Policies: necessary and beneficial

The enormous growth of digital data will require memory organizations to develop a clear vision about their role in caretaking a fair piece of this data cake, with respect to their mission and goals. It is not enough to say for an organization that they will adhere to the ISO  14721 OAIS model. They need to translate this model into policies that are relevant for their specific organisation, their goals and mission, their specific collections. So a variety of policies will be developed, for example a collection policy to make the right selection and access policies to give their public (also defined in their policies) the opportunity to use these data.

In my opinion there are at least three reasons for developing preservation policies:

  1. Organizational sustainability
  2. Professionalize 3rd parties dialogue
  3. Better prepared for new developments

Organizational sustainability

Written policies becoming part of the institutional memory, will reduce the risk that change of staff or management  influences the approach to digital preservation in an organisation. In the next coming years in many organizations like libraries, the group of employees will change dramatically, due to an ageing population. Often these people were the first involved in digital preservation in an organisation. Transfer of knowledge is important, but not enough to achieve a sustainable preservation approach.

Professional 3rd parties dialogue

Organizations nowadays are deliberating whether they need to outsource certain tasks, as they lack the professionalism to perform these tasks themselves. Think of outsourcing storage, sometimes to the “cloud”, but also the outsourcing of digitization of collections, webharvesting or the creation of access tools. But despite this approach, you cannot outsource your responsibility. So it is important to have a clear idea about what the organizations want to achieve (policies!) and derive from that what to expect from these 3rd parties.

Digital Preservation Research developments

Since 2001 the European Commission supported with 94 million Euros research in digital preservation. Projects like Shaman, Planets, DL.org and SCAPE are some examples of projects where digital preservation policies played a role. One of the areas of research is related to the fact that the amount of digital material will force organizations to introduce automated ways of handling this material. For example, an automated ingest procedure or an automated migration action, including the quality control. This is only possible if there are clear policies, not only on a high level, but also on a very  detailed level. This is a goal for the SCAPE project.

Policies: not just paper work

To work well, organizational policies should be implemented into workflows and processes, to become part of the “organizational genes” and to be more then a paper work exercise. This ideal situation, however, will need some more work and research!

This blog is an abbreviated version of my presentation at the 2nd Liber preservation workshop in Florence on 6-7 May 2012 (see for the slides http://www.rinascimento-digitale.it/Liber2012_slide/Liber2012_Sierman.pdf)



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