Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Sense of Careful Archival Work

Here is an interesting post on a new book, How Professors Think, which shows how standards vary across academic disciplines. Regarding the discipline of history, the author reports:

in the opinion of a particularly distinguished early American historian, what is shared [among historians] is agreement on what constitutes good historical craftsmanship, a sense of “careful archival work.”

Plenty of Plenaries

Another conference, another hashtag. This conference had plenty of plenaries, beginning with University of Virginia President John Casteen on the value of primary materials and ending with Bodleian Librarian Sarah Thomas on getting out the good stuff.

Update: Selected presentations from the 2009 RBMS Preconference are available from the RBMS site, including my “Special Collections’ Golden Age.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Collecting Today

I’m traveling, which means that I get to read (or at least look at) USA Today. The graphical snapshot on today’s front page is about organizational styles: 33% of us are periodic purgers; 28% are filers; 22% are pilers; 18% are pack rats.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

More Personal Record Keeping

There is a cartoon in the June 8 & 15 issue of The New Yorker, which shows a man sitting alone in a living room and speaking into a phone. He says: “Just sitting here waiting for Facebook to go away.”

Incidentally, I have written my name in the book of social networking.

Monday, June 15, 2009

National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program Projects

From the introduction to the winter 2009 issue of Library Trends:

This special issue of Library Trends is comprised of sixteen articles that tell fascinating stories about the ground-breaking efforts of numerous partners within the Library of Congress National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP). … The topics treated in this issue include, more specifically:

  • new organizations and missions and new perspectives on sustainability;
  • preservation of specific types of content, including Web content, cultural heritage and special collections, ejournals, and geospatial information, and the format and metadata standards to support ingest, management, and migration of digital content;
  • interoperability, data transfer and storage, and the future of digital preservation systems (301f.).

Projects discussed include the Data Preservation Alliance for the Social Sciences, MetaArchive, Web Archives Workbench (which is informed by an archival approach, by dealing with items in aggregates), LOCKSS, Portico, and more.

Institutional Repositories

Institutional repositories (IRs) are the focus of recent issues of Library Trends and the Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

The articles in the Library Trends IR issue provide a range of perspectives on IRs, including:

the IR as infrastructure to support data curation and long-term preservation of digital materials produced on campus; the IR as one of a set of services to support scholarly communication and openness on campus; the IR as a tool for librarian subject liaisons to work more closely with their faculty and move closer to the research process; the IR as a collaborative activity between libraries, university archives, and campus IT organizations (“Introduction,” 96).

Some interesting points made throughout:

  • There is no clear consensus around what purpose IRs serve or what their role might be in the future (“Introduction,” 90, 96)
  • The boundaries between IRs and an institution’s repository (i.e., archives) aren’t clear (“Introduction,” 91; “Perceptions and Experiences of Staff in the Planning and Implementation of Institutional Repositories,” 177; “At the Watershed: Preparing for Research Data Management and Stewardship at the University of Minnesota Libraries,” 203)
  • “Preservation—a stated goal of many IRs—is often an afterthought” (“Introduction,” 92), but IRs have a key role to play in digital preservation (“Institutional Repositories in the UK,” 129; “Strategies for Institutional Repository Development,” 144; “Institutional Repositories and Research Data Curation in a Distributed Environment,” 195; “At the Watershed: Preparing for Research Data Management and Stewardship at the University of Minnesota Libraries,” 207; “Case Study in Data Curation at Johns Hopkins University,” 212; “The “Wealth of Networks” and Institutional Repositories: MIT, DSpace, and the Future of the Scholarly Commons,” 246; and especially “Leveraging Short-term Opportunities to Address Long-term Obligations: A Perspective on Institutional Repositories and Digital Preservation Programs,” 267ff.)
  • “Materials in institutional repositories do not fit into librarianship’s traditional quality and authority heuristics” (“Innkeeper at the Roach Motel,” 104f.)

A number of interesting points are made in the ASIST Bulletin IR issue as well, including:

  • The connection between self- and institutional archiving (see 13ff. [affirmative side])
  • The importance of both preservation and dissemination (see 15 [affirmative side])
  • The broad range of “scholarly” content that can be included in an IR (see 13ff., 18 [affirmative sides])

There is minimal discussion of the roles of archivists and archives (but see 17f. [negative side]).

For a view of the relationship between institutional repositories and institutions’ repositories, see Elizabeth Yakel et al., “Institutional Repositories and the Institutional Repository: College and University Archives and Special Collections in an Era of Change,” American Archivist 71 (2008): 323-49. From the conclusion:

Given the centrality of archival and special collections materials to IRs and the perceived importance of preservation to both IR developers and contributors, this may be a missed opportunity for archivists.

Nevertheless, “Institutional Repositories (IRs) are becoming an extension of the institutional repository (archives)” (348).