Monumental Archives

In every aspect of our lives, we must curate our own collections. If two glasses break and you only had 4 to begin with, you have to decide if you are going to keep those to glasses and just get two new ones or if you’ll donate those two and just get a brand new set of four. This, effectively, means that if you choose the second option then there may be no proof that the first set of glasses were ever in your possession. The same is true of information, what we choose to archive and choose not to archive can irreversible change the way materials are viewed. Our class reading on post-custodial archiving mentions that the in the process of archiving materials that often not only are these materials taken from their communities but during this process materials may be curated in such a way as to silence or erase certain aspects of a people or history. Which has led me to thinking about the current conversation regarding confederate statues.

The conversation around there monuments are very tense and tend towards people being very much on one side or the other. So, with that in mind I am going to approach this from a curating a collection stand point as we consider it. According to one article, a vast number of these statues were only erected 50-70 years after the Civil War and the article claims many of these statues were erected to “glorify what became known as the “Lost Cause”” ( Gilbert, 38). From the there this article mentions that what should happen to this monuments is something that each community will have to decide for itself and while doing so these communities should consider if these monuments were made as a memorial to the war or if they were made as more of a political statement during the Civil Rights movement (Gilbert, 39). And, this is not to say that things like happen only with older monuments.

This situation also brings to mind, for me, the recent clash when a memorial was raised in California regarding the “comfort women” of World War II. This statue depicts three young girls holding hands on a pedestal and a well-known activist looking up at them and it meant to commemorate the women that were detained and raped during World War II (Hauser, 1). This statue now stands in San Francisco, where it is said it will remain, but it was met with harsh criticism from Japan’s Hirofumi Yoshimura, who even went so far as to cut the sister-city ties Osaka shared with San Francisco (Hauser, 1).  Yoshimura claims that it is an unfair representation as many of the women known as comfort women volunteered for that position, while the advocates of the statue maintain that the women were not there voluntarily and the statue is to remind us of the victims (Hauser, 1). Now, I do not know enough about this situation to make any great statements about who is right but, what I can say is if information had been curated differently, better, in more detail, or just in some other way perhaps these vastly different viewpoints of a point in history would not be quite so different.

The point I am trying to make in all this is as we begin curating collections, choosing what will stay and what will go, we need to think as wide and as worldly as possible.  Sadly, even in this digital age there is no way we can comprehensively store everything, especially in an accessible way. But, as the aged monuments and the newer memorial shows the importance of  having an as comprehensive history as possible is critical to understanding both the past and out modern world.

Works Cited

Alpert-Abrems, Hanna. “Post-custodial Archiving for Our Collective Good.”25 October 2018.

Hauser, Christine. “It is Not Coming Down: San Francisco Defends “Comfort Women” Statue as Japan Protest.” New York Times. 4 October 2018.


Kozlowski, James C. “Standing to Challenge Removal of Confederate Park Monuments.” Parks & Recreation, vol. 53, no. 5, May 2018, pp. 34–39. EBSCOhost,



Grants for Digital

One grant that has interested me is the Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation Grant. According to, Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation is committed to providing support that directly improves the lives of blind and visually-impaired individuals, helping them realize their full potential in society (Partners for Sight). The grant is available for programs working on both local and national level, the main area of focus for the grant in Maine to Washington, D.C., but the organization is known to award grants to other areas of the country. The grants are award to organizations for startup or improvement, but the one thing that each organization must prove to Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation is that they can attract funding from other business or organizations. The amount that is usually award to first-time grant recipients is between $5,000 to $25,000. Grant proposals are taken all throughout the year, but the decision of who will get the grant is made only three times a year at board meetings. One thing that the website points out is just because you submit a proposal does not mean that you would get to present your proposal at the broad meeting.

