Final Thoughts on the ANADP II conference: lessons learned

So, I’ve done my writing up of my notes from the ANADP II conference over on the Digital POWRR project blog.

I wanted to share some of my thoughts about themes and notions that I, personally, took away from the conference, particularly as a participant representing a project about smaller or less-well-resourced libraries, among a conference full of people working on projects at national or international scale.

In no particular order:

  • The national and international projects are very, very worried about smaller/ less-well-resourced  cultural memory institutions and the materials that they hold. We are not alone, but there is definitely a ways to go.  We have a gap that needs filling, to get us to the point where we can work with them to make sure our materials are preserved.
  • Much of the gap is one of education and advocacy, not technology. Generally, we as a field know how to do digital preservation: there’s a plethora of standards and practices and policies and tools. The issue is much more about advocating to begin, and sustain those practices. Along with analysis paralysis when confronted with said plethora. Too many choices tends to lead to making none.
  • Education of everyone who needs to be involved in the digital preservation process is key, from IT, to administrators, to practitioners, to lawmakers, to content creators, to funding agencies.
  • No one feels as though they have quite enough resources, although the institutions with national mandates and matching funding get the closest. We all know this is an iceberg, and we are so far managing about the tip of it. But that is still preferable to not attempting at all.
  • We’ve been studying cost for quite some time, and haven’t necessarily come up with the best answer as to What Digital Preservation Really Costs and Why Does It Cost So Much? We also need to study and document What Not Doing Digital Preservation Will Cost, because we’re pretty sure those costs are higher.
  • We can (and should) still figure out ballparks for equipment, software, education, and staff time that will allow us to get started anyway.
  • Paying for digital preservation work really, really needs to move away from a grant-funded, project-based model towards one where DP is a designated portion of permanent staff time and duties.
  • The most expensive part of DP (so far) is startup costs, which hit smaller institutions particularly hard.
  • We need to be better about introducing cultural heritage, common good, and risk management into our narrative about digital preservation. This is not just about protecting our own institutional assets (although it definitely *is*), but about documenting our cultural narratives so that they will still exist for our descendants.
  • Digital preservation is a team effort, even at single institutions. It cannot (and must not) be one person’s job. It’s everyone‘ s job, and is no less core to our services than collection development or reference work or cataloging/metadata. In fact, DP protects those aspects, as an inability to access or make use of our digital collections via metadata will wreak havoc with both collection development and information delivery.
  • We need to expand our notion of information literacy from “how to function in a library setting by searching databases” to “how to manage our digital lives, both personal and institutional.”
  • We also need to expand our conversation to include allied fields (like vendors) and areas (like legislators) that have begun having these conversations without talking to cultural memory organizations.
  • Interdependency is still a major challenge for institutions.
  • The best institutional partnerships often come out of strong interpersonal professional relationships. Being there, particularly in person, really does matter.
  • Deadlines, clear outlines of what needs to be done, and shared goals (that still solve individual/institutional problems as well) lead to the most successful outcomes.

These are some of the things I learned.

One of the other things I want to mention is the format of the conference, which began with themed talks and panels, and then moved to action sessions. The neat thing about it is that the action sessions included decision makers who could approach problems directly and put resources towards them, so that “we need a registry that does [x]” can be followed by “I can dedicate 20% of one of my programmers’ time to creating it.”

And that, I think, was truly revolutionary. I would love to see us do more events this way.

 

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About Lynne M. Thomas

Lynne M. Thomas is a five time Hugo Award winning editor and podcaster. In her day job, she is Head of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
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