Faye Lemay

Faye Lemay

Last updated on 4 January 2019

Faye Lemay is Digital Preservation Manager at Library and Archives Canada

This is part 4 of a 4-part series on Digital Preservation at Library and Archives Canada. Part 1 addressed “Building the Momentum for Change”, Part 2 talked about “Learning from our past”, Part 3 dealt with the “Current state of digital preservation at Library and Archives Canada.”

Given the challenges we faced with obtaining organizational alignment of digital preservation as a core business line, we had to ask ourselves some tough questions about what was not working and why we kept hitting the same brick wall.  Experience taught us that technology was not the panacea, but constituted only one of several building blocks.      

The key questions we faced: 

  1. How could we get the organization to recognize digital preservation as an operational imperative?
  2. How could we generate the conditions to foster the development of digital preservation as a core business function?

Establish a foundation for program maturity – Conducting the audit based on ISO 16363 criteria by an external source of expertise was a valued exercise to establish a baseline from which to begin program development.  This was a fact-finding mission to determine where we were at with the digital preservation program at a certain point in time.   The LAC TRAC audit report created an organizational culture shift focusing not just on technology development but more precisely, the establishment of digital preservation as a core business function. The LAC TRAC audit exercise provided the supporting evidence needed to expose the missing elements of program development.

Define the parameters of the program – Governance for digital preservation was dispersed across various operational sectors and business units within and external to LAC.  We grappled with how to define the scope of our preservation mandate, which fluctuated from “all things digital,” to digital stewardship, digital curation and ownership over the trusted digital repository.   It was important to stake out digital preservation based on standards and using common definitions that the organization could understand. 

Although digital content management was a shared responsibility with at least five distinct branches plus one external department, it was clear that the DP team was responsible only for a portion of the full Digital Curation Lifecycle.  The team streamlined the problem statement to a precise preservation mandate. The onus for providing preservation-ready collections already selected, arranged, described, accessioned was further upstream and managed by other branches, thereby making ongoing cooperation and coordination with other branches that process digital collections mandatory.

Using the OAIS reference model, we interpreted digital preservation as a small piece of the Digital Curation Lifecycle.  We deliberately applied a narrow definition to what we consider to be the boundaries of digital preservation within LAC. This narrowing of the DP scope was transformational inside LAC because it concentrated our mandate and forced the focus to be on program development instead of being entangled in the mandates for other parts within LAC. The definition was formalized in the Strategy for a Digital Preservation Program

Communicate and communicate ten times more – To establish business alignment with our senior leadership, we took our proposed strategy and shared it around the organization.  To get organizational and senior administration buy-in, we needed to ensure that the concepts put forth were well understood and approved by the highest levels of administration and internal LAC stakeholders. Communicating the value and purpose of the Strategy helped us achieve the corporate endorsement to forge ahead. This constituted a significant milestone for the digital preservation program in establishing a common ground and shared sense of purpose. At every stage in the evolution of the program, we will require this enhanced level of communication.  

Set key targets

We are now putting together the pieces of a web of essential elements that together form a full-fledged suite of digital preservation services. Building on the stages that have already been delivered and are ongoing (digital collections inventory, business requirements, technology solution initiative), our next step is to produce and receive approval for a roadmap which will define the gaps and lay out a path for our organizational design, collection management planning, and technology infrastructure. 

Our end state will include:

  • Digital preservation resources: well funded and required skillsets
  • Technical solutions: capable of handling 300tb per month and anticipated increase of 30% annually
  • Practices, plans and operational policies: documented and implemented policies and procedures.
  • Collection management: three copies separated geographically, unbroken workflows, resourced plan for legacy collections, digital preservation agreements in place.

A famous Chinese proverb states that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Our single step was narrowly defining the boundaries of digital preservation and obtaining organizational buy-in  on our journey to full  program development. Digital Preservation is an ongoing process, a long-term commitment to safeguarding documentary heritage.  It requires dedication and persistence. Our strategy provides us with a plan of action, and a systematic approach to how we intend to meet our mandate. We will continue to establish periodic checkpoints throughout the process to ensure our journey continues down the right path and we will continue to communicate and seek corporate buy-in.

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