Notes from ALA Midwinter 2011

A giant THANK YOU to Adrienne Bell for contributing her very thorough notes on meetings from ALA Midwinter. We have edited slightly with Adrienne’s permission. If other PCAN readers have notes they would like to contribute especially from other sessions, feel free to contact us or add to the comments section.

Preservation Administrators Interest Group

PARS Chair, Tara Kennedy, Yale University, opened the meeting by announcing this year’s awards recipients:

Banks/ Harris award: Ms. Roberta Pilette, Yale University

Cunha/Swartzburg award: California Preservation Program

Ross Atkinson award: Ms. Jan Merrill-Oldham, Harvard University

Jianrong Wang provided an update on the PARS website.  The new page is easier to manage due to the ALA standardization and is hyper linked between committees, key work indexed and searchable.   The next step may be attempting to network with other organizations like AIC through CoOL.

Roberta Pilette, Yale University, provided details about the IMLS Fellowship in Preservation currently being offered at Yale and New York Public Library.  The fellowship is 9 months long and comes with a stipend and very generous travel budget.  The fellowships run concurrently and include visits to the other institutions as well as 2 weeks working at a different institution. Kimberly Peach, George Blood Audio and Video, presented on her experience as Yale’s first IMLS Fellow in Preservation.  She strongly recommends the fellowship and would encourage people to consider applying.

Jacob Nadal, UCLA, spoke about developing a preservation strategy for UCLA’s personal archiving needs that is measurable and consistent.  Through collaboration with UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, he is developing a cost schema to address UCLA’s concerns about the costs of storing a growing digital library and the need to collect funds at one point in time only. So far, the decrease in storage costs tend to go to administration costs for updating/maintaining infrastructure.  Desired outcomes: flat fee user model (pay once, store forever), exploring data capacity caps, margin of safety on investment income.  Risk factors: growing size of digital collections, future costs of preservation, cost of switching technological platform.

Robert Klingenberger, Johns Hopkins University, presented the fully archival digitization workflow that he has developed utilizing Kirtas machinery and open-source software.  He showed a PreMIS outline detailing the workflow as well as the forms involved in tracking material through both the office and the workflow process.  The difference between digitizing for use and digitizing for longevity was discussed as was his approach to separating the two.  His ending comment was that digital preservation is an oxymoron and the only true way to preserve digital content at this time is digital output microfilm.

Gary Frost, University of Iowa, discussed his usage of the Time Weighted Preservation Index function within the Image Permanence Institute’s Climate Notebook software.  There are correlations within the following categories that need to be studied: acidity, moisture, baseline target, canaries (vellum bindings), and incidents.  He stated that we need to focus more on monitoring inside out and that although it’s convenient and interesting, measuring the ambient air says nothing about the insides of the materials themselves.  Instead we need to look directly at usability, integrated pest management, and integrated storage management.

Barclay Ogden, University of California, Berkeley, presented on the California Preservation Program, which is a function of the California State Library.  Julie Page and Barclay coordinate the program along with a 12 person steering committee (including the CA State Archivist).  Libraries, museums, state institutions, state parks are involved.  Their 5-year plan is to:

  1. extend disaster preparedness to all libraries;
  2. build a statewide audiovisual preservation plan;
  3. develop a digital preservation education opportunity;
  4. create a risk assessment advisory service;
  5. integrate the CPP w/ regional preservation programs;
  6. develop an economic sustainability plan.

Michèle Cloonan, Simmons College, discussed the efforts undertaken by Simmons and Winterthur to address the gap in the field created by the demise of the UT-Austin program. They immediately began discussing how to train people in this field while waiting for the programs to be able to produce these people.  Simmons will teach library and information sciences; Chela Metzger, via Simmons, will teach book conservation using the North Bennett Street School facilities during the summer; and there will be an internship at the Library of Congress.  Sustainability is a definite concern because this is an expensive program.  Also, James Reid-Cunningham is now teaching book conservation at Buffalo.

Some questions for consideration: Does someone getting an education in conservation need an LIS degree?  Can the core areas they need to know be taught through the conservation curriculum or would a 4th year be required to include the LIS curriculum?

This is an issue that needs more input from the profession. (Editors’ note: we have had many discussions here on PCAN and there have been multiple discussions at ALA, AIC and beyond…search PCAN for more information.) The Kress Foundation has given support for about several conservators to emerge from the Winterthur/Buffalo/NYU programs during this interim time period.

Discussion ensued concerning the institutional trends towards accepting a variety of terminal degrees; the value of the MLS, and other training options that are emerging.

Charles Kolb, National Endowment for the Humanities, announced deadline changes in grant applications due to a switch to three council meetings per year from four.  The 2011 budget request was for 5% less than was requested in 2010 but no one has a budget yet for the fiscal year starting in Oct. 2010. NEH is seeing a record number of grant applications.  NEH is beginning to follow their own guidelines stipulating cost shares between 1/3 for consortia groups to ½ for universities. Preservation Assistance grants continue to increase and they are now allowing preservation assessments of born digital and converted to digital collections.

