Andrea Goethals is Digital Preservation Manager | Kaiwhakahaere Matapopore Matihiko, at the National Library of New Zealand | Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa

At the National Library of New Zealand, quite a few of us play a role in preserving the nation’s digital heritage. If you were to ask each of us what digital materials are most at risk in New Zealand you would hear a variety of different opinions, depending on where we sit in the Library. Among other things you would hear about at-risk audio-visual collections on obsolete physical media, born-digital archival and special collections material across New Zealand, and social media. It’s true that these are very real challenges, but we are chipping away at many of them through a variety of initiatives at the Library and in collaboration with others. 

So what challenges are we finding especially hard to address? In this post, Steve Knight and I describe some of the key challenges we face. 

Steve Knight, Programme Director, Preservation Research & Consultancy -

The concept of trusted information (and therefore digital preservation) is foundational for a national library as we aspire to collect, preserve and deliver/unlock the social, cultural and economic value of information held in our collections.

A key challenge for us now is how to utilise our legislated mandate to leverage the long-term value and benefit of digital preservation across the nation and lift our performance to a system leadership role, while working collaboratively with others to ensure collective impact.

How do we expand our collecting (and consequently our digital preservation programme) to include multiple and increasingly diverse communities of interest while maintaining the integrity and authenticity of our collections in an environment increasingly characterised by complex challenges including copyright, intellectual property management, privacy, and security, at the same time as we look to respond to the broader government and societal impacts of digital transformation?

Andrea Goethals, Digital Preservation Manager, Preservation Research & Consultancy -

Like Steve, I think our main challenges are not around any one type of material - they are broad and, from my perspective, have to do with misconceptions about the nature, value, and commitment required by digital preservation.

I don’t think any of us will dispute the fact that the resources needed to sustain digital preservation programmes are significant (and often increasing). And it is a challenge to demonstrate the value of this investment when the work we do is primarily focused on benefitting future (invisible) users who will have technology that looks very different from what we have today. Another challenge is that few outside our digital preservation community understand deeply what we do. It is difficult to convey in non-technical terms how digital preservation is different from services offered by IT companies and consultants, and that you can’t just purchase a solution to “solve” the digital preservation challenge - it requires continued investment.

So, what could help? I think it comes down to better communications and outreach. We need to think creatively how we can make our digital preservation work visible and understandable, how we can clearly demonstrate evidence of impact, and how we can bring our messages to different audiences in a way that resonates with them.

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