University Libraries Launches Gray Repo

Gray Digital Preservation Repository banner

I am pleased to announced that The Ohio State University Libraries has launched it’s most recent digital preservation repository, the Gray Digital Preservation Repository or Gray Repo!

The Gray Repo is a service that provides a path to preservation for born digital (or received as digital) content that has been accessioned, and is only intended to be minimally processed and/or is temporally restricted. As such, and in accordance with the University Libraries Distinctive Collections’ accessioning policies and procedures, it is the default digital preservation repository. Further, it provides a preservation environment for some legacy digitized preservation files. It is a “dim digital preservation archive” that provides no public access, and limited curatorial access to the University Libraries’ digital objects stored within. This is in contrast to a “light archive” which provides public access, or a “dark archive” which only allows custodial access. The Gray Repo allows for curatorial deposit and retrieval, but no direct patron access. It is much more akin to a physical archival storage facility, much like our Book Depository, where items are stored on shelves in a environmentally regulated and well managed manner, and appropriately described in conformance with accepted standards, while the public and unvetted personnel are not allowed to wander the stacks.

This has been about 2.5 years in the making from the original scheming of the project, to design, testing, re-design, testing, redesign, testing, etc. etc. etc. It has truly been a team effort with University Libraries’ personnel from our Application Development and Operations, Digital Initiatives, Infrastructure Support, Information Security, Distinctive Collections, Archival Technical Services, Metadata Initiatives, Publications and Repository Services and Copyright Services advising or assisting Digital Preservation in constructing the environment. I would also extend our gratitude to our colleagues in the digital preservation community who have provided advice and guidance along the way, especially those in the Big Ten Academic Alliance, NDSA (National Digital Stewardship Alliance), iPRES and Society of American Archivists communities.

Workflow documentation will be forthcoming, albeit redacted from a cybersecurity point-of-view. You can learn more about our project at

World Digital Preservation Day 2023

World Digital Preservation Day 2023 logo World Digital Preservation Day (#WDPD2023) is celebrated on the first Thursday in November every year. It is a time to spotlight successes in our digital preservation programs and communities, as well as draw attention to those things that are most at risk, such as the DPC’s The Global ‘Bit List’ of Endangered Digital Species. The theme for 2023 is Digital Preservation: A Concerted Effort. This is This is especially true at The Ohio State University’s University Libraries, where this year we saw digital preservation become more than a set of strategies and ethos led by one person; it became department. While over the past six years, as the digital preservation librarian, I have led or co-led efforts to conduct a digital preservation environmental scan, develop a web archiving program, move from policy to ethos, documenting and visualizing workflow and investigating project prioritization, nothing was yet programmatic. With the addition of a digital preservation specialist, Kevin Latta, this year, we have started to turn that corner from theory/policy/strategy to implementation of a program.

A foundational component of this program is the development of the Gray Digital Preservation Repository. The Gray Repo is service that provides a path to preservation for born digital content that has been accessioned by the University Libraries. Unlike our Digital Collections platform that serves as a “light archive” where patrons/researchers/users can interact with the digital objects (for the most part), the Gray Repo is a “dim archive” that allows for curatorial deposit and retrieval, but no direct patron access, essentially a virtual version of our Book Depository, where our special collections analog materials are managed and stored.  In addition to being the default depository for born digital accessions, there will be a handful of other use cases for digital preservation, such as preservation files for digitized legacy Knowledge Bank content and temporally restricted content.

After many fits and starts with testing tools for pre-ingest analysis and ingest, we are currently in the final stages of documenting workflow, and conducting curatorial workflow testing. Our colleagues in the University Archives are our key testers. The development of the Gray Repo has been a concerted effort with contributions from our fellow University Libraries’ IT units: Digital Initiatives,  Infrastructure, and Application Development and Operations; as well as input from our colleagues in Special Collections and Archives, Archival Technical Services, Metadata Initiatives, Publishing and Repository Services and Copyright units. Further, we received guidance and input from our colleagues in the Big Ten Academic Alliance and the NDSA.

With the imminent launch of the Gray Repo, the Digital Preservation Department will pivot to begin conducting bench-marking activities utilizing such tools as NDSA’s Levels of Digital Preservation and DPC’s Rapid Assessment Model (RAM). This won’t be just the “department of two” working in a vacuum, but a concerted effort that will engage many of our same colleagues identified above.

Happy World Digital Preservation Day!

