Digital Preservation and Collaboration at the State Level

I have always found digital preservation to be a fascinating subject. I think it is because of my background in the fields of cataloging, historic preservation and IT troubleshooting. It may also be that I realize what a labor intensive activity creating digital files and metadata to accompany digital resources is, and what an incredible loss corruption or accidental deletion of data would be.

It is my personal observation that data preservation is often an afterthought of digital librarians. This is very hard to understand. The cost involved with metadata and digital files is very high. Why are we so passive about protecting them? Perhaps we are just too accustomed to paper books which, if stored in relatively stable climate conditions, will sit unharmed on a shelf for hundreds of years and still be retain their usefulness. I recently participated in an email exchange with Wendy Robertson, Institutional Repository & Metadata Librarian for The University of Iowa Libraries. I am currently serving on a state consortium task force that is looking to offer consortium level access to digital library software for our approximately 50 libraries. We are considering the repository platform Digital Commons by Bepress, and are concerned about what type of data preservation options would be available to our client libraries. Ms. Robertson was contacted as a user of Digital Commons. According to Ms. Robertson, Digital Commons requires an extra fee for preservation. Her files are all stored both in Digital Commons and on an Amazon server. Keeping the back-up set of data is of course an important start, but she remains concerned about the lack of “any kind of proper preservation with bit sums etc.” She hopes Amazon is helping to keep an eye on the data’s stability, but is unsure if this is part of the services they are receiving form them (W. Robertson, personal communication, November 9, 2018).

All this really got me thinking about what could help libraries like Robertson’s and our consortium members get a handle on the thorny issue of data preservation, and I began to wonder if the answer could be collaboration.

In late 2014, librarians from Montana State University, University of Montana, Montana Tech, and the Montana Historical Society identified a common need to develop digital preservation workflows at their respective institutions (Mannheimer and Cote, 2017, p. 4). After surveying the needs of each library, they determined requirements that would fulfill their institutional needs for data preservation these included bit-level integrity checks, geographic distribution of storage servers, the ability to access content and associated metadata (not a dark archive), system usability, ability to accommodate multiple administrators and multiple logins (p. 7). Based on this criteria they found four commercial preservation services that they thought would be worthy of investigating. They were Preservica, Rosetta, DuraCloud, and MetaArchive (p. 8). The group’s experience in collaboration not only led to cost savings, but serves as a model for institutions searching for help to resolve their preservation challenges in that members benefited from “shared knowledge and expertise gained during the partnership” (p. 1).

In 2003-2004 the Indiana State Library hosted a digital library summit. At this summit five goals were established by representatives from libraries around the state. These goals included the development of a statewide portal for access to participating institutions’ digital projects; providing educational opportunities to demonstrate best practices in digitization; offer a revenue for all cultural heritage institutions within state boundaries to participate; promote the use of said collections by educational institutions; and provide a digital preservation solution for existing and future digital collections (May, 2017, p. 223). The Indiana State Library created the Indiana Memory Project site which served as the statewide portal to create access to digital collections, but individual participating libraries remained responsible for storage and maintenance of their own digital files. Several years later the State Library awarded a Library Services Technology Act grant for the development of “a statewide, community based, collaborative approach to digital preservation” (p. 225). Member organizations split the cost of a collaborative membership in the MetaArchive Cooperative Preservation Network. The Indiana State Library functioned as the fiscal agent, and the Cunningham Memorial Library at Indiana State University served as the technical supervisor of the LOCKSS server.

Digitization Preservation at the collaborative level maybe a fairly new concept, but there are examples that can be followed. Commercial preservation organizations have been willing to work with collaborative groups made up of small and medium sized institutions. Perhaps most encouraging, these commercial organizations have been willing to make such relationships cost effective for such libraries. I think if libraries and cultural institutions are going to continue to ensure their relevance for the long-term future, it is time they start guaranteeing their resources will survive long term. It would be nice if a federal institution would contribute to meeting these challenges, but I don’t see this becoming a priority in the current political environment. The next best thing may be the at the state consortium level.

Davina Harrison


Mannheimer, S., & Cote, C. (2017). Cultivate, access, advocate, implement, and sustain: a five-point plan for successful digital preservation collaborations. Digital Library Perspectives, 33 (2), 1-20.

May, C.A. (2017). InDiPres: a statewide collaborative approach to digital preservation. Digital Library Perspectives, 33 (3), 221-230.


Introducing Academic Patrons to Image Resources on Your Website

Krystyna K. Matusaik tells us that while students and faculty see the academic library’s website as a valid source of textual information (books and articles), their go-to for visual resources remains the web.[1] Matusaik’s study demonstrated that although students and faculty alike perceived that library sources were associated with associated with quality and reliability, the web was perceived as a source of an infinite number of current visual resources (Matusaik 142). Why is this? The answer may lay in patron perceptions of ease of use and usefulness of digital libraries.