From my viewpoint, this grant for a digital library would focus on user experience. When a library offers digital services to patrons they must account for how all the patrons would be able to use that service, that includes patrons with disability challenges. This grant allows for digital library management to make sure that their library is user-friendly, by implementing certain tools that make their website accessible to all. According to, the average cost to make a small or medium-sized eCommerce store ADA accessible ranges between $27,000 and $50,000, depending on the size of the website (Cristancho). With the cost been high the government offers tax credits to any business that those make their site ADA accessible, this tax credit usually takes care of 50% of the cost, which makes Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation grant perfect to cover the rest of the cost.

While the digital library aspect is important, public libraries offer a lot of digital services to their patrons. These services are used by most patrons, but what about the patrons that need certain devices to be able to use such services. According to Center of Disease Control and Prevention, more than 3.4 million (3%) Americans aged 40 years and older are either legally blind (having visual acuity [VA] of 20/200 or worse or a visual field of fewer than 20 degrees) or are visually impaired (having VA of 20/40 or less) (Eye Diseases Prevalence Research Group, 2004). The Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics (2008) estimates that 17% of the age 65 and older population report “vision trouble.” Twenty-one million Americans report functional vision problems or eye conditions that may compromise vision (CDC ). The number of people in the United States shows that at one point or another public library play role in the lives of people with vision disabilities. The Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation Grant would work for a public by allowing for them to purchase assistive technology that they could offer to patrons so that the patron could take advantage of the digital services that the library offers. The assistive technology could range from portable braille keyboards to iPads. Even though the use of the grant is not for a digital library it is for digital services that feedback to digital libraries that are run by other organizations.



CDC . The Burden of Vision Loss. 25 September 2009. 3 December 2018.
Cristancho, Mike. How To Make Your Site ADA Compliant. 18 August 2017. 3 December 2018.
Partners for Sight. Grants. 2017. 3 December 2018.

Grant Funding for Libraries – Encouraging Innovation and Collaboration.

I have been responsible for fundraising at the Edmonton Public Library for the past nine years so I understand the importance grants have in supporting great work. It was only after reading Committing to Research: Librarians and Grantsmanship, (Arlitsch, 2013) that I realized how important grants have been to driving innovation in North America. Through his article, Dr. Arlitsch shows that “grants are the lifeblood of research in this country and they have supported the development of untold numbers of inventions and innovations” (Arlitsch, 2013). Given that federal grants provide 60% of the research funding in universities, this is no surprise (Arlitsch, 2013).

While there is no question that science and medical fields regularly apply for grant funding to further their research, libraries have been less inclined to pursue this support. Why? There are several potential reasons including the idea that libraries are less about research and more about service to other faculties and individuals, and that library staff are not skilled in research and therefore are not the best recipients of grant funding (Arlitsch, 2013). Through his own personal example, Arlitsch shows the fallacy of this case. Working on multi-discipline grants has many benefits including engaging different perspectives in important research, creating a team dynamic in the workplace and creating projects that would be impossible with only the perspectives of a single discipline. A successful example of this is AI lab at University of Rhode Island University (URI). By placing the lab in the library, the University hopes that “students majoring in different fields, from philosophy and ethics to computer science and biomedical engineering, will brainstorm about important social and ethical issues today and create cutting edge projects” (Massis, 2018). Similarly, the Edmonton Public Library in collaboration with inner city social service agencies, received $600,000 in provincial government funding to research the benefits of social workers working in public libraries. This collaborative effort was successful and resulted in three full-time social workers hired as permanent library staff.

While there are definitely many positive reasons libraries and librarians should explore grant funding as a way to fund research and experimentation, libraries should consider a few things. First, grants come with strings. Most funders require project proposals, detailed budgets and specific outcomes delivered at predetermined times. Libraries should consider if the efforts are worth the investment. Sometimes they are not. Second, funders may have interests and agendas they wish to fill. Libraries need to consider if the interests of the funder align with the interests of the library and if the funder expects to exert influence over a program or service the library will deliver. Even if it is subtle, funders may want the recipient to focus on a specific group, add a new service, research a specific area, purchase a new product and more. If it isn’t something the library would pursue without the available funding, they should seriously consider whether the interests of the funder should push them in that direction. Finally, organizations and individuals from all areas can be lured into chasing money. They may apply for available funding even if the work isn’t aligned with the values and interest of the organization or if pursuing this funding results in reducing services or work in another area. The Edmonton Public Library recently declined a $50,000 grant from a provincial government ministry because, after careful examination, the project itself was a low priority for us and the work required would be excessive. Not many organizations have the resolve to turn away that kind of funding.