Happy World Digital Preservation Day! graphic supplied by the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) – appears to be created by JLM

Reading w/Dan: “Digital preservation in libraries”

Cover image of Digital preservation in libraries: preparing for a sustainable futureSo it has been awhile since my last Reading w/Dan; I had not realized how long it had been. Between the fact I was tackling the book, Digital preservation in libraries: preparing for a sustainable future, attending conferences, going on a long-awaited vacation and well, regular everyday work, all of the sudden it is not the middle of summer, but almost Thanksgiving. In this edition, I will be discussing the aforementioned book edited by Jeremy Myntti and Jessalyn Zoom for ALA Editions in 2019.

Divided into six parts and eighteen chapters, Digital preservation in libraries addresses various digital preservation topics through analysis and case studies. It provides insight into:

  • the history of and theories for digital preservation
  • frameworks, strategies and systems for conducting digital preservation
  • case studies at individual institutions
  • case studies for the digital preservation of specific material types
  • collaborative efforts for digital preservation
  • copyright concerns for digital preservation

As with any compilation of essays, some stand out more than others, and I would like to spotlight the ones that resonated most with me. For anyone who feels they need a primer in digital preservation, I would suggest they read the two chapters of Part I that address the history and theory of digital preservation. Erin Baucom’s “A brief history of digital preservation” provides a brisk brief overview of the trajectory of digital preservation efforts, providing highlights of key current organizations and initiatives. Ironically, it includes mention of the DPN (Digital Preservation Network), which ceased to exist shortly before publication of the book. Where Baucom establishes a straightforward history of digital preservation efforts, Ross Spencer’s “Digital preservation as a thought experiment” provides an excellent approach to making the concepts of digital preservation accessible to all through various thought exercises.

In moving from theory to establishing frameworks and strategies, Christine Madsen and Megan Hurst provide some keen insight in “Digital preservation policy and strategy: where do I start?” Digital preservation efforts for an organization must be tailored to the local conditions and resources; as such I found the following two quotes from this essay particularly perceptive:

“The goal of this framework is not to provide hard-and-fast rules for making decisions about what to preserve, but instead to provide a heuristic foundation for structuring organizational thinking and for gaining a better understanding of how to embed digital preservation practices and mindset into an organization.”

“As with any other strategic endeavor, it is best to start with a basic plan that focuses first on understanding the context: 1. What does your organization want to accomplish? 2. What is the mission of your organization? 3. What are the goals of your organization? In other words, begin with a strategy, not with a policy.”

Typically, digital preservation needs to be a collaborative effort, certainly internally, and likely with external resources. At Ohio State, while the digital preservation efforts are spearheaded within the University Libraries IT unit, it is clearly a collaborative process that involves our special collections units, as well as those that provide preservation, digitization and metadata services. In addressing collaboration, Edith Halvarsson, et al, in “Could collaborative research between two major libraries help consolidate digital preservation and break the “project cycle”?” note the following:

“…the authors found that digital preservation policy was viewed in isolation from other policies.”

“At both institutions, policy is viewed as an end-goal in itself and it tends to become static, outdated, and not adequately communicated to staff. Rather, the staff often regard policy as inefficient, since they do not appreciate that policy requires a framework and institutional buy-in to become a working document.”

“…policies are active documents that require frameworks and well-accepted ownership across all levels of the organization.”

They speak to the notion that digital preservation is not a singular effort, but one that should be infused into the ethos of the entire organization. Further, they developed “…a skills audit toolkit [that] was designed and implemented in year one [of their project]. The framework lists over 100 digital preservation skills for executives, managers, and practitioners.” Such an audit is an important step in understanding what competencies an organization has and what they may need. To that end I would suggest reviewing the newly minted DPC Competency Audit Toolkit developed by the Digital Preservation Coalition.

Finally, I would like to draw attention to Chip German and Kara M. McClurken’s essay, “In medias res: an examination of work in progress at the Academic Preservation Trust (APTrust) consortium.” There were two passages that particularly piqued my interest. First, the authors note, “If every donor of relevant materials who gave money for processing/supplies also gave money to a digital-preservation storage endowment, we would move closer to funding those needs.” Too often, things digital because of their “invisible” nature of life in cyberspace, appear to need no resources, and can be magically preserved for free. We forget that we spend enormous sums on preserving our paper-based and analog items, constructing million-dollar storage facilities, for which we then have to provide utilities and maintenance on an ongoing basis. Further, these facilities have to be staffed for storage, retrieval and other assistance. We have to ask our organizations:

  • Why do we not approach digital preservation from a similar sustainable business model?
  • Why do we continue to fund the bulk of our positions that are solely analog, and not consider more flexible, hybrid positions?