Matusaik’s study revealed that participants reported that they found the library website “difficult to navigate and insufficient in providing clues about the wealth of resources that it offers” (140). She concludes that student’s experience using the library website negatively impacted on their perceptions of ease of use for the library’s digital collection. They saw the library’s website a difficult to use and the web was associated with ease of use.  Matusaik stated that if users perceived the resource as difficult, “they may not even try to use it, despite its potentially useful content” (140). She concludes that this perception of difficulty of use related to the fact that the library’s website was composed of multiple parts, like the online catalog, article databases and digital collections, and that each section utilized a different user interface and had to be accessed separately. This element of complexity was perceived as a barrier to content.

So, what are Matusaik’s recommendations to battling the perception that the web is the premiere source for images? The author points out that academic libraries should be doing more to promote their digital collections. I’ve found that often Digital Collections are really hidden on Academic Library websites. The average user will not go hunting to the archives section for images, and fairly so probably does not know these collections exist. Furthermore, academic libraries need to recognize the fact that the library website is not a primary stop for students and faculty in their information quest. In order to compete with Google Images, Matusaik recommends that Academic Libraries develop strategies and digital tools that are visible in spaces where students are already searching and interacting with information. This would include search engines, Wikipedia, and social networking sites. She also asserts that Academic Libraries should increase their efforts in metadata harvesting and search engine optimization to uncover their collections for those searching the web especially through Google and other search engines. Furthermore, Matusaik advocates that libraries need to “provide more integrated and seamless resource discovery tools that allow users to search across multiple online components” (Matusaik 144).

Digital collections are still a fairly new phenomenon on Academic Library websites. Obviously, more work needs to be put into promoting them and making them easy to use. Centralized searching utilities like the University of Alabama’s SCOUT almost live up to patron’s expectations, but could still use some improvements. As digital collections are expensive resources in terms of the labor required creating and maintaining them, libraries cannot afford to have them underutilized due to patron perceptions of ease of use.

Davina Harrison

[1] Matusiak, Krystyna K. “Perceptions of Usability and Usefulness of Digital Libraries.”  International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing, 6.1-2, 2012, pp. 133-147. DOI: 10.3366/ijhac.2012.004. Accessed 26 October 2018.

What I learned about incorporating artifacts with questionable copyright ownership into digital collections over summer vacation

This summer I did a 100 hour internship with the library at the Missouri Historical Museum Library and Research Center in Saint Louis, Missouri. On my first day, I attended a Collections Department meeting where my supervisor brought up the question of what to do with acquisitions of digital files where the donor either did not have the right to sign over copyright to the materials, or did not want to sign over copyright to said materials. The responses around the conference table included everything from shrugs to assertions that the materials should be rejected. It seems my supervisor, the Head Librarian had been offered some blueprints of Downtown Saint Louis where a researcher had hand drawn the location of underground caves. The original creator and source of the blueprints were not identified, but the hand embellishment by one or more members of a married couple that had researched the caves in the 1970s. These drawings, and their accompanying research, were gifted to a fan of the couple who had done the original research on the caves, and the new owner wanted to share images of the artifact while maintaining custody of the originals. Since these caves are a popular area of interest to library patrons, the Head Librarian had arranged to have digital photographs made of the maps. A consensus could not be made on what the options were for sharing these images with library patrons, but the Head Librarian requested that someone create an intake flow chart for digital artifacts that could be used to determine what could be done as far as making these images available to the public or patrons. As no one seemed interested in accepting this challenge, she asked me if I would tackle it.

It seems that the Library and Research Center has a standard policy of making a good faith effort to track down ownership of copyright whenever possible before posting digital images to their online collection database. If they believe the work is classified as orphan works in terms of copyright (works that are likely still protected by copyright, but that have now identifiable copyright owner[i]) they either post the images and depend on a “take down” policy or they post an online finding aid and require individuals to come in to the Library and Research Center to view the items on site. The Missouri History Museum Library and Research Center does not have it’s take down policy posted on line but many other libraries do. For example, USC San Diego Library Digital Collection can be located at; NYU’s policy is at; and Boston University’s policy can be found at For the most part these policies open with the statement that the institution attempted to track down copyright holders of items before putting them online, but were unsuccessful in locating proper ownership. They request that the copyright owner provide their contact information, the exact URL where the item resides on the website, and sometimes proof of copyright.

In the case of the cave drawings, the library decided to play it safe, they are posting finding aids in their online digital collection database. Anybody who wants to explore the images will have to come into the Library and Research Center. With the help of the Head Librarian, I did get the flow chart completed. It appears below.

draft intake flow chart_draft2

Davina Harrison

[i] Lyon, Colleen. “Getting permission.” Copyright Crash Course. University of Texas Libraries. n.d. Web. 21 Sept. 2018.