Definitions of Digital Preservation
Prepared by the ALCTS Preservation and Reformatting Section, Working Group on Defining Digital Preservation
These definitions have been developed to promote an understanding of digital preservation within the library community, as well as our allied professions and the user communities we exist to serve. This marks our current understanding of digital preservation and encourages further development of these ideas.
June 18th 2009, revised from 2007 original
Digital preservation combines policies, strategies and actions that ensure access to digital content over time.
Digital preservation combines policies, strategies and actions to ensure access to content that is born digital or converted to digital form regardless of the challenges of file corruption, media failure and technological change. The goal of digital preservation is the most accurate rendering possible of authenticated content over time.
Digital preservation combines policies, strategies and actions to ensure the most accurate rendering possible of authenticated content over time, regardless of the challenges of file corruption, media failure and technological change. Digital preservation applies to content that is born digital or converted to digital form.
Digital preservation policies document an organization’s commitment to preserve digital content for future use; specify file formats to be preserved and the level of preservation to be provided; and ensure compliance with standards and best practices for responsible stewardship of digital information.
Digital preservation strategies and actions address content creation, integrity and maintenance.
Content creation includes:
- Clear and complete technical specifications
- Production of reliable master files
- Sufficient descriptive, administrative and structural metadata to ensure future access
- Detailed quality control of processes
- Use of persistent identifiers
Content integrity includes:
- Documentation of all policies, strategies and procedures
- Recorded provenance and change history for all objects
- Verification mechanisms
- Attention to security requirements
- Routine audits
Content maintenance includes:
- A robust computing and networking infrastructure
- Storage and synchronization of files at multiple sites
- Continuous monitoring and management of files
- Programs for refreshing, migration and emulation
- Creation and testing of disaster prevention and recovery plans
- Periodic review and updating of policies and procedures
During the American Library Association’s (ALA) 2007 Midwinter Meeting, a working group within the Preservation and Reformatting Section (PARS) was charged to draft a definition for digital preservation to support the work of PARS, the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) and the ALA, for use on the web, verbally, in written policy statements, and other documents. Our work was reviewed at the 2007 Annual Meeting and approved for further distribution by the PARS and ALCTS Executive Committees. The Digital Preservation Interest Group is charged with reviewing the definition for current relevance and accuracy. The definition was reviewed in 2009 and the next scheduled review will be conducted during 2011.
The working group studied a number of resources to familiarize itself with the critical elements of digital preservation identified by a broad selection of individuals and agencies. We endeavored to cast these ideas into language that would speak to a wide variety of stakeholders while also being consistent with the core preservation concepts that have developed in the library and archival communities.
The working group decided to package a set of core concepts into a short, medium, and long version to accommodate a variety of needs. The long version includes a number of currently accepted best practices but is not intended to be an exhaustive list.
The Working Group
- Cathy Martyniak, Preservation Officer, University of Florida (2007, 2009)
- Jake Nadal, Preservation Officer, UCLA Library (2007, 2009)
- Becky Ryder, Preservation Librarian, University of Kentucky (2007, 2009)
- Evelyn Frangakis, Assistant Director for Preservation, The New York Public Library (2007, 2009)
- George Blood, Safe Sound Archive (2007, 2009)
- Karen Brown, Preservation Librarian, SUNY Albany (2007)
- Margaret Byrnes, Head, Preservation & Collection Management Section, National Library of Medicine (2007, 2009)
- Sian Meikle, Digital Services Librarian, University of Toronto (2007)
- Emily Gore, Head of IT and Digital Initiatives, Clemson University (2009)