Maybe the problem is the “D” word itself? “Digital” seems exotic, but I would suggest if more folks got some hands-on experience, they would find they would have an affinity for the work and could develop new skills. It is the second passage that I feel speaks to this need, “From our perspective, the biggest risk is not that we will choose unwisely when winnowing down candidates for preservation. It is that the human effort needed to select what is likely to be most important in the future will be overwhelmed by accumulating masses of unassessed digital materials.” As our collections grow, and increasingly become digital, we need to transition our workforce.

Digital preservation in libraries: preparing for a sustainable future, is a worthwhile read and can be approached as a whole-book read, or one can pick and choose the essays they may be interested in. However, I would reiterate the importance of, and strongly encourage folks to read, Part I regarding the history and theory of digital preservation.

Reading w/Dan: “Technical Debt”

"Toward a Conceptual Framework for Technical Debt in Archives" article coverIn my latest installment of Reading w/Dan, I’m following up on a suggestion from Carly Dearborn, our Ohio Public Policy Archivist, and have read “Toward a Conceptual Framework for Technical Debt in Archives” recently published in The American Archivist Spring/Summer 2022 issue. The article by Déirdre Joyce, Laurel McPhee, Rita Johnston, Julia Corrin and Rebecca Hirsch explores applying a framework based upon the concept of “technical debt” to inform decision-making in archives and libraries, in the management of their digital collections, objects and systems.

The concept of technical debt comes from the software development community, in which it describes the negative impact of compromises in the design and development of a software/system/platform—intentional or inadvertent—on efficiency and future administration, management and/or development. The authors suggest that the technical debt metaphor can be applied to archival and library practices, “In archives, the best purpose of a modified technical debt metaphor may be to develop a framework that helps archivists examine the strategies and work cultures driving decisions at their repositories and thereby prevent unmanageable technical debt from becoming an inevitable result of digital collections work.”

The concept is a mere 30-years old, first articulated in 1992. Even more importantly, it wasn’t until over a decade later that the software development community began considering it in the terms of a framework that can be used for strategy and decision-making. The authors describe this history before moving on to delve more deeply into how it can be applied as a conceptual framework for the archival/library community. In applying it to our profession, they note, “…while many other important foci exist in archives, such as community engagement, education, and public services, we limit the scope of this proposed framework to collections and digital asset management.”

Citing Nicolli Rios et al’s “A Tertiary Study on Technical Debt” they observe, “…planning deficiencies and unskillful project management as the most commonly cited causes of debt…other factors include a lack of knowledge or expertise among staff members, personality conflicts, weak documentation, and organizational issues such as resource allocation and business processes…” These are topics that I believe resonate with us in Ohio State’s University Libraries, especially as we continue our work around workflow process improvement and prioritized decision-making.

In moving from Fowler’s “Technical Debt Quadrant” to a “Technical Debt Quadrant modified for archives,” the authors eventually arrive at a “Model of the Conceptual Framework for Technical Dept in Archives.”

FIGURE 1. Fowler’s Technical Debt QuadrantFIGURE 2. Technical Debt Quadrant modified for archivesFIGURE 3. Model of the Conceptual Framework for Technical Debt in Archives

The authors present three case studies from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Carnegie Mellon University and Yale University that examine the impact of technical debt on their operations. The technical debt arose from various deliberate and inadvertent factors including lack of documentation to failure to adopt standards to inconsistency in metadata practices.

Three points the authors make in their conclusion particularly resonated with me that I believe can help inform our work in the University libraries:

  • “The UNC–Charlotte case study, for example, introduced us to the ubiquitous nature of documentation debt.”
  • “Likewise, looking at the Carnegie Mellon case through the technical debt framework reveals a deliberate effort to mitigate its own documentation debt—or, at the very least, make it more transparent.”
  • Finally the use case from Yale views how “…the framework emphasizes how declaring bankruptcy on debt-laden projects can release organizations from a perceived obligation to sustain the unsustainable…” something we need to consider as we continue to migrate content from our so-called Dark Archive.

This is an interesting article that can help frame our discussions around process improvement and decision-making. Further, conceptually, technical debt should be a factor in any of our organizational discussions concerning system development, implementation, use and management, and sunsetting.  I will leave you with two final quotes from their Conclusion:

  • “All this notwithstanding, we maintain that—when carefully applied—the framework helps prevent oversimplification of the technical debt metaphor, such as an assumption that “shortcuts now equal more work later.” After all, shortcuts can represent sound decision-making (think: “more product, less process”).”
  • “Moreover, inefficiencies or complexity in systems or processes are not necessarily bad; they are only problematic when staff and users are repeatedly slowed down by interacting or working around them. To that end, additional study that centers agency and the human role in technical debt management could potentially expand the framework in meaningful ways.”

