Digital Curation, Data Management, Digital Preservation, Sustainability: Are We Clear Yet?

Constellation C: Monday, October 31, 10:30AM – 12:00PM

This session will examine the status of discourse surrounding “data management planning,” “digital curation,” “digital preservation,” and “sustainability” from varied perspectives, with the purposes of helping to ensure that key stakeholder communities are on the same page when they communicate and collaborate. Recent conferences, blog postings, and project descriptions reveal occasional confusion and dissonance between and among digital librarians, educators, domain specialists, funders, and others as they develop action plans or guidelines for addressing these issues. The terms noted above don’t always mean the same thing to the various communities of interest trying to identify next best steps in dealing with research data, born-digital resources, surrogates, or other digital content and assets. For example, in some settings, digital preservation is seen as a component of data management planning; in other contexts, it’s exactly the opposite. For some, digital curation carries a broad, overarching meaning, while for others, this term has yet to come into common use and seems overly ambiguous.

Achieving greater clarity on the uses and meanings of these terms and concepts is not merely a semantic exercise. With interdisciplinary approaches being so vital to the successful care and stewardship of digital information, greater consistency in communication and commonality of understanding of methodological frameworks is a must. As is often acknowledged, maintaining and making digital content properly available involves a high level of cross-community engagement between information creators, tech engineers, systems managers, curators, end users, and others to encompass a truly effective life-cycle strategy. Sharpening the definitions for fundamental concepts becomes a key ingredient in advancing such interaction and interdependence.

This topic will be explored by a panel comprising 1) an educator from a leading information studies program developing a digital curation curriculum, 2) a co-author of the Association of Research Libraries’ guide for research libraries on the NSF data sharing policy, 3) a digital archivist incorporating sustainability in both institutional and community development environments, and 4) a representative from the Library of Congress’ National Digital Information and Infrastructure Preservation Program. The panel will be moderated by a representative of a funding agency that supports the creation and long-term preservation of digital content. Although the session will make no pretense of producing conclusive definitions, it should bring heightened attention to the challenge of untangling the overlapping meanings of evolving terms and constructs and their emerging application in digital library practice.

Session Leaders

Joel Wurl is a Sr. Program Officer in the Division of Preservation & Access, National Endowment for the Humanities, where he is involved foremost with the division’s “Humanities Collections & Reference Resources” program, which, among other activities, supports efforts to preserve and make available digital humanities content.. Prior to joining NEH in October, 2006, he worked for 20 years with University of Minnesota’s Immigration History Research Center ending there as Head of Research Collections and Associate Director. His publications have appeared in both archival and immigration/ethnic history journals, and he is general editor for “North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries, and Oral Histories,” an online product of Alexander St. Press. In 2007, he was named a Distinguished Fellow of the Society of American Archivists. He also serves as Adjunct Instructor in the Applied History program at George Mason University.

Dr. Helen R. Tibbo is an Alumni Distinguished Professor at the School of Information and Library Science (SILS) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), and teaches in the areas of archives and records management, digital preservation and access, appraisal, and archival reference and outreach. She is also a Fellow and immediate Past-President of the Society of American Archivists (SAA). From 2006-2009, Dr. Tibbo has been Principal Investigator for the IMLS-funded DigCCurr I project that developed an International Digital Curation Curriculum for master’s level students and the DigCCurr II project that extends the Digital Curation Curriculum to the doctoral level. In 2009, she received IMLS support for two additional projects, Educating Stewards of Public Information in the 21st Century (ESOPI-21) and Closing the Digital Curation Gap (CDCG). The latter is a collaboration with the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and the Digital Curation Center (DCC), both of the United Kingdom, to explore educational and guidance needs of cultural heritage information professionals in the digital curation domain in the US and the UK.

Dr. Patricia Hswe is Digital Collections Curator at the Penn State University Libraries. Her work is largely about making digital content and data discoverable, accessible, and usable over time, for as long as these materials are useful – toward the related goals of repurposing them and adding value to the Libraries’ collections and data sets. To these ends, she is regularly engaged in activities of assessment, data/content management, and stewardship services planning. In this context, a key responsibility is assisting in the development of services to support faculty and students in the curation of their research data and other scholarly materials. In addition, she has research interests in user engagement with special collections and archives and in the challenges of humanities data curation. Patricia is a former CLIR Post-Doctoral Fellow and a 2008 graduate of the Master’s degree program at the University of Illinois’ Graduate School of Library and Information Science. She also holds a PhD in Slavic Languages and Literatures from Yale.

Megan Forbes is the Collection Manager at the Museum of the Moving Image and the Project Manager for CollectionSpace, an international initiative, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, devoted to the creation of an open-source, web-based software application for the cataloging, managing, and publishing of museum collections data. Megan is currently working on creating extensions to the existing CollectionSpace software that will allow museums and other cultural organizations to more easily manage information around digital objects, from media art to video games.

William LeFurgy is Project Manager, Digital Initiatives for the Library of Congress, National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP). He leads the communications team, which uses the web and social media to engage with professional and public audiences. The team publishes a blog, “The Signal,” and manages the @ndiipp Twitter stream. LeFurgy also oversees a variety of program initiatives, including development of a national approach to stewardship of geospatial data as well as four collaborative projects involving 35 states to preserve state government digital information. A frequent speaker on the topic of digital preservation, he has met with many groups around the world to discuss all aspects of the subject. In former lives LeFurgy dealt with electronic records at the National Archives and Records Administration and served as Baltimore City Archivist and Records Management Officer. While he has memories of punch cards, monochrome monitors and 30-pound portable computers, he is also an enthusiastic creator and consumer of social media. He has a BA degree in History from McGill University, as well as and MLS and MA in history from the University of Maryland.

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