Kara Van Malssen is Partner and Senior Consultant at AVPreserve in New York

I work at AVPreserve, a consulting and software development firm, where we focus on developing innovative solutions that advance the ways data and information serve individuals, organizations, and causes. Often, we are asked to come in to an organization and help them assess their digital preservation efforts, in order to move toward expanding capacity, scope, functionality, overall efficiency, or standards-compliance. We start by looking at their current digital preservation practices, evaluating technologies, policies, workflows, procedures, staffing/roles, and other resources. It is not uncommon for us to find that the organization is “stuck” in some respect, struggling to, for example, consistently collect all digital assets of value, implement comprehensive ingest procedures, or store all content in a managed preservation environment. And while the causes of these challenges vary between organizations, lack of funding is generally not the culprit. There are a variety of operational factors that need to be considered in order to implement successful digital preservation processes.

When we were invited by the Digital Preservation Network (DPN) to help develop a digital preservation training curriculum, we were excited to learn that they shared our goal of helping organizations move past project-oriented approaches, toward programmatic digital preservation. We decided together that we wanted this curriculum help organizations become “unstuck,” and that it should differentiate itself from, but build on, existing training offerings by:

  • Focusing on operational aspects of digital preservation
  • Focusing on organizational, not individual development
  • Equipping participants with the means to identify roadblocks, and resolve them
  • Being structured around real-world workflows and organizational structures
  • Being open, freely accessible, and easily implementable

The curriculum provides required background readings to ensure everyone is familiar with the theoretical underpinnings of digital preservation. With that shared understanding, the curriculum is structured to ask participants to look at digital preservation through a different lens. Rather than, “what do we need to do?” the curriculum’s view is, “how do we make this work?” The six modules are framed around digital preservation workflows, but also explore aspects that might be more commonly found in management trainings.

We feel that while existing trainings, curricula, and professional development opportunities offer participants an incredible understanding of digital preservation as a practice, there is also a need for intermediate-level capacity development that takes such operational issues into account, and provides an opportunity to work through common challenges around topics like throughput, SLAs, and governance.

The Digital Preservation Workflow Curriculum was released earlier this year under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution Share Alike (CC-BY-SA) license, and is freely available on the DPN and AVPreserve websites. We were very excited to learn in October that DPN won an NDSA Innovation Award for this work. Now we look forward to seeing what the community does with this resource, and hope to participate in bringing it to organizations that are ready to overcome their operational challenges and move toward programmatic, sustainable, digital preservation.

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