Adam Harwood

Adam Harwood

Last updated on 20 March 2023

Adam Harwood is the Research Data & Digital Preservation Technologist at the University of Sussex Library.

We all know that there are some policies in our policy portfolio languishing in review limbo. To my surprise, I received an email from Jenny Mitcham at the DPC recently, pointing out that the review frequency of our digital preservation policy at the University of Sussex Library had been pretty constant over the last few years. Since 2020 our policy has been reviewed every year as planned. I didn’t realize we had been that consistent!

The DPC are in the middle of updating their Preservation Policy Toolkit and adding some example polices. Jenny asked me if I could share our review process in a blog post. So here it is.

Policy review at the University of Sussex Library comes from the top down whereby the head of collections asks me to review the policy every year – although last year it came from me because I realized there was an omission in the scope section where we didn’t cover content that we choose to preserve from the Sussex web domain.

Looking at our other policies, we have generally been a bit more consistent with updating our policies since 2020. This coincided with a change in management practices that involved moving strategic planning up a grade. In 2018 we revised all our policies to fit the new University template and the digital preservation policy underwent quite a significant change. Since 2020 I’ve had annual reminders through from my manager or the collections manager to check up on policies that need reviewing. This has provoked me to think about the policy more than I otherwise would have. We didn’t make any changes in 2021, but I did read it and decide it was still relevant. I don’t keep a formal record of the changes I make other than keeping copies of previous versions in a dedicated folder on our admin drives.

I find that the digital preservation outlook changes quite dramatically at Sussex from one year to the next (although things seem to be settling down now – phew!) so this automatically turns my attention to the policy. I always act as if digital preservation is teetering on the edge of being defunded and one of the ways of ensuring it isn’t is to make sure the digital preservation policy is kept alive so that senior management treat it in line with all the other Library policies and so continue to realize its value. Its good to keep a high profile!

So the takeaways from all this are:

1. It helps to have this review process come from the top down. You might not be able to affect this, but if you can convince your senior management that this is a good idea - so much the better. If you are the owner of the policy, make sure this is clear on the policy document itself to make sure you are the one who gets a reminder.

2. If your organization doesn't have a formal review process, then schedule a review date into your own calendar - or whatever productivity tool you use - I quite like Todoist. If its not in your calender, it won't get done.

3. You don't need to do a complete re-write every year. A review can be a simple re-read of the policy with your present day head on. As I pointed out above, we didn't need to make any changes one year, but I can still confirm that I did a review because I knew it still reflected our current situation. If you're aware of all the major/small changes to your infrastructure it might be a simple case of making sure these changes don't necessitate a change to your policy. You might need to ask colleagues some questions about certain aspects of your digital preservation activities to confirm this.

4. Reviewing policies is a good thing! It's not just a tick box checking exercise. It forces you to think about your current activities within the context of what you said you were going to do in your policy. If you think about it like this, you'll be more likely to want to do it. It might confirm that you're doing the right thing after all!

Of course, this all applies to me and my local situation. Every organization has its own processes and procedures, so this may not apply to your own circumstances.

In any case, Jenny has reminded me that we are coming up to another review in April, so thanks for that Jenny! Maybe this post will also serve as a reminder to you too...

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