Déirdre Joyce, Laurel McPhee, Rita Johnston, Julia Corrin, and Rebecca Hirsch “Toward a Conceptual Framework for Technical Debt in ArchivesThe American Archivist Vol. 85, No. 1, Spring/Summer 2022

Reading w/Dan: DPC’s “EDRMS Preservation Toolkit”

Cover of DPC's EDRMS ToolkitThe Digital Preservation Coalition or DPC ( is a membership organization, formed two decades ago and based in the UK, who’s vision is “…to secure our digital legacy.” To Achieve that vision, their mission is to, “…enable our members to deliver resilient long-term access to digital content and services, helping them to derive enduring value from digital assets and raising awareness of the strategic, cultural and technological challenges they face. We achieve our aims through advocacy, community engagement, workforce development, capacity-building, good practice and good governance.”

While based in the UK, the DPC has 33 full members and more than 100 associate members worldwide. The DPC makes a significant amount of its resources freely available, even to non-members. Their website has a particularly useful area, “Implement digital preservation” (, which includes among other tools the DPC’s Rapid Assessment Model (DPC RAM), Digital Preservation Policy Toolkit and the topic of this posting, the EDRMS Preservation Toolkit (

What is an EDRMS? It is an electronic document and records management system. They define a record keeping system “…as the manual or automated applications, policies and processes implemented to capture, organize, and categorize records. Record keeping systems support the management, access, retrieval, use, and disposition of records. They include both EDRMS [such as Hyland’s OnBase which Ohio State uses] and document-centric collaboration platforms such as SharePoint [Teams], Office365 [which is also used at Ohio State] and Google Drive.

This Toolkit is constructed in an accessible manner for records novices and experts alike. The DPC define a record, as per the ISO 15489-1:2016 standard, as having to have content, context and structure; that contextual and structural information may be included in descriptive, rights, technical and/or administrative metadata; and that to be trusted they need to be authentic, reliable, have integrity and be usable.

The Toolkit discusses the preservation challenges that record keeping presents, and provides an in-depth examination of the preservation process that address topics amongst other: “Understanding the problem” to “Gathering the right team” to “Assessing the risks” and “Selecting a preservation approach.” It further provides a detailed analysis of the potential metadata to be captured. Finally, it speculates about the future of records preservation and provides a plethora of additional resources.

The DPC notes that, “The advice within this resource is intended to be broad enough to be applicable to any type or size of organization…whether they are a national archive, a business archive or a local record office and whether they are responsible for preserving records from a wide range of external sources or their own internal record keeping system/s.” As such I recommend this as a must read for those that lead the records management efforts within an organization, and/or those responsible for collecting and preserving records. Further, I would strongly encourage all organization personnel to peruse this as a means of understanding the basics of records management and preservation.

Reading w/Dan: Media Preservation and Digitization Principles

Media Preservation and Digitization Principle ©2022 by Mike Casey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC-BY-SA 4.0)
Version 1.0 3/17/2022 URI:

Cover image of "Media Preservation and Digitization Principles"Overview

Mike Casey has assembled an audiovisual media preservation principles, policies and practices guide for Indiana University that can serve as a resource for other institutions regardless of size or type. He notes in the Introduction that, “The time period in which preservation action for media holdings is both possible and feasible is short…They are actively degrading, some catastrophically…subject to rapidly advancing obsolescence that results in the increasing scarcity of playback machines, parts, and expertise, among other issue [and] receive inadequate resources for the preservation tasks needed. This environment of degradation, obsolescence, and insufficient resources is deadly…To respond to the[se] issues…a set of general principles is needed to guide the development and implementation of preservation strategies and policies so that efficient, accurate, sustainable, and enduring work is supported.” He further suggests that principles are not enough to accomplish the task of preservation, “They must give rise to policies that determine actions to be taken in particular situations. Policies are enacted using specific practices. This gives us what we might call the three P’s of preservation planning and performance: principles, policies, and practices.” He splits the document into first or foundational principles,program-level guiding media preservation principles, and media digitization principles.

First Principles

The first principles set a foundational understanding for the ensuing principles and are derived from basic tenet of the archival profession.

