The LIBER curation workshop was all about partnering and outsourcing – but that still means that there are things libraries have to do themselves, no matter what types of partnerships they enter into: they must develop policies for curation, and in order to be able to do that they must have skills and knowledge, which is also required to supervise the partnerships and assess the results. Barbara Sierman of the Dutch KB tackled the issue of policies (slides here), also building on her work on policies in the European SCAPE project (intended to develop services for large-scale preservation actions that are carried out automatically).
Barbara Sierman stressed that policies are by no means just “paper work”:
Clear and express policies are very beneficial to an organization, Barbara Sierman went on, because they ensure consistency and sustainability in managing your digital collections. They make an organization less vulnerable when there are staff and management changes, they enable the transfer of knowledge, they enable education programmes, they harmonize activities and they bring clarity in responsibilities. Clear policies also equip libraries better in their dialogues with third parties, e.g., when outsourcing, when participating in digitization projects, when working with partners, etc.
Barbara Sierman stressed that policies are not just something for management. Instead, the entire organization should be involved and policies should be implemented into the work flows, so that they can inform large-scale, automated preservation actions. It is very important that you publish your policies, in order that the entire stakeholder community around you (users, suppliers, funders) knows exactly what you mean to deliver and for whom.
If, after all this, you still doubt the usefulness of policies, research in the PLANETS project showed that organizations with preservation policies generally have a higher level of accomplishment in preservation. And if you do not know where to start, check out Barbara’s slides with helpful resources.
In order to develop policies, but also to become a trusted partner yourself, every institution that serves researchers has to have skills and knowledge about digital curation issues. Not necessarily every last detail, but enough to be able to define your requirements for outsourced work and to assess the results of any partnerships. Joy Davidson of the UK Digital Curation Centre (picture above) talked about cooperation within the organization, about the challenges for support staff and about the skills required to help researchers manage their research data (her slides are full of information; they shall be up soon at the workshop website). The DCC approach is practical rather than theoretical:
Joy Davidson emphasized that it is not the technical skills that are the most important. Rather, the key skill for everybody involved in data management is the ability to communicate:
Lastly, Chiara Cirinnà of the Fondazione Rinascimento Digitale provided an overview of the APARSEN project, which intends to establish a Network of Excellence in Europe on questions of digital preservation. The project’s objective is “to encourage the development of a well connected and highly skilled generation of professional leaders”. Well, all I can say is that we certainly need those!
Organizational, not technical issues are key
In stressing the need for communication skills, Joy Davidson agreed with quite a few preceding speakers that it is not the technical issues that are key to successful curation and partnering for curation. Organizational issues, changing cultures in organizations, finding common ground between institutions that have different traditions – those issues are much more difficult and time consuming to deal with than technical issues. We do have technical issues, of course, and these must be worked on, but they can always be solved, agreed Bram van der Werf of the Open Planets Foundation, established to further develop the tools and services from the Planets project. “Software always breaks down,” said van der Werf, “and you must have IT staff to mend the systems – be it in-house or shared.
Van der Werf spoke about two models for partnerships, entrepreneurial/business partnerships and institutional partnerships. The first category is more sustainable, argued van der Werf, because there is no political scrutiny. Nevertheless, institutional partnerships are needed for data that are “abandoned” by the commercial world.
To illustrate some organizational issues and the need for partnering and cooperation, Giovanni Bergamin of the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze spoke about the Magazzini Digitali project in Italy. The three (!) national libraries of Italy and the Fondazione Rinascimento Digitale are now building a digital repository for publications (see slides). Quite an adventure, with so many parties involved. The Fondazione Rinascimento Digitale, who co-organized this workshop with the Dutch KB and LIBER, plays a vital role in the project.
PS: An informative overview of digital curation practices and outlooks in research libraries in the US is New Roles for New Times: Digital Curation for Preservation, by Tyler Walters and Katherine Skinner, Association of Research Libraries, Washington, DC, March 2011.
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