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July 2006 Meeting

"2010 is fast approaching."

So said Laura Campbell, associate librarian for Strategic Initiatives, as she opened the fourth meeting of the digital preservation partners, which are the eight consortia comprising 36 institutions that received awards in September 2004. Today, she told attendees, the network includes 67 partnerships under 28 agreements, and by the end of the year, more than 100 organizations will have joined the program to preserve America’s digital heritage.

In 2010, the Library’s National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) will report to Congress on the program and will make recommendations for sustaining the network well into the future.

"The most important parts of our meeting, held July 19-20 in Washington, "will be our discussions on the future of the network, she continued. "We need to have a plan for keeping the network going after 2010.

The overall goal of NDIIPP is to create a lasting network of partners that collect, preserve and make available a national collection of born-digital materials that, together, comprise the "universal collection of knowledge and creativity that the Library must "sustain and preserve for future generations in order to continue to fulfill its mission for the 21st century.

According to Campbell, included in this goal from now through 2010 will be to strengthen the technical architecture; collect additional content, with an emphasis on materials produced by the private sector; reach out to all the states to help them work cooperatively to develop strategies for the preservation of essential state-government information; and continue to fund research into cutting-edge digital preservation technologies.

"The options for management of the network after 2010 may take many different forms, she said. "There may be a central organization, apart from the Library of Congress, that takes responsibility, or perhaps a number of organizations distributed across the country will take the reins.

Campbell, who has led NDIIPP since 2000, when Congress mandated that the Library oversee a national digital preservation program, had good news for the more than 100 registered attendees assembled in the ballroom of the Capital Hilton: "I am happy to say that, because of you, we are making important connections with the types of potential partners that will ensure the continued sustainability of the preservation network. You are a community, and we could not have done it without you.

Mary Rasenberger, newly appointed director of NDIIPP, told the audience that the two days of meetings would "focus on the next set of investments. By "investments, Rasenberger was referring to the types of projects that the program would support through 2010. She echoed Campbell when she noted that "2010 is right around the corner.

NDIIPP will work "to connect the dots between the three umbrella areas of investments: selection and collection of content; construction of the technical architecture; and digital preservation research, she said.

On the international front, Rasenberger noted that the International Internet Preservation Consortium (external link), which the Library of Congress helped found, will consider expanding from its current membership of 10 other national libraries and the Internet Archive.

Martha Anderson, an NDIIPP program manager, said that projects to "develop the necessary tools and services for the network partners would soon receive funding, and that with this investment "we will act on the wisdom we have already gained from our current partners. It’s an embarrassment of riches.

Fellow manager William LeFurgy talked about NDIIPP’s plan to support preservation of state-government information. "All the states are struggling with how to preserve their digital information, and they share many common issues and a number of potential common solutions. The projects that receive funding will bring states together in various consortia to leverage those commonalities.

Elizabeth Dulabahn, senior adviser for integration management, spoke about the Preserving Creative America initiative, which is seeking private sector commercial content producers for admission to the stewardship network. "A lot of important people gave up their time to attend our kick-off meeting last April in Los Angeles, she said. "It was very encouraging to see more than 50 representatives of commercial concerns at this meeting in which the Library learned that this content sector has a keen interest in preserving its digital content.

She was also pleased to report that the Library has entered into a cooperative agreement that will ensure that high-interest foreign news broadcasts such as those from Al-Jazeerah and from Pakistan, Russia and the Philippines are archived and available for future research. The agreement is with SCOLA, a nonprofit educational corporation that receives and retransmits television programming of long-term research value from around the world in native languages. Under this cooperative agreement, a minimum of 3,750 hours of programming in digital form will be archived by SCOLA over a six-month period and made available to the Library of Congress and its researchers.

Last June, the Library announced that it had entered into a three-year cooperative agreement with Stanford University to provide approximately $700,000 in support of Stanford’s CLOCKSS (Controlled Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe) digital archive pilot and related technical projects.

Victoria Reich, director of the program, described CLOCKSS and its future. According to Reich, "The Web has changed the relationship between libraries and publishers. Libraries do not have custody of Web content. This situation, however, "puts our cultural and historical heritage at risk.

CLOCKSS, for Controlled Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe, is a nonprofit partnership of publishers and libraries that is developing a distributed, comprehensive archive that preserves and ensures access to digital scholarly content in case of catastrophe. It thus operates as a "dark archive that is accessed only when an event triggers long-term disruption of availability from the content owner.

"The idea and push for CLOCKSS came from publishers, not libraries, said Reich, because the dark archive provides a safety net for publishers should their content become irretrievable.

Select, geographically dispersed libraries maintain dedicated CLOCKSS computers that house online journal content from all participating publishers. The content retains the same "look and feel as its published form, "which is a large part of its value, said Reich.

As part of its partnership with the Library, CLOCKSS will plan and design projects that test architectural configurations and support the overall goals of NDIIPP.

Later that evening, guests attended a reception in the Library’s Great Hall, where Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, addressed the crowd.

