Library Preservation: Managing the Collective Collection Over Time
I have the pleasure of posting an entry from fellow librarian
Janifer's post below summarizes her 30 June 2008 presentation to the ACRL Western European Studies Section, entitled "A Library Preservation Challenge: Managing the Collective Collection over Time." --Karen
Libraries face old and new challenges in managing and preserving the collective collection as it is evolving today. In addition to physical loss via deterioration, natural disaster and war, that which cannot be found is also lost and that which is not accessed may become lost. Failure to be found in terms of resources could be due to failure to rank in search results (after page 5 is obscurity), or failure to highlight the relative merit of a resource. Failure to be accessed could result in loss because of broken links or outdated formats, or for example a PDF document that cannot be opened, not because its format is out of date but because it contains outdated fonts. In the words of Werner Schwartz writing in Liber in 2008 "Visibility in a way can be seen to be indispensable in the survival of the item."
Libraries face space limitations at the same time that physical publishing continues to grow. The British Library reports a growth in shelving of 12 kilometres a year, and Robert Darnton reported in the New York review of books 55, no. 10 June 12 2008 that "in 2006 291,920 new titles were published in the U.S., and the number of new books has increased nearly every year for the last decade, despite the spread of electronic publishing."
The response has been to seek offsite storage, often in stores serving several libraries. As resources are increasingly out of view, there is a need to create richer metadata that will emulate the browsing experience to optimally display resources. Evaluative information includes enrichment provided by data mining, covers, reviews, lists, circulation statistics and tables of contents.
Web scale is needed to attract user contribution that too is a valuable complement to context and evaluative information from more traditional sources. As well as evaluative information, digital materials require control metadata that hopefully will give the resources a chance of being readable in the future. To be scalable, emphasis needs to be given to data mining for the creation of enriched metadata as an alternative to data crafting. Data mining is more successful, the larger the database on which it is applied.
Digitisation is increasingly being regarded as a way of preserving. If physical copies are lost, at least something remains, and digital copies serve to spare the wear on fragile materials. Here too, metadata plays a significant role. The WorldCat copyright evidence registry could allow libraries to share the burden of copyright investigation and the OCLC DLF registry of digital masters aims to prevent duplication of effort.
A two front approach is required; on the one hand library resources should be given maximum exposure to give them a chance to be found and used, and on the other hand, richer metadata is needed for both discovery and maintenance. The need to work collectively on these two fronts is evident. Union catalogues play an essential role as the window to physical and digital stores and WorldCat serves as the union catalogue of union catalogues. Maximum exposure in local, regional and global catalogues as well as in web search engines is now the goal.
There are problems associated with the four fronts of preservation: via centralised stores (physical and digital), digitisation and exposure. Physical stores need better metadata, better holdings metadata, better delivery architecture and more copyright evidence. Digitisation needs more volume, better quality and also copyright evidence. Looking at exposure, perhaps this is where libraries are learning the fastest. With these limitations, does the ensemble of approaches make coherent sense? Hopefully time will judge our efforts favourably.