  • First Principle A. Inherent Value: Time-based media content has inherent value as a primary information source for future uses.
  • First Principle B. Protecting value: Recordings that are considered valuable must be protected from loss.
  • First Principle C. Separation of Content from the Carrier: The content captured on a media recording via the recording process, not the carrier or the physical object itself, is the most valuable target for preservation

Program-Level Guiding Media Preservation Principles

Mr. Casey then sets out twelve guiding principles, arranged by title of the principle, which is followed by the statement of the principle and discussion of the principle. This may be followed by policies emerging from the principle, along with practices emerging from a policy and specific examples are identified. For my discussion, I am only including the “principles”.

  • Principle 1: Taking Action
    • “Active degradation and the rapidly advancing obsolescence of audio and video recordings require immediate, and ongoing, preservation action…Audio and video content may be lost if action is not taken now…Note that perfection may be virtually impossible to achieve…those engaged in preserving audio and video may not have the resources to collect and/or generate as much metadata as they would like. Again, this does not necessarily preclude undertaking solid preservation work…”
  • Principle 2: Long Time Horizon
    • “Media preservation requires a commitment to the long-term…long-term preservation is not a one-time endeavor, but an ongoing set of strategies actively applied throughout a preservation system over a very long period of time.”
  • Principle 3: Timeliness
    • “Media preservation requires timely intervention.”
  • Principle 4: Priority
    • “Media preservation actions are taken in order of priority…If the principle of timeliness suggests when an action (such as digitization) should take place with a group of recordings, then priority provides the criteria by which the specific time to take action is calculated…Assessment of value, combined with evaluation of condition and analysis of obsolescence”
  • Principle 5: Primacy of the Unique and Original
    • “Unique and/or original items receive highest priority.”
  • Principle 6: Digitize or Transfer Once
    • “Due to time and resource constraints, and the very large number of recordings in need of preservation, it is highly desirable to digitize analog recordings or transfer physical digital recordings to digital files just once.”
  • Principle 7: Accuracy, Faithful Reproduction, and Integrity
    • “The products of preservation work must be as accurate as possible, representing the source recordings faithfully and with the highest level of integrity.”
  • Principle 8: Standards and Best Practices
    • “Standards and best practices help media preservation programs ensure that preservation work is high quality, sustainable, interoperable, accurate, and consistent.
    • I personally prefer the notion of “good enough” practices, as best practices are subjective, nor necessarily codified or agreed upon. Especially with limited human and fiscal resources, we do what we can do , which can be good if not necessarily the best.
    • I particularly liked the inclusion of Policy 8.2, which states the requirement for “Written documentation of the choices made along with appropriate reasoning is provided when preservation decisions, services, workflows, and procedures deviate from, or do not make use of, standards and best practices.”
  • Principle 9: Preservation and Access
    • “Preservation and access are interdependent and equally important for media collections with value for future use.”
    • I would suggest this principle should actually be part of the First Principles, possibly even the number one principle. If there is no intent or ability to provide access, what is the point of preservation?
  • Principle 10: Knowledge and Expertise
    • “Successful media preservation requires knowledge and expertise from a range of disciplines.”
  • Principle 11: Efficiency
    • “Due to time and resource constraints, media preservation actions must be delivered as efficiently as possible.”
    • This principle is near and dear to my heart, in light of the work we have been doing at Ohio State in regards to documenting our workflows to gain a better understanding of what we do and how we do it, with the intent of improving and creating more efficient and transparent workflows.
  • Principle 12: Redundancy
    • “Managed multiple copies decrease the risk of loss by lessening the dependency on any single copy’

Media Digitization Principles

Mr. Casey finishes up with four additional principles that are more narrowly focused on the digitization of media.

  • Principle 13: Beneficial and Harmful Results
    • “Preservation is best served by weighing the potential benefits of an action against the risk of harm.”
  • Principle 14: Accuracy and Completeness
    • “Many future uses of digitized media recordings require that preservation master files and metadata documents represent source recordings as accurately and completely as possible.”
  • Principle 15: Arbitrary Judgment Calls
    • “Workflow components that rely upon personal opinion or interpretation represent potential weak links in the preservation chain and require mitigation and/or additional analysis and documentation.”
  • Principle 16: Trust
    • “The workflows and equipment used in media digitization operations engaged in preservation work, and the products of these operations, cannot be trusted by themselves to meet established specifications.”

