This post is part of a series authored by DLF’s working group leaders to acquaint you with their work, and how you can get involved, leading up to the 2023 DLF Forum.
Though the annual Forum is DLF’s signature event, our working groups collaborate year round. DLF’s working groups organize across institutional and geographical boundaries to collaborate and get stuff done. Working group participation is open to anyone interested in getting involved, regardless of whether or not you work or study at a DLF member organization.
The Intersections of Sustainability and Technology TS4A sub-group has met several times this year to envision our mini-charter and our goals for the immediate future. We are a relatively small group, with between 3 and 6 people attending most meetings. Our membership is made up of archivists and digital curators from the US and Canada. We have settled on a capacious definition of both of our vectors: sustainability not just in an ecological sense, but in financial, staffing, and emotional senses as well; technology not just as hardware and software, but as the people and processes involved in the day-to-day operations of these tools.
As we continue to examine these factors and their impacts on digital archiving practices, we are working on an environmental scan of existing literature to gain a sense of the various dimensions of sustainability and how they intersect with technology for archives and libraries. This scan will look beyond the realms of library and archives work and will lead toward a bibliography and, aspirationally, a full literature review. Research on sustainability in professions such as academic libraries and museums may shine light on shared problems among archival professionals.
As a possible stretch goal, we are interested in the possibility of creating a framework or evaluation tool, in the vein of the NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation, that practitioners could use to evaluate their own institution’s sustainability on various fronts. We hope that this tool might enable paradigm shifts in the archival profession. For example, professionals might adopt a “good-enough” approach to their work as an expression of sustainability, rather than aspiring to potentially unreachable best practices for every project or practice, as argued for by Pendergrass et al. in “Toward Environmentally Sustainable Digital Preservation.”
The bulk of our work right now happens asynchronously, as we seek out and review material for this environmental scan. We are tracking this project in our shared Google Drive folder, and communicate via Slack and a listserv when needed between meetings. Right now, the meetings occur approximately every two months, but we anticipate meeting more frequently, if sustainable for our members, especially if it facilitates our work as we move from gathering sources for the environmental scan to doing more generative writing work. We are always happy to welcome new members to the group! Please get in touch with Mark Wolfe at email@example.com or join this listserv if you are interested.