Section 2: Organizational Infrastructure
A key facet of a sustainable preservation program is the organizational infrastructure that supports it. This includes all the elements that any programmatic undertaking needs to thrive, including planning, policies, funding, procedures, stakeholders, and decision makers, all of which must be tailored to address digital preservation requirements.3 Organizational infrastructure is one of the three main components of the international standard described above, ISO 16363: Audit and Certification of Trustworthy Digital Repositories, which defines programmatic governance structures (i.e. dedicated leadership and oversight functions), preservation policies, and sustained support for staffing and funding as fundamental.
To establish organizational support for a digital preservation program, planning and documentation are essential. Documenting the current state of the collections and the future goals for preservation will help cultivate organizational buy-in for a digital preservation program.
The first step in developing a sustainable preservation program, or in other words, achieving the balance of the three-legged stool, is planning. Preservation planning can be defined as “a process by which the general and specific needs for the care of collections are determined, priorities are established, and resources for implementation are identified.”4 Digital preservation plans differ amongst institutions, but generally they support the following objectives:
- Organizational commitment to the preservation of and continued access to digital collections through ongoing financial and resource support
- Authenticity of digital collections (ensuring files are trustworthy representations of their original content)
- Environmental controls on the physical media on which digital collections are held
- Monitoring collections and addressing errors or changes as necessary
- Migrating digital collections as software and/or hardware becomes obsolete5
Digital preservation plans can be brief (1 to 2 pages), concisely communicating these objectives through one- or two-sentence statements. Many institutions make their digital preservation plans available online, and each is unique to the organization, its structure, and its goals. These online publications are invaluable resources for institutions establishing new preservation programs. Understanding how others address their commitment, needs, and resource allocation can inform decision making at your own institution. The good news is that you do not have to write a digital preservation plan from scratch; when you find one that you feel meets your needs, consider adapting it to your local conditions.
A digital preservation policy is the framework around which a digital preservation strategy is developed at an institution. It is integral to documenting the institution’s commitment to digital preservation services, identifying at a high level what digital content is in scope of the digital preservation policy (in this case, digital audiovisual collections) and providing a vision for moving these strategies into action. As noted above, many institutions make their digital preservation policies available online, and templates are available as well.
A digital preservation policy document may include the following types of information:
- Mission and vision statements
- Definitions of terms
- References to other policies (collections, preservation of analog collections, etc.)
- Preservation strategy
- Process workflows
- Definitions of preservation levels (bit-level preservation versus full preservation of the files as they exist today)
- Definitions of acceptable preservation formats and metadata standards
- Overview of storage and technical infrastructure
- Definitions of communities (producers of content, users of content, etc.)
Policies and plans should be approved by high-level administration to ensure that administrators understand the goals of a digital preservation program and to solidify their ongoing support to sustain the program. Policies also facilitate buy-in from colleagues and staff as they integrate the digital preservation program as a key function of the organization.
Plans and Policies: Samples and Templates
Liz Bishoff, “Digital Preservation Plan: Ensuring long term access and authenticity of digital collections,” Information Standards Quarterly 22:2, 2010. https://groups.niso.org/apps/group_public/download.php/4250/FE_Bishoff_Digital_Preservation_Plan_isqv22no2.pdf
Annemieke de Jong, Digital Preservation Sound and Vision: Policy, Standards and Procedure, 2016. http://publications.beeldengeluid.nl/pub/388
Dartmouth College Library Digital Preservation Policy, 2015. https://www.dartmouth.edu/~library/preservation/docs/dartmouth_digital_preservation_policy.pdf
MetaArchive Cooperative, Digital Preservation Policy Template, 2010.
NEDCC Digital Preservation Policy Template. https://www.nedcc.org/assets/media/documents/SoDAExerciseToolkit.pdf