The POWRR of Digital Preservation

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!


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.

Posted in 21st Century Skills, Collections Care/Preservation, Information Infrastructure/Systems/Workflows, Learning Tools and Interactives (Information/Media literacy), National Leadership Grants | Comments Off

Nation’s Museums and Libraries Feed Minds and Bodies this Summer

Ed. Note: This blog was originally posted on the USDA blog. To view the original post, click here.

By Tony Craddock, Jr.
Program Analyst
USDA Food and Nutrition Service

Kids participating in summer programming with counselors.

While providing children with nutritious meals is the top priority of USDA’s summer meal programs, activity programming is also important for healthy kids.

Libraries remain a part of the fiber of American communities, with over 123,000 operating across the nation.  And in states like Idaho, libraries provided children with more than just books!  For the second straight year, the Idaho Commission for Libraries teamed up with AmeriCorps VISTAs and local summer meal sites to offer “Literacy in the Park”, a program to bring fun educational activities to existing Summer Food Service Program meal sites.

They say “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it”!  But “Literacy in the Park” proved that you can certainly add to it!  Julie Armstrong from the Commission for Libraries said, “We thought, if kids are already at the parks eating, let’s offer them literacy activities along with those meals.”  Ten AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers from the Idaho Foodbank assisted with literacy programs at different Boise sites, each sponsored by the Idaho Foodbank and the Oasis Food Center.

The AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate Program supports USDA’s effort to ensure children do not go hungry during summer months, but they also want to make sure kids don’t lose ground when they return to class in the fall.  USDA has partnered with the Corporation for National and Community Service for four years to strategically place VISTAs in areas of need, where great programs like “Literacy in the Park” make a difference in children’s lives.

Museums can play important roles as well.  FNS partners with the Institute of Museum and Library Services to feed minds and bodies during the summer.  In fact, there are more than 35,000 museums in the United States, so the opportunities Idaho leveraged with libraries are possible with museums.  So not only can museums and libraries support existing sites, they can become sites themselves!

FNS continues to encourage partnerships between the Institute of Museum and Library Services, VISTAs and the Summer Food Service Program… And now you can do the same!

Posted in Afterschool/Out-of-School, Early Learning, Health | Comments Off

A Comprehensive Strategy to Strengthen STEM Learning Must Include Libraries and Museums

Photo of Susan HildrethBy Susan H. Hildreth
Director, IMLS

Quality STEM education is important for the nation as a whole and for individual citizens. A robust and capable STEM workforce is crucial to United States competiveness. Research links STEM educa­tion to the future security and economic success of the United States, and opportunities for STEM-related careers are increasing. However, we know that students in the U.S. rank in the middle of the pack compared to their peers internationally, and, in some economic sectors, job applicants do not have the STEM knowledge and problem-solving skills that employers need.

It is gratifying to see that at the national level, the role of informal learning in supporting major student outcomes in STEM education—and, in particular, of libraries and museums—is recognized in two National Research Council reports, STEM Learning is Everywhere and STEM Integration in K-12.

The National Science Foundation’s Science and Engineering Indicators 2014 reports that public interest in informal learning opportunities is high. In fact, the majority of Americans visit zoos, natural history museums, aquariums, or science technology centers each year. It is clear that these institutions play an essential role in reaching the public, inspiring STEM interest, and supporting STEM skills. A comprehensive strategy to improve STEM achievement must embrace informal learning opportunities.

Just this summer, the Board on Science Education assembled a 13-person expert committee, led by our National Museum and Library Services Board member Eric Jolly, to develop a concise primer on successful out-of-school STEM learning based on evidence of successful practice and informed by a 2-day public workshop that explores the current evidence. The primer on best practices in out-of-school STEM learning will be written for policy-makers, funders, nonprofit and private industry representatives, and other representatives from civic society.

Here at IMLS, we established a funding priority for STEM-related projects in FY 2014 and FY 2015.* I am pleased to announce that we have invested more than $23 million in 140 STEM-related projects during FY 2013 and FY 2014.

All types of libraries—public, academic, school, and tribal—are represented in our portfolio, and many museum disciplines, from science tech centers to art museums to zoos. These programs are supporting teachers, faculty, and classroom learning, are providing quality out-of-school opportunities, and are reaching underserved populations.  They also help prepare library and museum professionals to create programs that help citizens develop a broad range of STEM skills, from data mining to video production and more.

I encourage you to take a look at the descriptions of these recently funded programs. I promise you will be astonished at the variety and depth of these investments. We will be following this work and continuing to strategically invest in strengthening STEM learning experiences.

*This article was updated on October 6, 2014 to reflect that IMLS’s has funding priority for STEM learning in FY 2014 and FY 2015.

Posted in Afterschool/Out-of-School, Director's Messages, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) | Comments Off