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Tag Archives: digital preservation

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.”


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


The AOR toolkit cover

DART Podcast – The AOR Toolkit

In episode 7 of our DART podcast I sat down with Ed and Steph to discuss the work they’ve both done on updating the AIDA (Assessing Institutional Digital Assets) which we will soon relaunch under its new name – The AOR Toolkit (Assessing Organisation Readiness).

Origins of The AOR Toolkit

Initially Kevin Ashley and Ed completed the JISC-funded AIDA project in 2009, and the idea was it could be used by any University – i.e. an institution – to assess its own capability for managing digital assets.

In this episode we talk about AIDA origin, examples of how people have used it, the changes we made and why, how the AOR toolkit can be used, and what next steps people can take once they have run through the self-assessment.

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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 image

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 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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Reworking AIDA: Storage

In the fourth of our series of posts on reworking the AIDA self-assessment toolkit, we look at a technical element – Managed Storage.

Reworking AIDA Storage

In reworking the toolkit, we are now looking at the 11th Technology Element. In the “old” AIDA, this was called “Institutional Repository”, and it pretty much assessed whether the University had an Institutional Repository (IR) system and the degree to which it had been successfully implemented, and was being used.

For the 2009 audience, and given the scope of what AIDA was about, an IR was probably just the right thing to assess. In 2009, Institutional Repository software was the new thing and a lot of UK HE & FE institutions were embracing it enthusiastically. Of course your basic IR doesn’t really do storage by itself; certainly it enables sharing of resources, it does managed access, perhaps some automated metadata creation, and allows remote submission of content. An IR system such as EPrints can be used as an interface to storage – as a matter of fact it has a built-in function called “Storage Manager” – but it isn’t a tool for configuring the servers where content is stored.

Storage in 2016

In 2016, a few things occurred to me thinking about the storage topic.

  1. I doubt I shall ever understand everything to do with storage of digital content, but since working on the original AIDA my understanding has improved somewhat. I now know that it is at least technically possible to configure IT storage in ways that match the expected usage of the content. Personally, I’m particularly interested in such configuration for long-term preservation purposes.
  2. I’m also aware that it’s possible for a sysadmin – or even a digital archivist – to operate some kind of interface with the storage server, using for instance an application like “storage manager”, that might enable them to choose suitable destinations for digital content.
  3. Backup is not the same as storage.
  4. Checksums are an essential part of validating the integrity of stored digital objects.

I have thus widened the scope of Element TECH 11 so that we can assess more than the limited workings of an IR. I also went back to two other related elements in the TECH leg, and attempted to enrich them.

To address (1), the capability that is being assessed is not just whether your organisation has a server room or network storage, but rather if you have identified your storage needs correctly and have configured the right kind of storage to keep your digital content (and deliver it to users). We might add this capability is nothing to do with the quantity, number, or size of your digital materials.

To assess (2), we’ve identified the requirement for an application or mechanism that helps put things into storage, take them out again, and assist with access while they are in storage. We could add that this interface mechanism is not doing the same job as metadata, capability for which is assessed elsewhere.

To address (3), I went back to TECH 03 and changed its name from “Ensuring Availability” to “Ensuring Availability / Backing Up”. The element description was then improved with more detailed descriptions concerning backup actions; we’re trying to describe the optimum backup scenario, based on actual organisational needs; and provide caveats for when multiple copies can cause syncing problems. Work done on the CARDIO toolkit was very useful here.

To incorporate (4), I thought it best to include checksums in element TECH 04, “Integrity of Information”. Checksum creation and validation is now explicitly suggested as one possible method to ensure integrity of digital content.

Managed storage as a whole is thus distributed among several measurable TECH elements in the new toolkit.

In this way I’m hoping to arrive at a measurable capability for managed storage that does not pre-empt the use the organisation wishes to make of such storage. The wording is such that even a digital preservation strategy could be assessed in the new toolkit – as could many other uses. If I can get this right, it would be an improvement on simply assessing the presence of an Institutional Repository.

Reworking the AIDA toolkit: why we added new sections to cover Depositors and Users

Why are we reworking the AIDA toolkit?