"We owe him a great debt of gratitude for his unfailing support of the Library of Congress, including his sponsorship of the legislation that established NDIIPP, said Campbell in her introduction.

"Thank you for the opportunity to address the Library’s partners, said Stevens.

"In 2000, Dr. Billington came to me with an urgent request for funds to preserve materials in digital form. I worked with my colleagues to secure $100 million of your money, he said to the applause of the crowd.

Stevens demonstrated his depth of understanding of the need for digital preservation when he said, "Unfortunately, we know that a number of Web sites have disappeared. The importance of your work cannot be overstated.

"You are our best hope to ensure that future generations can have access to these materials. There are many challenges, but I remain confident … that this Library and its partners will succeed.

The following morning, on July 20, meeting attendees reconvened at the Capital Hilton to hear a presentation from Daniel Atkins, the recently appointed head of the newly created Office of Cyberinfrastructure (OCI) of the National Science Foundation. The OCI, according to its Web site, "coordinates and supports the acquisition, development and provision of state-of-the-art cyberinfrastructure resources, tools and services essential to the conduct of 21st century science and engineering research and education.

Like NDIIPP, OCI is also making "investments in the collection and preservation of digital data, but the OCI program is focusing on the hard sciences. Atkins said that the program will make investments in research and development; "provisioning of the cyberinfrastructure, which includes development of computational centers, data repositories, digital libraries, networking and application support; and "transformative applications to promote discovery and learning.

Atkins served as chair of NSF's Blue-Ribbon Advisory Panel on Cyberinfrastructure. In early 2003, the panel issued a highly influential report, Revolutionizing Science and Engineering Through Cyberinfrastructure.

Atkins’ remarks were followed by a presentation from Paul Courant, professor of economics at the University of Michigan. Courant is a member of the Commission on Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanities and Social Sciences of the American Council of Learned Societies. The ACLS includes organizations such as the American Historical Association, the American Psychological Association, the Modern Language Association and the American Academy of Religion.

The ACLS cyberinfrastructure initiative is akin to what the National Science Foundation is doing, but in the area of learned societies.

Courant spoke of the "two chunks of motivation for the ACLS: "Without the humanities [portion of the overall cyberinfrastructure], it would not be useful to all; and "lots of people in the humanities don’t know how to use technology to ensure the preservation of their digital information.

Courant, who has been advising NDIIPP partners on how to ensure the economic sustainability of their programs, emphasized that among the "many audiences who must be persuaded of the importance of digital preservation, "lifelong learners are the most important. If they don’t get it, we are not going to get the money from lawmakers and philanthropic organizations and individuals.

The goals of the ACLS cyberinfrastructure initiative are to make the repositories "sustainable, interoperative, collaborative and supportive of experimentation.

Courant said that the ACLS draft report on the subject is available in Our Cultural Commonwealth (external link) (PDF, 618KB). The final report is scheduled for release this fall.

Next, an independent consultant to NDIIPP and former director of special programs for the Council on Library and Information Resources, Abby Smith gave a preliminary look at the "environmental scan of the universe of digital information, which she is conducting with Peter Lyman of the Global Business Network. Her report will help guide NDIIPP on decisions regarding preservation-worthy digital information.

Smith noted that in addition to determining which digital content to preserve and how, the partners must also consider "What analog content needs to be digitized?

She noted that NDIIPP’s authorizing legislation requires that the Library of Congress "identify a national network of libraries and other organizations with responsibilities for collecting digital materials. "That is why you are here, she said. "You have a role in the development of the national collections.

The law also requires the development of "standards and a nationwide collection strategy to build a national repository. "‘Repository’ has now become plural, she noted, alluding to the fact that "the Library of Congress cannot do it alone.

Although "we think, rightfully, about building a ‘national collection,’ we know it is not possible because even a national network of partners cannot save all the digital information being produced. Still, the guiding principles for collection dictate that "more is better than less; democracy is better than autocracy; and communities of knowledge are better at selecting and collecting than policy committees.

She directly addressed the audience when she said that "people closest to the data know its value. You are examples of this. People closest to the data will also help assure its sustainability because "people who care about the data will collect and preserve it.

Among the purposes of the scan is to describe the universe of digital content. "There are new genres content, such as blogs and [social networking sites such as] MySpace. … "We must identify the value of the content we are collecting. This is not easily done, as there are as many definitions of value as there are types of people who value content.

She showed an image of the Grand Canyon, likening it to the "vast and beautiful information universe, but she warned that "we are on the precipice in terms of making the hard decisions on what has sufficient value to be saved among four content types: published information; unpublished information, such as business, government and personal records; the public Web; and the so-called "deep Web comprising data on the Web that is not accessible to all.

She asked for the audience’s help in making value determinations. "We want your input. We will be holding focus groups and you will be our prime source of information.

When Campbell closed the meeting she verbalized what many in the audience were feeling, that "something is changing. The spirit of cooperation among the partners "feels right. I now know that what we are doing is going to work.

She exhorted attendees to "tell the story of the importance of digital preservation" to assure our permanence.

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