The Have and Have Nots

Did the headline for this NEDCC announcement make you break into a wry smile?

NORTHEAST DOCUMENT CONSERVATION CENTER STUDY REVEALS NEED FOR PLANNING TO SUSTAIN DIGITAL COLLECTIONS

I think everybody engaged in digital preservation has been trying to get everybody who is currently disengaged to grasp the idea that where there’s no plan, there won’t be a digital asset. And I guess this observation means that indeed, what this headline spells out is still news to a lot of people – but to those who have already signed on, it’s stating the painfully obvious.

The announcement goes on to say:

THE MAJOR CONCLUSION was that small and medium-sized institutions will need help from specialists in surveying the preservation needs of their growing digital collections. The group took significant first steps toward developing practical planning tools for assessing the preservation needs of digital collections and envisioning a national survey program.

(Find the complete announcement at Jill Hurst-Wahl’s digitization blog.)

I’ve mentioned before that I think we’re moving towards a very interesting situation where the preservation “haves” will partner up with the preservation “have nots.” Mutual benefit is assured: many smaller institutions won’t be able to build a trusted digital repository, and the larger institutions will have a vested interest in leveraging their investment. I’ll be curious to see what kinds of business models emerge from this collaboration – will there be cost-recovery charges, or agreements on the re-use of desirable contributed content by the repository owner?

I hope some of these questions will be answered on a panel I’ve organized for the upcoming Museum Computer Network (MCN) conference in Boston. The panel is on Friday Nov 2nd. My colleague Robin Dale will speak about the new RLG-NARA certification audit checklist and the CRL certification of digital archives project she directs; Patricia Cruse from the California Digital Library and Stephen Abrams from Harvard will give us some insight into how they see collaboration from the perspective of the preservation “haves.” If you’re interested, please also check out the rest of the MCN conference – the theme is digital preservation, and NEDCC (the circle closes) will hold a pre-conference workshop!

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