Nance McGovern 2017-05-03 13:15:49
In the last few months, there have been several stories about data rescue efforts to capture, preserve, and make available at-risk federal data. The urgency of these efforts surprised me because archivists have been accessioning, preserving, and making available federal data for many decades. One explanation for differing perceptions of what data are at risk is that the discovery systems of libraries, archives, data, and museums communities tend to be siloed. If the measure of preservation is immediate access, it is not surprising that an inability to easily find content, including data, that is managed in an active archival program would lead to the perception that content is at risk. The archival community is not alone in the concern that not all data being rescued are at risk and believes that collaboration across disciplines is essential. (For example, see “Stronger Together: The Case for Cross-Sector Collaboration in Identifying and Preserving At-Risk Data” https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.4816474.v1.) One lesson from examples like data rescue is that archival practices may not be visible to other information professionals, however transparent we intend our practices to be. It is true that some data may be at risk and that ongoing, easy access to federal data is an important objective to achieve—together. Current technologies are making this objective more and more possible, and collaborative approaches that leverage the cumulative strengths of archives, libraries, domain sciences, IT professionals, and others on our “dream team” will help us go further. So, how can we identify opportunities to collaborate with other professions on these shared areas of interest and responsibility? We can reach out to members of the archival community who are working in these specific areas to understand the issues and challenges and be better prepared to advocate for archival expertise. We can join, initiate, track, or share discussions on topics like data rescue in which archivists have had and should have a continuing role. We can work with interested communities to develop criteria and best practices for identifying and protecting at-risk content and ensuring designated repositories without duplicating existing programs. We can make use of resources that inform discussions with librarians, data scientists, and others. For example, Archives in Libraries: What Librarians and Archivists Need to Know to Work Together (SAA, 2015) is an invaluable book with thoughtful examples of commonalities and differences in perspectives and practices in these disciplines. As part of SAA’s effort to reach out to affiliated communities to raise awareness about archives and identify collaborative opportunities, watch http://www2.archivists.org/am2017 for a list of representatives of professional associations who have been invited to attend our Town hall at the 2017 Annual Meeting. Please come to Portland July 23–29 and join the discussion!
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