Jackie Dooley, OCLC Research 2015-11-23 15:40:33
New Publication from OCLC Research We archivists know that our professional expertise is varied and complex, and those among us who manage born-digital archival materials recognize that our "traditional" skill set provides a strong foundation for our work. Our expertise is equally applicable in a variety of digital library contexts in which "unique," "unpublished" born-digital content(1) is being managed by librarians or technologists rather than under the purview of the archives. This is the thesis of The Archival Advantage: Integrating Archival Expertise into Management of Born-digital Library Materials (see http://www.oclc.org/research/publications/2015/oclcresearch-archival-advantage-2015.html), published by OCLC Research in July 2015. Many archives are administratively situated in libraries. In that context, the skills and expertise of archivists may not be well understood, perhaps in part because the relevance is limited in the context of traditional published bibliographic materials. But in the digital world, everything has changed, and new commonalities have emerged. Who Should Read this Publication? The primary audience for The Archival Advantage consists of the many specialists who play a role in libraries' digital initiatives, including: • managers who set the vision, direction, and budget; • information technology staff who manage digital repositories, hardware and software, websites, and security; • data curation experts; • digital preservationists; • metadata librarians; and • liaison librarians who have close relationships with researchers and other users. Some of these actors have expertise that overlaps with ours but are unaware of the implications of archival practice. Why is this the primary audience? These are the colleagues who may not yet realize the role we can play in adding value to their digital work. It will often fall to us to deliver the message, however, which makes archivists an essential secondary audience. This includes those who are not yet working with born-digital archival materials: you need not be conversant with digital archives concepts and practices to articulate the applicability of our skills and knowledge. It can be challenging to explain how archival concepts pertain in the broader library context, so the essay may be useful in several respects: • Consider drawing from the explanations of ten areas of archival expertise when talking with library colleagues involved in digital initiatives. The descriptions focus on archival practice in general, not the digital context specifically. • Each description is followed by sample questions that might arise in the course of acquiring or managing born-digital library content. Most of the questions, if stated differently, could be equally relevant in the analog context and so may provide food for thought in thinking through the applicability of our "analog" skills to digital circumstances. Some of the questions may sound simple to an archivist's ears, but the depth of knowledge that can come into play in answering them is profound. On the other hand, some may strike you as unanswerable based on your current understanding of things digital, but I'm willing to bet that you would know how to analyze the issues and contribute to determining the answer. • Three examples of born-digital materials that often are managed without the involvement of archivists—but that would benefit from our insights—help contextualize the core argument: websites, research data, and email. Ten Areas of Archival Expertise Here are the ten areas of archival expertise addressed in the paper:(2) Ownership Donor relations Intellectual property Appraisal Context of creation and use Authenticity Restrictions on access and use Transfer of ownership Permanence Collection-level metadata And here are a few of the sample questions for which archivists could help library colleagues arrive at the best answers: • What does "ownership" mean when it's so easy to make identical copies of digital files? • Are academic researchers the owners of the experimental data that they produce? • May the donor take a tax deduction for a digital donation? • What is the duration of copyright for an undated website? • What sort of contextual information is needed for a website? • Are the copies that we make for digital processing and preservation considered authentic? • May university officials restrict access to their digital correspondence? • How can we preserve content that was created using obsolete hardware, software, and file formats? Make Yourself a Player As we move forward, some archivists already are promoting their expertise working with unique materials of all types to assist their librarian colleagues. In the months since The Archival Advantage was published, for example, I've heard about several cases in which archivists are taking central roles in management of digital library materials. Research data management is a key area in which this is happening. Whether or not you have already dived into the archival born-digital pond, make yourself a player beyond the boundaries of your official responsibilities. Advocate for the digital library applicability of your impressive archival skill set. Notes (1) Both terms are too simplistic to be fully accurate, but they convey a clear meaning to non-archivist colleagues. (2) Archivists, of course, have expertise in areas that are absent from this list as well, such as records management and other types of life-cycle management.
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