Grants provide many opportunities for libraries to fund new projects and drive innovation. By approaching them with clear purpose and an understanding of the fit with libraries values, grants can be a great tool in the library funding and innovation toolkit.


Kenning Arlitsch (2013). Committing to Research: Librarians and Grantsmanship. Journal of Library Administration, 53:5-6, 369-379, DOI:10.1080/01930826.2013.876828

Massis, Bruce (2018). Artificial intelligence arrives in the library. Information and Learning Science, Vol.119 Issue: 7/8: 456-459.

Digital Library Sustainability

We probably have all come across projects on the web that were quite interesting. The project website declares that funding has been awarded and lays out the mission of the project. As you explore the pages of the website, blog posts discuss the project and its larger ramifications, a digital library is created and added to, and people flock to the page to submit well thought out commentary on the project. The project hums along with activity, until all of a sudden it doesn’t. Sometimes there is a note with a link to a continuation of the project somewhere else. Often it is just radio silence after a certain date. And you realize that what you were looking at was more a museum piece frozen in time than a dynamic space for content.

I found myself spending a lot of time reading the very thorough and valuable information in the JISC report on post-grant digital library sustainability (Maron and Loy, 2011). In their report, Maron and Loy quote another report that found “… that while most of the projects could still be accessed online…over two-thirds had either not been updated since their launch years earlier, or were characterised as having ‘no known URL or URL not available’.” This abandonment of websites depicts a troubling trend. It made me wonder if this is just the unfortunate cycle of many grant funded digital libraries.

Maron and Loy argue that “Content developed through the course of a grant may end up on a platform that is not well maintained or developed over time, where few are likely to find and use it. In a worst- case scenario, a project team disbands and the resource languishes, available to those who may know where to find it in the short term, but at risk in the long term.” (Maron and Loy, 2011). I found it troubling that Maron and Loy found that the term “sustainable” was considered and measured differently, even in the same institution on different projects. That highlights the need to have all stakeholders come to an agreement on the definition and metrics for sustainability at the beginning of a project.

It seems as though some grant-making organizations have been working to address these concerns as well, perhaps as a result of the ignominious end for some grant-based digital libraries. Many trainings for organizations interested in applying for grants help them think through these questions in very concrete, detailed ways. The IMLS suggests that inexperienced grantees either partner with or use as mentors more experienced organizations (IMLS, 2017). That makes sense, because an organization that has not only gone through the grant application process but also the implementation of the grant would be a great resource as far as lessons learned. I agree with the authors that mentoring future grant applicants should be a part of grant requirement, so that any organization that receives funding would be required to share their experiences. That would be a great way to strengthen the community and the projects. Maron and Loy’s report offers some concrete points such as considering if the organization has the resources to continue paying for software licenses after the grant ends, if there is a plan for replacing a broken server after a grant ends, and who will handle long-term technical support, especially in places that do not have dedicated tech staff (Maron and Loy, 2011).

The IMLS has published an essay arguing that digital infrastructure needs to mirror and embody the mission of libraries (Owens et al.,2018). This high-level framework complements the more concrete considerations in Maron and Loy’s report. Since the IMLS is responsible for many digital library grants, it makes sense that they would work through and lay out the thinking behind their investment strategies. This kind of information is crucial for planners and maintainers of digital libraries. Hopefully more reports and essays will help organizations think critically about the big picture and the details involved in the long-term sustainability of their hard work, and increase the chances that the work will be accessible for a long time after the grant ends.


