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Archiving Electronic Publications

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Archiving Electronic Publications
A report of the NISO/BISG Meeting
January 20, 2002

This well-attended NISO/BISG program held during the ALA Midwinter 2002 Conference focused on three ongoing electronic archiving projects, to explore the issues publishers and librarians face in ensuring long-term access to digital resources. Creating a cost-effective business model for archiving, ensuring the rights and responsibilities of publishers and libraries, and identifying and framing new standards to support digital archival repositories were the leading issues the speakers addressed.

Dale Flecker, Associate Director for Planning and Systems, Harvard University Library, reported on Harvard's study on how to archive electronic journals. This activity is one of six digital archiving projects supported by planning grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Flecker half-humorously observed that much of the energy behind digital archiving is rooted in a belief that "something 'bad' is about to happen, and we don't know what to do about it." He reminded the audience that unlike the print environment, nothing in the electronic environment will be saved through inaction.

Flecker described the basic assumptions and objectives of the Harvard project and the related access and economic issues. Flecker also identified areas where common practices would streamline the archiving effort. Flecker stressed the importance of using a common dtd (document type definition) and alerted the audience to the feasibility study which examines this question (http://www.diglib.org/preserve/hadtdfs.pdf).

Karen Hunter, Senior Vice President, Strategy for Elsevier Science reported on the Yale Library/Elsevier Science Digital Preservation Collaboration, which, like the Harvard project, is funded by a Mellon Foundation grant. Hunter noted that the Project's underlying assumptions called for the design of a long-term archive for content without the "look and feel" or functionality of a traditional archive; that the archive would be responsible for file migration; and, that standards would be key to success. Hunter noted that the technical infrastructure for the archive and the metadata elements have been defined. Yet to be explored are economic and access issues.

George Barnum, Electronic Collection Manager, U.S. Government Printing Office, Library Programs Service (SL) reported on the OCLC Web Document Digital Archive, a GPO/OCLC collaboration to archive electronic government publications. Barnum explained that the government's web documents are administered by hundreds of different people thus making the job of "getting it all and keeping it forever" very difficult. As Barnum explained, the GPO/OCLC activity focuses on: offsite vendor maintained archives, toolkits for all associated procedures, identification of a set of preservation metadata, and the integration of workflow and tools.