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The AOR Toolkit

The AOR toolkit cover

The Assessing Organisational Readiness toolkit was published in May 2016 and is available as a free download.

The Toolkit will help you measure your organisational readiness for managing digital content.

This process can be useful for making effective decisions about how to create, manage, store and preserve your digital content. Likewise, understanding future requirements is necessary to enable your organisation to decide whether specific actions need to be taken in regard to particular content, or when and how it is desirable to improve on current capabilities.

“It’s about measurement, not improvement; you don’t need to supply ‘evidence’ that you are doing anything.”

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How it works

The toolkit is structured as a number of elements, each one describing an aspect of digital content management and covering three discrete areas (organisational, technology and resource) also known as ‘legs’. This will allow users to:

  • Assess current capabilities from an organisational, technological and resource point of view
  • Assess individual, departmantal and organisation-wide readiness
  • Use toolkit examples to easily match existing capabilities
  • Populate our AOR scorecard template

Who is it for?

One key aim of re-launching the AOR toolkit was to widen its possible use beyond the use by education institutions and develop an easy to use reference guide that can be used by any organisation which needs to manage digital content. Here are some job titles we think would have an interest:

  • Archivists
  • Data Curators
  • FOI Officers
  • Librarians
  • Records Managers
  • Repository Managers

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Announcing the DPTP Digitisation Course

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We’re pleased to announce the DPTP Course on Digitisation, which will take place in London on 27th September 2016. It is a one day course, taught through a combination of slides, exercises and discussions, and costs £312.30.

The course will cover the basics of digitisation, from the initial planning through project management to protecting and preserving the resulting digital assets for the long term. It explores preparation, project management, equipment/outsourcing, workflows and policies. It will also look at metadata, copyright and licensing, and managing access to the digitised content.

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I first taught this Course in Salford in June 2013. It was at the Working Class Movement Library and organised by Elinor Taylor, who wanted a block of learning as part of her two day digital humanities training event for humanities postgraduate researchers. We were keen to help with this project, for several reasons:

  • Postgraduate researchers represent a strand of learners different to the archivists and librarians who usually attend the DPTP
  • Digital Humanities was then, and still is, a growth area that we need to engage with
  • It was an opportunity to create learning materials on a subject which previously had been taught as a single 90-minute module on the DPTP. As we discovered with web-archiving, the subject is too rich for a single module, and requires a day to be understood properly.

Elinor had some very specific expectations from this offering, which we tried our best to meet as we like to keep our customers happy. She had the intention that “those who attend will acquire skills to design their own project and start work”. Her learners wanted to know about:

  • How to get from print resources to digitized resources
  • What are the basic principles of designing a digitisation project
  • Discussion of compliance and copyright issues
  • Integration with existing catalogues
  • Integration with existing digitization strategies
  • Criteria for selection of file formats

In this Library’s case, the students did have digitisation projects planned, but I learned they would be outsourcing the actual scanning to a professional company. This affirms my view, that I still subscribe to, that scanning is only a small part of digitisation.

In offering this Course as part of the 2016 DPTP programme, Steph Taylor and myself have updated the content and included more information to address certain key specialisms and concerns in this field. For instance, we have incorporated what we learned in the last 12 months about DAM systems, metadata, and image libraries, through our liaison with Sarah Saunders of the IPTC Metadata Group. We have also upgraded our workflow model to include strands on OCR, manuscript digitization, and crowd-sourcing. Watch this space for a forthcoming podcast where we discuss these improvements and additions.

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In the podcast below, hear Steph Taylor and Ed Pinsent discuss the new Digitisation Course.

Selection and Appraisal in the OAIS Model

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Following our recent podcast about our free OAIS course, here are some further thoughts about the OAIS Model. We’re aware that there is a process of discussion underway hosted by the DPC, and the sceptical view that follows might be another contribution to that process.

Recently I attended the ARA Conference. On 31 August 2016 we heard three very useful presentations in the digital preservation strand from Matthew Addis of Arkivum, Sarah Higgins and Sally McInnes from Wales, and Mike Quinn from Preservica. I recall asking a question about the OAIS model, which was prompted by another question from a fellow archivist in the audience. I was asking something about the skills of selection and appraisal. Can the OAIS Model accommodate them? My worry is that it cannot, and that the Model tends to present an over-simplified view where the Submission Information Package (SIP) arrives in a “perfect state” all ready to preserve, and the process of transforming it into an Archival Information Package (AIP) can begin. Any archivist or records manager who’s ever handled a deposit or transfer of records will tell you that real life isn’t like that. As a result, the OAIS Model alienates the archivist.

I’m aware of those in our community who have advocated a stronger pre-ingest stage in OAIS. Some call it the “long tail” before Ingest. I believe there is a body of work underway to formalise the process as part of the standard: the Producer-Archive Interface Specification. And I’m aware of those contributions to the DPC OAIS wiki where suggestions are made for how to instigate it, and even automate it to some degree.

But that’s not quite what’s worrying me. Let’s get back to the basics of what we mean by Selection and Appraisal. I think these are very strong archivist skills, which could have tremendous value in the field of digital preservation.

