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Digital Preservation

The Library of Congress > Digital Preservation > News Archive > June 2005 News Archive

Library, National Science Foundation Make Awards for Digital Preservation Research

Anyone who works on personal computers knows how quickly their technology becomes outdated. Fifteen years ago, the 5ΒΌ-inch floppy disk was the standard. Trying to find a computer today that can read those disks is a near impossibility.

The National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program faces this same issue, though on a far grander scale. In order for NDIIPP to be successful, it must keep pace with rapidly changing technology. There is no point in collecting and preserving important at-risk digital information and then allowing it to become "locked up" through inaccessibility.

Research into the long-term management of digital resources is key to avoiding technological obsolescence. With that in mind, the Library has joined with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to award 11 university teams a total of $3 million to conduct research into preserving very large bodies of digital data. These projects are expected to produce study results in one year.

"These awards are a critical part of our overall digital preservation strategy," said Laura E. Campbell, associate librarian for Strategic Initiatives. Campbell is leading NDIIPP for the Library of Congress.

The Library has a history of working with other institutions in formulating its digital strategies. A report in 2000, commissioned by the Librarian of Congress and undertaken by the National Research Council, made several recommendations, including that the Library work with other institutions in taking the lead in the preservation of digital materials. The report, LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress (external link), was a significant factor in the establishment of NDIIPP by the U.S. Congress.

The research projects will study topics such as automating methods to describe digital objects, preserving complex three-dimensional digital content and developing a digital preservation architecture that can "evolve gracefully" as technology changes.

Additional information is in the news release, which includes a list of the university teams and their projects.

New Working Group to Make Recommendations on Copyright Law Changes for Digital Age

On April 14-15, the newly formed Section 108 Working Group held its inaugural meeting at the Library. As the Library of Congress and other archival institutions receive more and more of their collections in digital formats, it has become increasingly clear that the current copyright law does not address the challenges of balancing the interests of rights holders with those of the public who need this information.

The goal of the group, named after the section of the U.S. Copyright Act that provides limited exceptions for libraries and archives, is to prepare findings and make recommendations to the Librarian of Congress by mid-2006 for possible alterations to the law that reflect current technologies. The U.S. Copyright Office will then hold public hearings before submitting recommendations to the U.S. Congress. This effort will seek to strike the appropriate balance between copyright holders and libraries and archives in a manner that best serves the public interest.

The group will next meet in June, and a Web site will be available with news of the group's progress. Availability of the new site will be announced in this newsletter. The May 13 news release provides details of the group, including its membership, mission and goals.

Digital Library Federation April Meeting

Several staff from the Office of Strategic Initiatives, the Library of Congress service unit that oversees NDIIPP, attended the Digital Library Federation (external link) meeting in San Diego on April 13-15. Nearly 40 institutions are either partners or "allies" in the DLF. The meeting gives the Library the chance to learn what other institutions in the United States as well as the British Library are doing in the field of digital preservation.

In addition to attending DLF meetings, Beth Dulabahn, senior adviser for integration management, met with representatives from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the California Digital Library. These institutions are among the formal NDIIPP partners announced Sept. 30, 2004. They discussed possible areas of collaboration between the two institutions as they carry out their projects as part of NDIIPP's digital preservation network of institutions with defined roles and responsibilities.

The University of Illinois and its partners are developing criteria for determining which digital materials to capture and preserve. These materials will include sound and video recordings, historical aerial photography, Web-based government publications from the partner states, and primary and secondary historical materials made available by the Perseus Project. The California Digital Library and its partners are developing Web archiving tools that will be used by libraries to capture, curate and preserve collections of Web-based government and political information. This literature is a critical element of our nation's heritage and is increasingly found exclusively online, putting it at greater risk of being lost. The collections will focus on local political activities and movements, such as the California gubernatorial recall election of 2003.

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