Reading w/Dan: Aligning the Research Library to Organizational Strategy

Aligning the Research Library to Organizational Strategy by Danielle Cooper, Catharine Bond Hill & Roger C. Schonfeld for the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL), and Ithaka S+R © 2022 (

Cover image of "Aligning the Research Library to Organizational Strategy"


A colleague of mine recently shared with and encouraged the University Libraries’ IT leadership to read Aligning the Research Library to Organizational Strategy. This report authored this April by Danielle Cooper, Catharine Bond Hill & Roger C. Schonfeld for the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL), and Ithaka S+R, provides an examination of university senior leadership’s impressions their library’s alignment with institutional strategies. Through a mixture of interviews, focus groups and literature review, the authors identified four common strategic directions for research universities:

  • “The pursuit of growth, particularly in the STEM research enterprise
  • At public institutions, efforts to engage the state, both through its political system and its population;
  • Redressing relationships with the historically marginalized, with significant variation between Canadian and US institutions in terms of how this priority is framed; and
  • Defending the residential experience, which remains core to the educational strategy of most universities.”

The authors are careful to note that the results are based upon analysis of ARL and CARL institutions, acknowledges differences and dynamic between American and Canadian institutions, and that there are leadership perspectives both within and outside of individual institutions.

Expectations of the libraries and library leadership

The posits that there are three general perceptions or expectation of university libraries and library leaders:

  • “Some university leaders have comparatively modest expectations of the library…Many of them appear to be hoping that their library will maintain the status quo — continue to serve students and faculty more or less as it always has done…”
  • “Others feel that the library could offer substantially more value to their institution than it does and are discouraged by the pace of change…”
  • “Still others see their library as an innovative partner in the strategic directions of their institution. These leaders are able to cite tangible value that the library adds to the university, typically through new services of one type or another.”

For those libraries seen as a partner for strategic impact, the university leaders consulted indicated expectations for their library’s leadership. Some expectations that may be being met, while others aspirational, include:

  • “The most important characteristic sought by university leaders was for the library director to act not as the chief manager of the library but rather as a university leader with responsibility for the library.”
  • “A second characteristic sought by university leaders was for the library director to push the library beyond its traditional responsibilities to serve the current and emerging needs of the university”
  • “A final characteristic sought by university leaders was for the library director to take responsibility for resource stewardship… We heard several times that the library…was too meek in cutting costs for long-standing roles that have become decreasingly valued relative to the university’s needs, and as a result insufficiently redeploying personnel resources to address new priorities.”

The report further examines the organizational context for library leaders from both strategic and political perspectives:

  • “To be successful, library leaders must navigate within a multipolar university leadership context with the complexities of faculty governance.”
  • “Library leaders must seek to support the strategic agenda outlined by the president while also typically reporting to the provost.”
  • “Chief information officers are in some cases strong allies of the library, looking for opportunities to collaborate and respecting the areas of expertise that both bring. In other cases, CIOs see the library as a flailing legacy organization that needs dramatic reform, perhaps under their own leadership.”
  • “While senior research officers are rarely hostile to the library, few of them see meaningful contributions the library can make to their strategic objectives, and in some cases when libraries try to do so SROs express frustration that the library should “stay in its lane.”

A menu of possible strategic directions

Based upon the aforementioned “…common strategic directions and key trends in research practice and support, [they] proposed a menu of strategic directions from which research libraries may wish to choose:

  • An accelerated pivot to STEM
  • Double down on humanities and distinctive collections;
  • Focus on student needs and student success;
  • Redress relationships with historically marginalized groups;
  • Serve the needs of the political entity that funds or controls the institution; and/or
  • Make scientific communication fit for purpose”

These bullets are just the various “courses” available on the menu, to which they detail options for which an institution can identify with and/or select to engage.

Interesting insights

There are too many insights to quote here, and I encourage folks to read the report for oneself; however the following are a handful that particularly resonated with me:

  • “There was relatively little reflection on the possibility that technology may have important impacts on research labor by, among other things, enabling considerably more remote work.”
  • “Universities tend to be differentiated in terms of whether their STEM programs, and growth strategies, are more focused on the engineering or the biomedical fields, with some institutions being equally weighted in both”
  • “In a handful of cases, university leaders reflected on the position of the humanistic fields relative to the sciences, and several discussed the importance of humanistic scholarship. But the humanities fields were not framed as a plank in the institutional growth strategy”
  • “…universities must significantly reorient how they provide computer science education across their undergraduate, graduate, and professional offerings, as well as to their faculty and staff…”
  • “The need to broaden pedagogical approaches to computational thinking may present an opportunity for academic libraries and other campus support units, but only insofar as they can be successfully integrated into the core curriculum.”

