Data Management and Curation in 21st Century Archives – Part 2

I attended the 79th Annual Meeting of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) last month in Cleveland, Ohio and was invited to participate on the Research Libraries Roundtable panel on Data Management and Curation in 21st Century Archives. Dan Noonan, e-Records/Digital Resources Archivist, moderated the discussion. Wendy Hagenmaier, Digital Collections Archivist, Georgia Tech Library and Sammie Morris, Director, Archives and Special Collections & University Archivist, Purdue University Libraries joined me on the panel. Between the three of us there was a nice variety of perspectives given our different experiences and interests.

I discussed my presentation in an earlier blog post – Part 1: Managing and Curating Data with Reuse in Mind. In this post I highlight key points from Wendy and Sammie’s presentations.  What made an impression on me was whether and how they and their colleagues came to value each other’s  complementary skill, experience, and expertise needed to manage and curate data.

Do you value complementarities?

Wendy discussed her collaboration with Lizzy Rolando, Research Data Librarian, Georgia Tech Library. She likened their experience to Susan and Sharon from Hayley Mills’ 1961 film The Parent Trap. Wendy described herself and Lizzy as “twins separated by silly professional silos”. Working together they found several areas of convergence and divergence around workflows, copyright, data integrity, security and reusability, and funding curation. Wrestling with their differences has changed Wendy’s thoughts about archival theory and practice. She has been inspired to place more emphasis on being a proactive partner during data creation; considering what a network-based, non-exclusive ownership model of archives might look like; identifying best practices for capturing dynamic cloud-based files and systems; ensuring born-digital collections are actually reusable; and creating pathways for products of reuse to be preserved and related back to the original record. Faniel_SAA2015_ResearchLibrariesRoundtablePanel_FINAL_DoyouvaluecomplementaritiesShe also is wondering how to leverage federal data sharing mandates to advocate for the resources required to build repositories and systems needed to provide access to born-digital archives.

Sammie discussed strategies to convince stakeholders that archivists should actively participate in data management and curation activities given their expertise in collecting, preserving, and providing access to unique collections. Like data, archival materials are under-described, often lack context, and are frequently complex, unpublished raw primary sources that present a plethora of management issues from privacy and intellectual property rights affecting access to preservation and security needs of one-of-a-kind materials. Archivists’ experiences with creating collecting policies, selecting and appraising unique collections for long-term value, negotiating privacy and copyright issues, and creating secure and trusted repositories can prove invaluable for data curation planning and decision making. A key strategy she used was articulating how archival theory and practice could be used to help institutions meet the ISO 16363 requirements for establishing trustworthy digital repositories.

I was not surprised about the amount of convincing Sammie had to do with campus stakeholders, because my research suggests the same thing when it comes to librarians. However, as an outsider looking in, I must admit I was surprised that librarians were included in the group of campus stakeholders that needed convincing. Although archivists and librarians have different areas of expertise, I thought they would have proactively joined forces to seize on the value of their complementarities. The work archivists and librarians could accomplish together, given their areas of expertise would seem to strengthen the argument that they have major roles in planning and implementing e-Research support on campus. Wendy’s presentation reinforced this thought, but her collaboration with Lizzy was expected as part of her job responsibilities.

It made me wonder how many archivist-librarian pairings exist on campuses engaged in e-Research support. If you are actively working together in an archivist-librarian pairing please comment or respond to this blog post. Tell us what sparked your collaboration. How has it changed your thinking about your professional practice? What have been your strategies for a successful collaboration? What value has it added? Are you finding that you’re stronger together?

Ixchel M. Faniel is a Research Scientist at OCLC. She is currently working on projects examining data reuse within academic communities to identify how contextual information about the data that supports reuse can best be created and preserved. She also examines librarians’ early experiences designing and delivering research data services with the objective of informing practical, effective approaches for the larger academic community.

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