The Record / Archive Series

When I worked as an archivist at the General Synod with paper records and paper archives, we would often appraise and select on a Series basis. What that means to me is that we could assess the value of the content in a contextual framework, based on other records which we knew were being created, or other archival series which we had already selected and kept in the archive. The collections strategy would be based on this approach, looking for a Series in the context of provenance. For instance, the originating body might be the Board for Social Responsibility (BSR); the record series could be “Minute Books”. We would always know to accept deposits of BSR Minutes, because we could trust these as being accurate records of the Board’s work. Likewise, if the BSR collected copies of another Board’s Minutes and Documents (e.g. The Central Board of Finance), we could apply a rule that excluded that series from accessioning, on the grounds that BSR were only receiving “copies for information”.

This process I’m describing is second nature to any archives or records management professional. An understanding of context, provenance, record series: all of these things help us identify the potential value of content. Indeed, a Series model is the foundation for all Archival arrangement, and is the cornerstone of our profession. It’s extremely efficient; it saves you from having to examine every single document.

Appraisal in OAIS

I wonder to myself how Series are expressed in the OAIS Model. I often think the Model is predicated to favour the individual digital object, rather than a record series. To put it another way, a Submission Information Package is not an ideal unit on which to carry out an appraisal. At which point you could tell me “here’s 100 related SIPs, there’s your record series”. Or “we’re putting all the PDFs of our Minutes into this single SIP”. But I would still worry. Through the basic action of ingesting a SIP, we’re starting a process where all subsequent preservation actions continue to centre around the individual digital object – checksums, file format identification, file format characterisation, technical metadata extraction, and preservation metadata. And of course, the temptation is strong to automate these AIP-building actions, which has led us into building scripts that are entirely focused on a single characteristic – most commonly, the file format.

Where’s the record / archival series in all this? It’s difficult to make it out. Maybe it gets reinstated or reconstructed at the point of cataloguing. Even so, it’s not hard to see why archivists can feel alienated by this view of what constitutes digital preservation. The integrity and contextual meaning of a collection is being overlooked, in favour of this atomised digital-object view. OAIS, if strictly interpreted, could bypass the Series altogether in favour of an assembly line workflow that simply processes one digital object after another.

I believe we need to rediscover the value of Appraisal and Selection; I call on all archivists to come forward and re-assert its importance in the digital realm.

In the meantime, some questions: Can anyone show me a way that Appraisal and Selection can truly be incorporated in an OAIS Model workflow? Is there room for considering a new “Series Information Package”, or something similar? Am I over-stressing the atomisation of OAIS?

Disclaimer: this blog post represents the personal views of Ed Pinsent, not the DPTP or UoL.

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DPTP Online – new teaching course launched

What is DPTP Online?

DPTP Online is a new online course that offers paying customers an introduction to digital preservation. It aims to teach students about strategies they can use to make digital preservation possible.

This new offering from ULCC is an online learning version of the award-winning face-to-face Course which we have been teaching since 2005. In terms of the content it offers, it’s pretty much the basic two-Day Course which we have been calling “An Introduction to Digital Preservation”.

However, we took the opportunity to reinstate content and case studies from modules which we’ve always had in reserve, but had retired from the Course in order to keep it under two days. We’ve also added quizzes, case studies, videos, exercises, and forums. The entire contents of the Reading List, which used to be a 16-page PDF, has been added as live links and attachments, under “Further Reading”. All of this means DPTP Online is quite a rich experience.

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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.

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Self-assessment as digital preservation training aid

On the Digital Preservation Training Programme, we always like to encourage students to assess their organisation and its readiness to undertake digital preservation. It’s possible that AIDA and the new AOR Toolkit could continue to have a small part in this process.

Self-assessment in DPTP

We have incorporated exercises in self-assessment as digital preservation training aid in the DPTP course for many years. We don’t do it much lately, but we used to get students to map themselves against the OAIS Reference Model. The idea was they could identify gaps in the Functional Entities, information package creation, and who their Producers / Consumers were. We would ask them to draw it up as a flipchart sketch, using dotted lines to express missing elements or gaps.

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AIDA’s new name: AOR Toolkit

The hardest part of any project is devising a name for the output. The second hardest thing is devising a name that can also be expressed as a memorable acronym.

I think one of the most successful instances I encountered was the CAMiLEON Project. This acronym unpacks into Creative Archiving at Michigan and Leeds Emulating the Old on the New. It brilliantly manages to include the names of both sponsoring Institutions, and accurately describes the work of the project, and still end up as a memorable one-word acronym.

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AIDA toolkit use cases

The AIDA toolkit: use cases

There are a few isolated uses of the old AIDA Toolkit. In this blog post I will try and recount some of these AIDA toolkit use cases.

In the beginning…

In its first phase, I was aided greatly in 2009 by five UK HE Institutions who volunteered to act as guinea pigs and do test runs, but this was mainly to help me improve the structure and the wording. However, Sarah Jones of HATII was very positive about its potential in 2010.

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