002 report, Trusted Digital Repositories: Attributes and Responsibilities. Building on that work, RLG found an appropriate partner in NARA, to tackle the next step to create the certification process.
Just last month, the RLG-NARA Task Force on Digital Repository Certification, released a draft of An Audit Checklist for the Certification of Trusted Digital Repositories. This document is currently available for public comment and seeks community wide review. Please pay attention and help make this work the best it can be.
The checklist is also being put through its paces in a new project sponsored by Center for Research Libraries, and managed by RLG program officer, Robin Dale, to test audit three large international digital repositories. The results of these combined efforts should solve many of the issues identified in that pesky recommendation number 7.
I’m proud of our pond.