Institute for Museum and Library Services (October 10, 2017). “Open Digital Preservation Training and Professional Development Opportunities”. Retrieved from


Maron, N, and Loy, M. June, 2011. “Funding for Sustainability: How Funders’ Practices Influence the Future of Digital Resources”. Ithaka S+R. Retrieved from

Owens, T., Sands, A., Reynolds, E., Neal, J., Mayeaux, S., and Marx, M. (March 9, 2018). “Digital Infrastructures that Embody Library Principles: The IMLS National Digital Platform as a Framework for Digital Library Tools and Services”. Retrieved from


Infinity and Beyond: The power of community participation and the future of digital preservation practices.

It’s just the beginning.

In the grand scheme of things, digital archivists are barely scraping the surface when it comes to the wide range of possibilities available to them when it comes to digital preservation. Ease of access and capability is one thing, but really digging in an discovering the breadth and scope of what technology can do to widen the potential of digital preservation is a relatively new concept – and some are beginning to discover this in exciting ways.

Becerra-Licha’s article, Participatory and Post-Custodial Archives as Community Practice delves into this new realm, pointing out the potential – and pitfalls – that discovering new ways of archiving digital content inevitably create:

 From questioning the presumed neutrality of the terms used to describe and categorize archival collections for access, to calling attention to the conspicuous absence of people of color in both the archival record and the profession, and even to pushing back on the reductive notion that archives and archivists are passive, reactive, and static, it is clear that archives are at a crossroads as such arguments increasingly gain traction in the mainstream of the profession (Becerra-Licha, 2017).

From Preservation to Progress

Becerra-Licha highlights a crucial exploration in digital preservation at this “crossroads”: that communal efforts and collaboration on digital archives can, in fact, help marginalized groups that have been further marginalized by current digital preservation standards.  In Bergis Jules’ lecture, Confronting our Failure of Care around the Legacies of Marginalized People in Archives, the marginalized of these groups is touted as being directly in confrontation with the fact that the communities – or, more like, individuals – involved in cultural preservation effectively silence the unique voices of these cultures.

….who gets represented is closely tied to who writes the software, who builds the tools, who produces the technical standards, and who provides the funding or other resources for that work (Jules, 2016).

Community preservation techniques would combat this issue, allowing marginalized voices to take back their place and, with others, work to contribute and color these complex, enriching histories.

Leaning into the Communal Future

Then comes the challenge of actually taking strides to BUILD these communities. Kate Theimer suggests that in order for these communities to feel the desire to take part, the goal of digital archives needs to be reworked. In the past, before the technological boom, Theimer espouses that the impetus of archivists was generally passive. Archives were created to incite and interest specific scholars with specific needs; if others – the general public – wanted access, they had to make an effort to find those collections.

Clumsy hand-drawn diagram of the "old" model
Theimer, 2014.


And while her second depiction – a sketch of what digital preservation now looks like in terms of communal knowledge and contribution – is disastrous looking (and hilarious) on the surface… it really rings true.

Theimer, 2014.

Yes, it’s a mess. But it’s NEW. It’s innovative. “Proving the relevance of archives today—not for a distant future—is needed” (Theimer, 2014). And today, the relevance of a community’s contribution to these resources further exhibits the fact that these collections are no longer just for scholars or historical preservation. It’s for the preservation of the community building them. Inside and out.

Putting New Precepts to Practice

Which digital collections are using a communal approach? I encourage you to take a look at the following websites and see just how communities are learning to work together – individuals with varieties of skillsets and backgrounds – to disseminate knowledge and preserve digital collections, each in their own, totally unique, ways.

  1. Documenting the Now. This project actually has a web app called “DocNow” that allows people to make real-time contributions to this database. The truly innovative aspect of this project is its use of social media documentation to preserve historical events – as they happen now. It is a highly proactive way of archiving, and intrinsically very communal.
  2. Archive-It.  This website is the worlds LARGEST public web archive. Archive-It works with over 400 different organizations and permits them to collect and archive any digitized information they deem influential and worth preserving.
  3. Metadata Games.  And something a little different. You really just need to go to this website to see how ridiculously innovative it truly is. This project is an open source crowdsourcing “game platform” that enables users to participate in labeling, tagging, describing, and preserving digital images and resources through interactive games. This revolutionary participatory technique is crafted quite simply: through html5, php, and javascript.



