Marcus Nappier

Marcus Nappier

Last updated on 31 October 2023

Marcus Nappier is Senior Digital Collections Specialist at the Library of Congress

This year’s DPC World Digital Preservation Day theme, “Digital Preservation: A Concerted Effort” highlights the necessity of collaborative work to achieve digital preservation goals and ensure that our collective digital heritage stands the test of time. I’ve been thrilled to work alongside amazing colleagues at the Library of Congress to annually update and publish the Recommended Formats Statement, a digital preservation guidance tool and culmination of file format nerdiness.

The Library of Congress’ Recommended Formats Statement, informally known as the RFS, identifies hierarchies of the physical and technical characteristics of creative formats, both analog and digital, which will best meet the needs of creators, publishers, and cultural heritage institutions, maximizing the chances that creative content will survive and continue to be accessible well into the future. The RFS continues to serve two primary functions related to how the Library plans for the preservation and access of materials: 1) provide internal guidance to inform acquisitions-related decisions, and 2) spread best practices for ensuring the preservation of, and long-term access to, the creative output of the nation and the world.

The work to prepare the yearly release of the Library’s Recommended Formats Statement has never been the work of just one person or even a few individuals. Developing and publishing each yearly release of the RFS is reliant upon collaboration between many colleagues and across different teams here at the Library. This process begins with revisions and updates to the RFS evaluation matrix which serves as a guidance tool to evaluate formats and assign designations based on global and local sustainability factors. This year in particular, the Library formats team revised the matrix to include additional local factors about how file formats were represented in the Library’s access systems as another point of consideration for their RFS designations. This involved developing a tier of definitions of how formats were being represented in these systems. This led to highly collaborative meetings between Library stakeholders to share out about these definitions as well as highlight aspects of systems that may have been unfamiliar to Library digital preservation staff.

We then shared out the draft of the RFS to the wider community, including content creators, archivists, and librarians. This wider community feedback is especially important as the comments we receive help to ensure that the RFS’ improvements are useful to everyone. This feedback was particularly impactful during our “RFS 2.0” revamp which saw the Library move the RFS towards a “Level of Service” model to better define the “preferred” and “acceptable” format designations. My wonderful colleague and DPC member, Kate Murray, also has a great DPC blog post to highlight those improvements.

With these wider community comments, we generated a new RFS draft which we shared with our internal RFS technical teams here at the Library.  Who are our beloved RFS technical teams? The RFS technical teams consist of a variety of subject matter and technical experts, who are tasked with reviewing formats in the matching content categories that are outlined in the RFS. This review includes assessing the formats in their respective categories utilizing the evaluation matrix and reaffirming or assigning new designations. This review may also include removing formats from the RFS entirely or suggesting updates to acceptance criteria.  The feedback and proposed changes that we receive during this period remain crucial to the ongoing developments and success of the RFS.

The Library of Congress’ RFS revision and publishing efforts are truly reflective of this year’s DPC theme ‘Digital Preservation: A Concerted Effort”. This yearly process is reliant upon the expertise of many colleagues around the Library and our external formats community as well. The decision-making processes and communication are grounded in a mutual trust amongst stakeholders and an understanding of the importance of the work to our treasured digital preservation community.  The RFS has proven to be a very useful digital preservation tool over the years and these ongoing collaborations and increasing involvement internally and externally have allowed the Library to continuously push to make this a better resource. In the past this has led to new content categories and associated formats, updates to the evaluation matrix, and revised language. You can check out some of our past LC blog posts that highlight some of our recent RFS work from 2023 and beyond!

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