National Agenda for Digital Stewardship

The National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA), a voluntary membership organization of leading government, academic, and private sector organizations with digital stewardship responsibilities who collaborate to “establish, maintain, and advance the capacity to preserve our nation’s digital resources for the benefit of present and future generations,” just released their 2014 National Agenda for Digital Stewardship.

In the Agenda, they recognize that “it has become increasingly difficult to adequately preserve valuable digital content because of a complex set of interrelated societal, technological, financial, and organizational pressures.”  Among the identified “pressures” are the usual suspects: lack of time, funding, staff, priorities, etc.  Here at the University of Maryland Libraries, we are just now formalizing our digital preservation policies and procedures, despite the fact that we have been creating and managing digital collections for close to a decade. We are not unusual.  Groups like the NDSA, who are actively communicating with each other, developing standards, and encouraging collaboration, are helping to demystify the complicated world of digital preservation and to make it seem an attainable goal.

The Agenda identifies four areas of digital content that they feel need special attention this year: electronic records, research data, web and social media, and moving image and recorded sound.  All of these content areas are first and foremost on our minds at the University of Maryland Libraries.  In the past year, we have joined forces with our colleagues in the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) to form a Born-Digital Working Group to develop policies and procedures for working with born-digital content, including electronic records.  In 2012, we purchased a FRED workstation.   We do not have everything figured out, not by a long shot, but the fact that we are taking incremental steps towards tackling this issue is important.  In 2012 we also hired a Research Data Librarian, who is in the process of working with a project team to develop a business case for research data services at the University of Maryland.  We have been archiving web content for several years using the Internet Archive’s Archive-It tool.  And in the past year, we have greatly increased our digitization of audio recordings, including creating a digitization lab for in-house work.

So we can pat ourselves on the back.  It is sometimes difficult to recognize and appreciate the work that we do when it seems like there is still so much left to be done. We need to develop better strategies for providing access to our digital content, for maintaining and preserving that content, and for planning into the future.  We are working on it.