Becerra-Licha, S. 2017. Participatory and post-custodial archives as community practice. Retrieved from:

Jules, B, 2016. Confronting our failure of care around the legacies of marginalized people in archives. Medium. Retrieved from:

Theimer, K. 2014. The future of archives is participatory: archives as platform, or a new mission for archives. ArchivesNext.Com. Retrieved from:


IRs: Disruptors or the Disrupted


Apparently, we are “Rethinking” IRs already. By most accounts, IR have not fulfilled the promise they offered in the late 1990s and early 2000s. What started as a possible disruption to the vendor controlled scholarly publishing system, has become disrupted. IR’s are experiencing an “existential crisis (Poynder, 2016, p. 4)” and early advocates are disenchanted (Van de Velde, 2016; Tay, 2016; Poynder, 2016).

I spoke with Salwa Ismail, Department Head, Library Information Technology, Georgetown University Library about the issues surrounding Institutional Repositories (S. Ismail, personal communication, November 19, 2018). She participated in the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) Roundtable in 2017. I asked her first about the technical issues that might be making IRs less promising than they appeared to be at first. Technical issues like a “mishmash of formats” and “outdated formats” (Van de Velde, 2016) means they lack interoperability and can be less desirable than commercially run systems (Tay, 2016). Is this why, according to Lynch, “most IRs remain half empty (Poynder, 2016, p. 3).” For Ismail, the technical issues, though real, are not the main limitation. Lynch (in Poynder, p. 14) agrees; “a lot of the problem here isn’t technical.”

For Ismail, the main issue in the US is a lack of open access culture. She notices that European faculty come to the library and ask where and how to deposit their research output/papers but that after a few months, they fall in with the US culture and stop asking. Compliance is high in Europe, it is tied to evaluations and is enforced (CNI, 2017, p. 5). Van de Velde notes the lack of a culture that supports IRs. There is, he says, a “lack of enthusiasm, there is no grassroots support. Scholars submit papers to an IR because they have to, not because they want to (Van de Velde, 2016).” CNI found that “without continual marketing, it is hard to sustain faculty interest in depositing their materials in the repository (p. 80.” Ismail pointed to the requirements of the publishing industry (embargoes, publisher mandates) as a cause of the lack of an open access culture in the US. Publisher policies often mean that even when papers are added to an IR, they remain locked behind the logins and paywalls of universities (Poynder, 2016, p. 3).

So if IRs are not disrupting scholarly publishing, what is happening with IRs? Many argue that it is time to rethink the IR; to disrupt the path and forge a new direction. “It’s definitely time for a re-think about the real prospects and best approaches and roles (Lynch in Poynder, 2016, p. 13).  And rethinking the purpose is what is happening with IRs. “Libraries are still debating whether a repository should be focused on discovery, access, and/or preservation (CNI, 2017, p. 7).” Lynch says we have “conflated the needs and purposes of IRs (Poynder, 2016, p. 14). IRs don’t have a measure of success because they suffer from a “lack of clarity” about their purpose (CNI, 2017, p. 9). In fact, they have not been that successful. CNI found that librarians that worked with publishers to automate adding papers to the IR – that achieved a 2/3 rate of capture of faculty output (CNI, 2017, p. 9). I think that is still a disappointing number! But it shows that one new direction is collaboration with vendors and institutional partners. Another is helping to meet institutional goals (CNI, 2016, p. 8). Another new focus is capturing student created content (CNI, 2017, p. 9; S. Ismail, personal communication, 2018).

There is, Ismail concludes, nothing else that “captures the scholarly and intellectual output of a university – that makes them important.” We are putting, she says, a great deal of trust in vendors and the government to continue to make scholarly output available. Universities must stand up and take action to capture the output (S. Ismail, personal communication, 2018).


Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) (May 2017). Rethinking institutional repository strategies. Report of a CNI Executive Roundtable Held April 2 & 3, 2017. Retrieved from

Poynder, R. (2016, September, 22) Q&A with CNI’s Clifford Lynch: Time to re-think the institutional repository?

Tay, A. (2016, August 11). Are institutional repositories a dead end? [blog post]. Retrieved from

Van de Velde, E. F. (2016, July 24). Let IR RIP [blog post]. Retrieved from


The Future of Digital Preservation

Digital preservation is a thorny problem–how do you preserve items that are born digital, and how do you guarantee that those items will be accessible in the distant future, when people are trying to access…say, an old song, formatted as an MP3, on their holo-gadget, or whatever people are using 20, 30, 50 years from now?

What, you don’t have a holophone? C’mon. It’s 3018, join us in the future, won’t you? 

It seems like an obvious enough problem: floppy disks used to be all the rage, but now how many of us actually have a computer with a floppy drive? Same with tapes and CDs–granted, people still have CDs, but more and more people just have songs on a digital library. And the information that was on floppy disks? Saved to hard drives, or uploaded to the Cloud.

The problem isn’t that people are unaware of the need for digital preservation, the problem is that it’s hard to get people to understand just how vitally important digital preservation is. David Anderson, in a paper titled “The Digital Dark Age” talked about just that problem. As he said:

“I have attended a number of conferences where participants debated whether the best approach to getting preservation taken seriously was to deploy somewhat apocalyptic tales of the dangers of losing large slices of our cultural heritage as a result of inattention to preservation, or to encourage better digital custodianship by more positive means. It probably needs a little of both, but the uncomfortable truth is the messenger is often more important than the message, and whether the approach is to scare the world at large into taking preservation seriously, or to provide less dramatic encouragement, the messenger needs to be able to cut through the noise and be heard (Anderson, pgs. 20-21).”

Anderson has a very valid point–we can talk all we want about how important and vital it is to preserve this song, or this e-book, or this digital file, but until we get someone important, someone with power, to listen, it won’t do any good.

Okay, so say you get Mr. Moneybags to listen, and to help fund your quest–how do you go about ensuring your item will be accessible in the far future?

He has reluctantly agreed to fund you instead of charging 400 gems to lower a bridge

The simple answer is to say that you just upload everything to the cloud, and Mr. Moneybags helps ensure that you have enough cloud storage for your digital museum or library or whatever you’re trying to preserve. But, as Lena Roland and David Bawden ask, “what happens to your family’s photo collection if it’s held in the cloud and your password goes to the grave with you (Roland, pg. 224)?” Same issue with a functioning museum or any place that is working to digitally preserve items–how do you ensure access after you die, while also guaranteeing the safety of your digital items? You can’t password protect your archives and share your password with just anyone; that makes the password completely redundant.

The cloud, then, is only good as a short-term solution to a very pressing problem. It’s not easy, finding a solution that works. The web is constantly being updated, and programs like Wayback Machine, can only capture so much information. There’s also the problem of too much information: “Just as in the past, not everything can, or should be preserved. And, just as in the past, there must be careful purposive selection, while allowing for some more speculative element (Roland, pg. 226).”

Digital preservation isn’t easy, not by any means. People have to listen, to recognize how important it is, and we also have to find a method that works. It’ll take time, and a lot of effort, but it is essential if we want to avoid a digital dark age, where people in the future are unable to know what happened, and unable to access the information we saved.


Anderson, D. (2015). The Digital Dark Age. Communications of the ACM58(12), 20–23.

Moneybags. (2018). Villains Wiki. Retrieved 1 December 2018, from

Top 5 Futuristic Technology & Inventions ▶ This Will Change Our Future # 1. (2018). YouTube. Retrieved 1 December 2018, from

Roland, L., & Bawden, D. (2012). The Future of History: Investigating the Preservation of Information in the Digital Age. Library & Information History28(3), 220–236.