Reading w/Dan: The Filing Cabinet

The Filing Cabinet: A Vertical History of Information by Craig Robertson © 2021 (

Cover of Craig Robinson's "The Filing Cabinet"

Cover of Craig Robinson’s “The Filing Cabinet: A Vertical History of Information”

It is a history of information management at the turn of and in the early twentieth century from the perspective of the introduction of the vertical filing cabinet.

I know, I know, really exciting stuff! But to both an info management and history of objects geek, like myself, it has a certain appeal. Further, it approaches the subject not just from a “nuts and bolts” (pun intended) point-of-view, but from a sociological one and gender roles in the work environment.

The author notes: “The shift in focus from filing systems to filing cabinets means the book you are about to read is a history of storage, not a history of classification. To focus on storage is to bring the filing cabinet to the foreground, to see how the cabinet as an object shapes people’s interaction with information rather than explore the effects of systems of classification on knowledge. This is a history about the tabs that make classification and indexing systems visible, not a history that uses the filing cabinet to explore the consequences of organizing papers by author name or subject. Classification and indexing (and the blurring of those in the early twentieth century) do appear in this history, but as ways to rethink storage and to understand the filing cabinet’s role in the development of a modern conception of information.”

A couple of key concepts/quotes that I found interesting:

Chapter 1: Verticality (A Skyscraper for the Office): On page 50, Robertson paraphrases Carl C. Parson from his 1921 work, Office Organization and Management: “ The move from an “old-style storehouse model” to a modern flat-top desk foregrounded a change in the mode of storage—from personal to collective—as papers would ideally be moved from desks into filing cabinets.” I wonder what this has to say in our digital age about how we store and share our digital documents? Have we moved back from the collective to the personal? Food for thought as we further embrace the use of Teams, OneDrive, etc.

Chapter 4: Granular Certainty (Applying System to the Office): On page 132 Robertson says: ‘Within an economic context, the term granular signifies the belief that breaking things down into small parts to produce a high degree of detail or specificity will result in efficiency. Certainty indicates the conviction that greater specificity will reduce individual discretion and increase the likelihood that a task will be completed efficient.” It is my hope that the work we have been doing with the DP&A and workflow visualization will bring more granular certainty to what we do within the University Libraries.

Although, dry at times, it is well interspersed with reproductions of equipment catalog and marketing material images, and is generally engaging. I give it 3 of 5 stars and a recommended reading.

Reading w/Dan: Approaching Appraisal

I read a good article recently by Nathan Tallman at Penn State and Lauren Work at the University of Virginia, “Approaching Appraisal: Guidelines and Criteria to Select for Digital Preservation” ( It is based upon their presentation at the International Conference on Digital Preservation (iPres) 2018. (additional related materials can be found at:

It traces a history of collection development and appraisal in context of both general and special collections, and posits 6 criteria to consider in the appraisal process for the collecting of digital materials:

Criteria Example parameters for all collection types General Collections examples Special Collections examples
Value (Research Emphasis) Does the material align closely with the collection policy or mission of an institution?

Does digital content hold high contextual/content research value for current and potential future users?

Materials that fulfill or respond to curricular needs, add to collection strength, fulfil consortial commitments to a full body of scholarly materials Material imperative to the volume and depth of content in areas of institutional distinction, may aid with reappraisal over time or movement of general collections to special collections
Uniqueness Informational content and/or informational context related to unique institutional scope or mission that is not available elsewhere?

Robust technical, administrative, and/or descriptive metadata to demonstrate authority of content and context for unique material?

New research developments in a field, new publication methods and formats, local institutional research and scholarship preservation commitments Unique digital material in either/both content and context (e.g. author manuscripts on original laptop), one-of-a kind systems or processes (e.g. born digital works of art), sole repository for digital material by legal agreement
Cost Cost of local server storage and local maintenance as well as costs for commercial or distributed digital preservation?

Costs of maintenance and expected cost of migration over time, costs for development and deployment of services for preservation, discovery & access?

Costs to replace, to reprocess, or to re-digitize analog materials?

Costs of replacing purchased or license materials (including digitized materials) costs to researcher/user for potential delays/interlibrary loan, cost of not having immediate access to journal articles. Political or administrative  costs of complete loss of digital content from donors or institution, costs of subscription services to allow for technical collection of digital content, costs for born-digital ingest, storage and access to unique materials.
Legal/Fiduciary Is the institution required by law or by consortial agreement to preserve particular digital materials over time? Government documents, data related to federal grants, journals. University archives and/or operational records of an organization.
Restrictions Are there rights or access restrictions on the digital content that will require periods of time without access? Are rights unknown or unclear? If rights are known, is it understood how access and preservation actions will reflect them? Availability of rights information for licensed or previously purchased materials. Donor or institutional rights transfer, embargoes on access to content, state records laws.
Preservability of Content and Context User or system documentation of creation, formats, current working environments?

