April 7, 2011 -- The materials libraries and archives collect in the digital age have very different characteristics than the traditional books, journals, papers and manuscripts. Martha Anderson and Abigail Grotke explored the challenges and opportunities in collecting and preserving user-generated content from the web at the Computers and Libraries 2011 conference (external link) on March 23, 2011 in Washington, DC.
Anderson, director of program management for the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program, presented parallel examples of local newspapers that documented a particular area’s history with the hyper-local sites that cover everything from community sports to crime reporting. With many local newspapers ceasing publication, placed-based news sites are filling a need and exposing viewpoints not previously seen in traditional local newspapers. The variety of owners and distribution streams pose collection and selection challenges but the opportunity to preserve a multitude of voices for future researchers is a big payoff.
Grotke, team leader for the Library of Congress Web Archiving Program, showed some of the web archives of U. S. elections from 2000 – 2010. Usage of the web as an outreach mechanism by candidates grew substantially in that 10-year period. Websites from 2000 were like stand-alone brochures, in 2008 websites were just part of the picture. Candidates were connecting with voters through MySpace, LinkedIn, de.licio.us, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Facebook (among many other social media sites). Ninety-three percent of the current 111th Congress utilizes at least one social networking website. Keeping up with the rate of technical change is a challenge of archiving social media but the amount of documentation and dialog about political issues and views will help inform current and future public policy makers.
Anderson and Grotke have posted slides from their talks at the conference web site. http://www.infotoday.com/CIL2011/Presentations.asp (external link)