Colin Armstrong

Colin Armstrong

Last updated on 21 July 2020

Colin Armstrong is a Disc Imaging Technician for the British Library.
This blog post has been written in Scots - for those unfamiliar with the language, you may find the Dictionary of the Scots Language handy.

Since lockdown aroon mid-March, like a number o’ folks ma workin’ habits have changed dramatically. Ah’ve been unable to carry oot ma usual role in any normal capacity, and am mostly confined tae remote workin’ fae haim. Imaging disks as pairt o’ the  Flashback Project for the British Library Digital Preservation team at Boston Spa is ‘oot the windae’, and has been temporarily swapped fir home learning, webinars, and online courses (and occasionally screein' blog introductions in Scots). Ah’ve completed 18 courses and attended roughly 15 conference or webinar-type events tae date; but which have topped the list for improvin’ my digital preservation knowledge, professional development, and mayhap fir the team in general? Let’s take a wee gander eh?

The Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) launched a compact and very useful digital preservation course with The National Archives, aiming to “provide beginners with the skills required to develop and implement simple digital preservation workflows within their organisation.” As someone still growing and gaining experience within the digital preservation community I found it an excellent and informative course, as it works both as a refresher to build on fundamentals, and an invaluable source for further authoritative information on digital preservation.

Not a course; however the virtual LIBER 2020 conference was a 5-day event with keynote speakers, paper and poster presentations, panel sessions, and know, like a real conference...except, online... While not directed specifically at the digital preservation community, LIBER addresses the needs of the research library community more broadly. From a professional development angle I found this incredibly insightful, especially as it is not something I would usually attend. The subjects of open access publishing and working towards sustainable development goals for institutions were tackled (something I find increasingly important), along with incorporating citizen science more often in projects, and building trusted relations with researchers (link to recorded video sources above).

This introductory free short course from The Open University was likely the most interesting and engaging, as it explores the scientific method in digital forensics and analysis, along with legal decision-making. Tools, methods, and workflows are examined from a practical point of view to ensure that digital data is ‘authentic’ and ‘accurate’, but the historical side of criminal forensics and the legal process is also explored to show how digital data and the chain of custody can be used in a Court of Law. Certainly something I’d like tae investigate further!

365 Data Science is a handy wee site with umpteen tailored modules for newcomers who want to visualise and manipulate data. It is centered around mathematics, statistics, probability and data science; as well as the programs and tools used in integrating those subjects such as Excel, Python, Tableau, Git(hub), SQL, and more. Introductory and advanced courses are offered around each subject. While most modules admittedly were not directly related to my current role as a technician, I did find them useful as ‘refresher courses’ (such as Introductory Python); in finding how to maximise tools that I currently use (Excel); and in linking up and visualising subjects such as AI algorithms within data Science.

Ya canny dae a lockdoon without mentionin’ wellbeing! The FutureLearn course fae the University of York is an excellent course on digital society and identity, on what strategies to employ against negative online behaviour, and how to positively use and engage with technology. It was particularly useful in the context of remote-working in an unfamiliar environment where distraction, finding a routine and ‘switching-off’ might be an issue for some.

Honourable mentions: the internal British Library ‘Introduction to OpenRefine’ module will certainly come in handy, and anyone dealing with messy data should give OpenRefine a look. Big Data and the Environment was an expansive look at the formats and use of open and big data (specifically environmental and climate related), so useful for those manipulating or curating large environmental data sets.


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