Earlier this year the Levels Steering Group gathered feedback from the community about how the Levels of Digital Preservation were used. Some of our findings have already been shared in the following blog posts – Finding out more about the use of the NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation and National Libraries and the Levels of Digital Preservation. This is the third and final blog post in this series.
As noted in previous blog posts, there was a modest number of responses to our scenarios gathering exercise, so the results shared below offer only a small snapshot of community use of the Levels rather than representing a statistically valid set of results.
Here we focus on just one of the questions that was asked in our scenarios survey, though note this was actually several questions in one, digging into some of the different aspects of how organizations use the Levels. We’ll take each of those sub-questions in turn…
Describe how your organization uses the NDSA Levels.
The responses included some interesting examples of how people use the NDSA Levels, with some using them in quite specific ways.
- One organization uses an approximation of the NDSA storage levels to define the different types of storage available for their digital assets.
- A nice example of how one respondent uses the levels is their use to create and implement a basic repository-wide digital preservation system.
- Another respondent notes a preference for DPC’s Rapid Assessment Model (DPC RAM), but states that they do like to directly refer to the NDSA Levels when they have a reason to articulate maturity levels relating to a specific row (for example metadata).
- A couple of other responses mention using the Levels alongside other tools – one as a quick assessment tool alongside DPC RAM and another in conjunction with both DPC RAM and the DiaGRAM tool.
- Another mentioned using the Levels as a means of teaching both students and practicing professionals about digital preservation.
One response to this question was that the Levels are not currently used at all because initial steps to persuade senior administrators about the need for digital preservation have not yet been made.
How frequently do you use them?
Out of the answers provided to this question, it seemed that the Levels are not typically used on a regular cycle (for example as an activity that is carried out to an agreed schedule every 1 or 2 years), rather they are used in a more ad hoc fashion or as a result of specific triggers or drivers.
- One respondent mentioned that “we do not use the NDSA Levels in a systematic way”.
- Another noted that though they aim to complete it annually, in reality they might actually have a delay of two or three years in between assessments.
- Particular triggers that were noted by other respondents that could lead to a re-assessment using the Levels might be when digital preservation policies and plans are being reviewed or if other tools that rely on the Levels are being applied (the DiAGRAM tool from The National Archives UK was mentioned in this context).
- Another respondent mentioned that they had used the NDSA Levels at the start of their digital preservation journey and have used it to check in on progress a couple of times since. They have a plan to continue to incorporate regular assessment going forward.
Who gets involved?
There were a range of responses to this question, with some answers stating that the digital archivist will carry out a self-assessment using the Levels alone, a couple of answers mentioning that a colleagues in either their department or in IT will also be involved and another stating that though the assessment is driven by the digital archivist, other internal stakeholders would be consulted as appropriate.
Who is the resulting information communicated to?
Some of the responses to this included:
- Information produced as part of an assessment using the Levels is typically communicated internally with colleagues – both staff within the respondent’s department, senior administrative staff and other stakeholders. In particular, senior staff were considered to be an important audience for this information.
- One respondent noted that the information was used “as a way to help explain community expectations to traditional IT staff”.
- Another noted that the information was communicated outside of their organization as evidence for their application for Archives Accreditation.
It is encouraging to see the NDSA Levels being used as an advocacy and communication tool within several organizations.
What documentation is maintained about the process?
There was little response to this sub-question, but one respondent noted that they retain a filled in report for their records and to facilitate the tracking of progress over time. Another noted that documentation about their self assessment using the Levels is kept as part of their organizational records and another specified that both the assessment and notes about it were kept on their internal wiki area. This is encouraging to see – given the Levels can be used to track and monitor progress over time, keeping records of previous assessments and notes relating to why a particular level was selected is an important way to facilitate future comparisons.
Does this process tie in with organizational review and planning cycles?
Several respondents mention how their use of the Levels ties in with planning.
- One states the Levels are used to plan their digital preservation program and also that the use of the Levels does tie in with planning for future software and equipment upgrades.
- Another states that their use of the levels ties into planning cycles so they can identify target areas for resource investment.
- Another mentions that they have referenced the Levels in the Digital preservation Strategic Plan and mapped out strategic priorities and actions against it.
- One person stated that “it does not tie in with any organizational review or planning cycles.
There are likely to be benefits in regularly using the Levels as a check in when reviewing progress and planning future work, so it is encouraging to see that several people were using them in this way.
It is interesting as ever to share information about the different ways that the community uses the NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation. Hopefully this small snapshot gives you some ideas to take away and use within your own organizations.
Thank you and next steps
Thanks again to all of those who submitted information to us on their uses of the Levels. As always, we encourage the whole community to provide feedback on the Levels at any time. We are currently considering whether a review or update to the Levels is required in 2024 and are interested in hearing from the community if there are things that you think need to change. You are also welcome to come to our next Open Office Hour session on October 18th at 11:30 AM Eastern Time. Connection details and notes from past sessions are available here.