The previous AIDA toolkit covered digital content in an HE & FE environment. As such, it made a few basic assumptions about usage; one assessment element was not really about the users at all, but about the Institutional capability for measuring use of resources. To put it another way, an Institution might be maintaining a useless collection of material that nobody looks at (at some cost). What mechanism do you have to monitor and measure use of assets?

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2015 Digital Preservation Training Needs Survey: What we learned so far…


Title: First book on anatomy, physiology, and hygiene : for grammar schools and families. Source: Internet Archive Book Image photostream. No known Copyright restrictions.

In Autumn 2015 ULCC worked with colleagues from the Digital Curation Centre (DCC) and the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) to conduct the Digital Archiving & Preservation Training Needs Survey (#DAPTNS15).

We were delighted to receive 216 responses to our survey. We’ve been looking at the results in the hopes they’ll tell us something about training needs in the field of digital preservation.

Digital Preservation Training Needs – Distribution of respondents

About half of the respondents came from an HE & FE sector, closely followed by people working in Cultural Heritage or Government Sectors. A very small percentage described themselves as coming from a Financial Sector.

The majority of respondents come from an Archival or Library professional background, with about 25% working in Research or Records Management; the Museum sector was sadly under-represented.

Over half of the respondents were based in the UK, with less than 25% from the US and Canada, and only 25 respondents from mainland Europe. It was also encouraging to receive a few scattered replies from as far afield as South America, Japan, South Africa, New Zealand, and India.

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Getting started with digital preservation

"The Discoverers, Pioneers, and Settlers of North and South America, from the earliest period, 982, to the present time ... With numerous ... illustrations, etc". Source: No known copyright restrictions.

“The Discoverers, Pioneers, and Settlers of North and South America, from the earliest period, 982, to the present time … With numerous … illustrations, etc”. Source: No known copyright restrictions.

Recently, I facilitated a workshop at a University. They are considering a digital preservation strategy for the university and said they “were particularly interested to hear from experts in the area before we embark on the project.” Though their aims have yet to be agreed, this University is moving towards an understanding of what they want to do. In scope at the moment are:

  • born-digital records of the university;
  • scanned library resources;
  • research data.

I spoke to a cross-sectoral committee of stakeholders, including senior managers, IT infrastructure managers, developers, librarians, project managers, and security managers, led by a project sponsor. Right away I was encouraged to see this mixture of skills and interests in the room – matters such as storage, costs, metadata, security and use cases cropped up in the questions. I think it’s only through this collaborative working that we will make progress with digital preservation; a project shouldn’t be led exclusively by IT, nor exclusively by an archivist, but by an engaged team of experts and interest groups who talk to each other from the start.

One-day Workshop – Getting started with digital preservation

I structured the day in line with an agenda. I gave slide presentations, but also facilitated a discussion about particular matters of interest to them, such as how other universities in the UK are going about planning for preservation, and whether it would be feasible for them to do a “distributed” approach, that is re-using existing systems and services to move towards preservation. I said yes. To put it another way, one isn’t obliged to purchase a single system that does digital preservation.

The committee was going to start by building a policy for digital content, and raised concerns about how to expand it to include existing practices, such as the policies and procedures they have for records management. I encouraged them to think about an integrated policy of which the aim would be digital preservation of all such content, referencing existing published policies as needed.

If their response is anything to go by, the main take-home message for this group was recognising the importance of defining use cases and getting stakeholders involved, and feeding their requirements into the preservation policy. One member of staff said to me:

“Your passion for this subject is obvious…I liked how you could explain technical things to non-specialists like me and make them possible to understand. I pretty much wrote down all your ideas for how we could approach digital preservation and take it forward”.

Dart Podcast – Beginner’s guide to the OAIS reference model

In our first episode of 2016 I sat down with Steph Taylor and Ed Pinsent to talk about the new, and free, OAIS online course they launched last year.

As part of the plan to move away from teaching OAIS in the classroom, the team released this module as the first step towards developing an online learning offering. It was originally intended to run for four weeks, to gauge interest, and to see if maintenance of this new resource would be possible.

The Course surpassed our expectations by gathering a good deal of interest from an international audience of students, and we’ve learned that creating virtual learning is both achievable and rewarding. So it’s been decided to keep the course available online for the foreseeable future.

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