By Jaime Schumacher
Director of the Digital POWRR Project
Northern Illinois University collaborated with a board of advisors and partner libraries at Chicago State University, Illinois State University, Illinois Wesleyan University, and Western Illinois University to launch the Digital POWRR Project (Preserving digital Objects With Restricted Resources) under an IMLS National Leadership Grant. This project has been making waves in the field of digital preservation (DP) since our efforts began in 2012. Our focus has been on investigating scalable DP solutions for small and mid-sized institutions that are often faced with small staff sizes, restricted IT infrastructures, and tight budgets.
These institutions hold unique digital content important to their regions’ cultural heritage, yet many of the practitioners are unsure how to approach the stewardship of the content and are overwhelmed by the large number of DP tools/services available. As the project progressed, our team uncovered the particular challenges, advantages, needs, and desires of under-resourced institutions.
Practitioners at smaller institutions often do not have time to stay abreast of the frequent developments in the field of digital preservation, may not have the expertise or technical infrastructure necessary to install and maintain complex software solutions, and frequently lack the funds to pay for complete, ready-to-use solutions that may exist. Faced with what seems to be an enormous undertaking, many peers serving at institutions with limited resources find themselves too overwhelmed to take the first steps. They are also in need of practical information with which to educate colleagues and administrators on the risks of digital content loss, advocate for necessary resources, and take initial technical steps to improve the preservation of their digital holdings. We worked to address and overcome obstacles that often prevent practitioners from taking even initial steps in preserving their digital content.
The entire POWRR team sought to create a well-marked, realistic path towards sustainable digital stewardship for this often overlooked group by completing the following activities:
- Delivered a well-received, graphic-based tool grid that shows, at-a-glance, the functionalities of over 60 DP tools and services and how they fit within an OAIS-based digital curation lifecycle.
- Successfully petitioned select DP-solution vendors for scaled-down and transparent pricing geared towards smaller institutions.
- Created materials to aid practitioners as they attempt to build awareness around the need for a DP program and advocate for the necessary resources.
- Developed a pragmatic, hands-on workshop to teach the initial steps necessary to accession and inventory digital content as well as how to realistically approach developing a DP program. Recognizing that many of their target institutions currently have little-to-no travel and training budgets, the POWRR team is traveling across the country to conduct these workshops for very little cost to the practitioners.
Because institutions can achieve economies of scale by working together (not to mention the value of the “we’re all in this together” approach!), we are producing collaboration models and the underlying legal framework often needed for these endeavors—all directed at small and mid-sized institutions. Most recently, we released our White Paper, From Theory to Action: Good Enough Digital Preservation for Under-Resourced Cultural Heritage Institutions.
These are just a selection of the efforts put forth by the POWRR team to guide and empower our peers on the path to digital stewardship. Stay tuned to the POWRR website for further activities and developments!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jaime Schumacher is the Director of the Digital POWRR Project at Northern Illinois University. She received her MLS from the University of Illinois, her B.S. in Computer Technology from Purdue University, and was an Information Systems Consultant for Deloitte Consulting in Chicago, IL. firstname.lastname@example.org