Center creates archiving model

National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program

A New York-based technology research center has developed an approach and methodology designed to help state and territorial archivists and librarians preserve digital information.

Through an $800,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, the University at Albany’s Center for Technology in Government has developed a national capability assessment and planning model -- containing information about the governance structure, business model, architecture, and data standards -- to assist governments in identifying, capturing and archiving digital content critical to government operations.

As part of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program, the Library of Congress will distribute this toolkit during three workshops that will be held beginning in late April and through May for state and territorial government representatives. Library officials hope to collaborate with their state and territorial counterparts in devising long-term strategies, and receive feedback that can be used to help create a second version.

While there are legal mandates in place for preserving paper records, safeguarding digital information is new territory for many governments.

"There is really a wide range of capability across the states as far as digital preservation," said Brian Burke, the Center for Technology in Government's project manager. "But, for the most part, this is an area that they’re struggling with as digital content just continues blossom in various types of formats and as technology becomes obsolete. And they’re saying at this point there’s tons of information that's being lost or predicted to be lost."

In addition to funding and shortage of personnel, there are technological, legal, organizational, and policy problems associated with keeping digital records, Burke said. Only a few states, such as Washington, have good policies in place for digital preservation, Burke said, adding that digital content found on Web pages or Web-enabled databases presents a greater challenge. Governments need to identify a shared interest and responsibility across state agencies, Burke said.

The process for preserving such digital information is also unclear. State agencies tend to hold onto digital information much longer than paper records partly due to the fact that they have the storage capacity, Burke said. In these cases, libraries and archives don’t know what’s happening to it and don’t really have a relationship with such agencies on such matters.

"These age old legal mandates that address publications in paper don’t clearly identify how you deal with digital content," he added.

Collaboration and communication are the keys to developing a long-term policy within state and territorial governments and agencies, Burke said. In many organizations, no single agency is responsible for digital information preservation and integrating these strategies within enterprise architectures, which are usually handled by chief information officers.

"State libraries and state archives certainly are just really learning about who their state CIO is and how best interact with them," he said. "For the most part, these relationships don’t exist."

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