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The AOR toolkit

Preserving Digital Content – Taking first steps with the AOR toolkit

The ART team at ULCC has long had an interest in promoting and selling our digital preservation expertise, in the form of the Digital Preservation Training Programme, and as a consultancy service, and most recently with the the relaunch of the AIDA toolkit as AOR toolkit. However in our work we meet a lot of people in a lot of organisations, for whom “preservation” – in perhaps the traditional archival sense – isn’t necessarily their sole or principle interest.

AOR Toolkit – Possible uses

To speculate on this for a while, we could instead consider (a) what kind of digital content people typically have and (b) what do they want to do with it. It’s possible that the new AOR Toolkit can help as a first step to assessing your capability to perform (b).

One milieu that we’re most familiar with is higher education, where the (a) is born-digital research data and the (b) is research data management. This may in time shade into a long-term preservation need, but not exclusively. That said, the main driver for many to manage research data in an organised way is actually the requirement of the funders for the research data to be preserved.

Not unrelated to that example, repository managers may not be primarily interested in preservation, but they certainly have a need to manage (a) born-digital publications and research papers and (b) their metadata, storage, dissemination, and use, perhaps using a repository. On the other hand, as the content held in a publications repository over time starts to increase, the repository managers may need to become more interested in selection and preservation.

Another possibility is electronic records management. The (a) is born-digital records, and the (b) could include such activities as classification, retention scheduling, meeting legislative requirements, metadata management, storage (in the short to mid-term), and security. In such scenarios, not all digital content need be kept permanently, and the outcome is not always long-term digital preservation for all content types.

AOR toolkit – Beyond the organisation

Digital librarians, managers of image libraries, in short anyone who holds digital content is probably eligible for inclusion in my admittedly very loose definition of a potential AOR Toolkit user. I would like to think the toolkit could apply, not just to organisations, but also to individual projects both large and small. All the user has to do is to set the parameters. It might even be a way into understanding your own personal capability for “personal archiving”, i.e. ensuring the longevity of your own personal digital history, identity and collections in the form of digital images, documents, and social media presence. Use the AOR toolkit to assess your own PC and hard drive, in other words.

It remains to be seen if the AOR Toolkit can match any of my wide-eyed optimistic predictions, but at least for this new iteration we have attempted to expand the scope of the toolkit, and expanded the definitions of the elements, in order to bring it a step closer towards a more comprehensive, if not actually universally applicable, assessment tool.

AOR toolkit – addressing a community need?

Results from our recent training needs survey also indicate there is a general need for assessment in the context of digital preservation. In terms of suggestions made for subjects that are not currently being taught enough, some respondents explicitly identified the following requirements which indicate how assessment would help advance their case:

  • Self-assessment and audit
  • Assessment/criteria/decision in the context of RDM
  • Quality analysis as part of preservation planning and action
  • Benchmarking in digital preservation (i.e. what to do when unable to comply with OAIS)
  • Key performance indicators for digital preservation
  • What to check over time

In the same survey, when asked about “expected benefits of training”, an even more interesting response was forthcoming. There were 32 answers which I classified under strategy and planning, many of the responses indicating the need for assessment and analysis as a first step; and likewise, 21 answers alluding to the ability to implement a preservation system, with many references to “next steps” and understanding organisational “capacity”. One response in particular is worth quoting in full:

“We have recognised and assessed the problem, decided on a strategy and are nearing the purchase of a system to cope with what we currently have, but once this is done we will need to create two projects – one to address ongoing work and one to resolve legacy work created by our stop-gap solution. I’d expect training to answer both these needs.”

All of the above is simply to reiterate what I said in March: “I hope to make the new AOR toolkit into something applicable to a wider range of digital content scenarios and services.”

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