User or creator expectation for functionality of current rendering environment over time?

Donor or licensed metadata available in machine readable format?

Sensitive or private information?

Negotiation of legal agreements or contracts to allow for preservation of licensed digital materials, participation in efforts to preserve publisher content such as CLOCKSS. Early intervention or review of computing context and creation with donors/record creators, preservation actions to ensure authenticity and provenance of born-digital materials, technical parameters for capture of content, review of networked or system environments.


Reading w/Dan: Demystifying IT

After sharing my review of the “Final Report of the Lighting the Way Project” last week, Beth Snapp drew my attention to a 2017 OCLC report referenced within, “Demystifying IT: A Framework for Shared Understanding between Archivists and IT Professionals” ( that had been languishing on my “To Read” list.

As always from OCLC an accessible read; if you haven’t previously read it I encourage you to, or even re-read it.


“Today’s digital archivist needs tools and platforms to ingest, manage and provide access to electronic records and digital content of all types. The complexity of digital systems makes the participation of information technology (IT) professionals essential. Archivists have sophisticated domain knowledge, while IT staff have advanced technology skills. As in other areas of human endeavor, working together effectively requires a desire to understand each other’s expertise, priorities and constraints. It requires developing a culture of collaboration.

This report describes types of IT providers and the services they typically offer, offers insights on the software development process, provides guidance toward building partnerships and emphasizes the centrality of resource constraints. Many of the issues described are relevant to librarians and archivists who work with IT colleagues on issues other than born-digital management.”

Key Discoveries

  • “Regardless of the number of IT staff, they must always prioritize core functions (e.g., workstation and server maintenance, internet connectivity, email) that serve the entire organization over specialized services and projects.”
    • DAN: I think this also presumes  a “monolithic” IT; need to keep in mind the various parts of “IT” one is collaborating with.
  • “IT resources are never limitless. You will always have rivals for time and attention. Be prepared to negotiate rather than demand.
  • IT staff must equate time with money, which often means utilizing formalized approaches to project management to develop timelines and guard against “scope creep.”
  • All parties should clarify terminology and intended meaning to guard against misunderstanding and be prepared to explain themselves clearly.
  • Clients are more likely to be respected and valued by IT colleagues if they follow designated procedures (such as use of a ticketing system) and utilize documentation before seeking help.
  • The ability of IT units to acquire new hardware, software or storage space for their clients on short notice is often constrained by an annual budget cycle.
  • IT must always be involved from the outset when acquisition of any product or service from an external provider—including open-source software—is under consideration. They will be asked to support it in future.”

Key Concepts

“Archivists should see their IT colleagues as essential consultants and service providers and learn how to articulate the archives’ needs clearly and effectively”

IT Service Provider Models describes three common organizational structures

  1. “Small shops, in which IT responsibilities fall to a single individual or a small group
    1. Be open to compromise. An appropriate technology may be available that provides most of what you need and is already familiar to your IT staff. A few well-chosen concessions may make the difference in enabling your vision.
  2. Departments, in which a management structure coordinates staff who support IT functions
  3. External service providers, who sell products and services that organizations either cannot or choose not to provide internally”

Building Partnerships describes three project roles

  1. Client (archivist/curator/librarian)
  2. IT professionals
  3. Project manager

Resource Management

“…describes the limits that both archivists and IT professionals face for funding, infrastructure and staffing [emphasis added], and how finding the right balance within those limits may offer the best chance of achieving an optimal technology solution.”

  • DAN – KEEP IN MIND: Infrastructure and staffing require funding!

Buy Build Adopt? Three general options exist for obtaining a new service or tool:

  • Buy a commercial product, either off the shelf or with slight modifications
  • Adopt an open-source solution.
  • Build, either in-house or through an external provider

 Development and Support

“…describes widely used models of software development (waterfall, agile and lean), the process of negotiating project requirements and good practices for archivists to help developers fix software problems.”

Reporting Issues

The client “…can play a valuable part in the problem-solving process by providing as detailed and accurate a report as possible…”

  • DAN: This is a really important step/concept, to provide detailed, articulate feedback to help fix or improve the developed solution.

….and above all when we collaborate with our University Libraries colleagues, “…Follow the rules of civil human behavior: never lose your temper or become impatient”