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Information to guide future work on keeping your policy current and relevant. Use this to find out how to keep your preservation policy up-to-date.

A lot of work typically goes into developing and communicating a digital preservation policy. Its final approval and publication is cause for celebration within an organization but that does not mean your work is done. Like any other policy your digital preservation policy will need to be reviewed periodically and kept up to date to ensure its continued accuracy and relevance for your organization.


Frequency of review

Policies need to be reviewed at regular intervals, to ensure that they are reasonable, and that they remain current in terms of practice. When you are establishing your policy, you should develop a schedule for review alongside it that notes a timeline for review, and potentially the roles or personnel who will undertake the review.

When developing your review schedule, consider:

  • If your policy needs to be reviewed by any other internal or external parties; if so, make sure they are named and notified as part of the review scheduling.

  • Whether the policy needs to align with any higher-level policies or guidelines, either from organizational strategy documents, funder requirements, or legislative mandates (this may inform your review schedule).

  • Whether there are any documented processes that may change over time and need to be amended in the document.

  • Whether there are any new changes which need to be reviewed by particular committees/offices before they are accepted, and what institutional timelines need to be considered in your review schedule (e.g. does a policy oversight committee or similar meet at certain intervals?).

Digital preservation processes and technologies change quite rapidly, so a reasonable timeframe for a policy review is 3 to 5 years. Longer time frames may mean that the policy is out of date before it has been reviewed, while shorter time frames could be redundant or organizationally burdensome. This timeframe should inform the level of granularity covered by the policy: you should not include very specific details about, for example, the choice of a particular preservation format, if these details are likely to change frequently.

It is easy to set a schedule for policy review but not always so easy to stick to it! There are many 'live' digital preservation policies online that are several years out of date and where the published review date target clearly hasn’t been met. It is important therefore not just to note the review schedule on the document itself but also in your organizational calendars!

Remember though, that you don’t have to wait until your agreed time before you carry out a policy review. A policy can be reviewed at any point and you should certainly try and do so if you feel it has become out of date. It is better to review it earlier than expected than later!

A policy review exercise doesn't always need to be too onerous a task. The benefits of a frequent review cycle may be that only minor changes are necessary. If a policy hasn't been reviewed for some time, it is more likely to be a larger piece of work to review and update.


Case studies

There is an interesting case study about policy review published as a blog post from Adam Harwood from the University of Sussex. As he explains, his organization reviews and refreshes preservation policy annually and the commitment (and reminders) to do so comes from senior management.

Another case study on the topic of policy review comes from Martin Gengenbach of the National Library of New Zealand who discusses some of the risks of lapsed policy documentation and the importance of relationship building when working in this space.


Keeping track of previous policies

As part of the process of policy update and review you should also consider what will happen to the superceded policy document. It is good practice to retain and preserve a copy of any previous preservation policy documents alongside the digital content you are preserving. Future generations of digital archivists (and indeed users) may find it helpful to see the evolution of digital preservation policy and a full history of policy documentation will provide valuable information to facilitate an understanding of decisions and approaches with regards to digital content at a certain point in time. Some organizations maintain this information internally (for example as described by Adam Harwood in his blog) and others have already taken steps to provide this information to their users.


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