Jeanne Drewes, Library of Congress, encouraged partnership between preservation people and public library for the 2011 Preservation Week.  See the website for more information and for events near you. Also, she is the new editor of ALCTS paper series, the first person from preservation, and would like the field to think of small papers or unified ideas to put preservation into ALCTS publications.

Miriam Centeno, Johns Hopkins University/Glatfelter, announced that Johns Hopkins and Glatfelter were co-sponsoring a “Permanence Matters” conference in Baltimore on May 10, 2011.

Upcoming PARS Chair, Ann Marie Willer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, mentioned that she is in charge of nominating for the 2012 – 2014 term and asked interested parties to fill out the ALCTS volunteer form.

Curators and Conservators Discussion Group

Discussed what levels of metadata are required to put items up on the web.  No metadata is unacceptable.  Basic metadata that allows access seemed workable for most although several people indicated that their institutions back filled the metadata out of their catalog after the images were made accessible.  Others indicated just the basic metadata was acceptable.  Another scenario was metadata levels dependent upon users; basic metadata for institutional researchers with IP addresses limited to campus computers.  This also raised the question of whether or not a separate digital database is being developed or these images linking to the main catalog.  The program “Summon” is apparently a good way of managing connections between various storage sites.  Residual questions: what to do with in-house scans that aren’t cataloged and/or one-off scans at patron request that aren’t part of any officially acknowledged work-flows.  Is access to digital images by other sites allowed?  Some institutions say yes, others say no, yet others allow links to the images on the institution’s website, and still others will provide a low-res image only.

Another topic raised involved the digitization of a/v materials and the sheer space required for storage.  Institutions are occasionally taken by surprise when confronted with the amount of digital storage space required by libraries.

The last topic was selection criteria for digitization projects and who performs the work.  Several institutions indicated students do the actual digitization of materials and are taught handling procedures although many people indicated there is no handling policy within their institution.  One institution has a committee that evaluates proposals to determine which Special Collections materials are digitized.  That decision is made solely by the Head of Special Collections at another institution.  The suggestion arose that a collections development policy for digital collections could be beneficial which would also assist in incorporating the digital collections into Special Collections.

Promoting Preservation Interest Group

Update on Preservation Week (April 24-30, 2011) activities: Jeanne Drewes continued to stress devising activities that involve the local public libraries as a means of getting preservation to the world.  However, small or grand, just do something.  The theme is still Pass It On and the date this year is April 24 – 30, 2011.  There are already activities posted on the Google Maps site and the Speakers Bureau is once again available via the @ Your Library – Pass It On website and the ALCTS website.

Some ideas for activities included:

  • screen savers with preservation messages
  • clinics where local participants can bring in items to be evaluated (but not appraised)
  • a series of tweets during the week
  • setting up temporary workspaces for conservators in public areas.

Jeanne is working with five selected participants from the Emerging Leaders Program to develop more ideas for programs and getting them involved in preservation.  It was also highly recommended that people start planning early because public libraries frequently plan their activities several months in advance.  ALA is more supportive and better prepared to assist this year: there will be a banner headline on the ALA main page during Preservation Week and an article in ALDirect.

Course Exhibitions: Carie McGinnis has developed policies for course exhibits at Harvard requiring that the materials be in good condition to begin with.  This tends to lead to the education of the exhibit curators as to what “good condition” means and other aspects of preservation/conservation in exhibitions.  The outreach has been significantly more than was anticipated.

California Preservation Program: Barclay Ogden and Julie Page discussed funding models used in the CPP as well as other activities.  Barclay recommended attempting to get funding from a wide variety of places with different restrictions as this allows greater flexibility for various types of activities.  They have found that in addition to the standard workshops, the “just in time” education provided via the 24/7 emergency phone line is equally valuable.

Book and Paper Interest Group

Topic: Using Social Media in Preservation

Discussion of whether blogging is beneficial in the preservation world and who blogs, when, and about what.  One person indicated that there is significant concern regarding what information is on their blog and has even had staff members come up and question the validity of the activities posted there.

Are there links between preservation blogs in the blogosphere?  Not yet.  Is there a chance PCAN would be willing to serve as this type of portal? (Editors’ note: We are open to discussing how PCAN be of better use to our readers and help you find other blogs you want to follow. Also note, we have links to numerous preservation and conservation blogs on our sidebar, feel free to use PCAN as your portal to your favorites.)

How buried are preservation blogs and how can they be brought closer to the surface level pages of libraries and/or preservation departments.  One institution’s blog is used heavily by their PR person and the preservation librarian will frequently find things posted on the blog appearing in the library’s newsletter, etc.  One blog is being used as an alternative to the preservation dept’s website due to its greater flexibility and search-ability.

What preservation librarians are involved in Twitter and/or Facebook?  How does this compare to a blog?  One person sends out a “this day in history” tweet to those signed up.  There is a Chronicle of Philanthropy article that questions how much benefit social networking actually creates, “Measuring Social Media’s Real Value.” Also discussed was DonorsChoose.org and whether or not something similar would be applicable to library fundraising down the road.

Nancy Kraft mentioned that Library Binding Service has approached U. Iowa about hosting a 3rd Future of the Book conference towards the end of July, 2011.  If anyone has presentation ideas, they can contact her.

Editors’ note: Oh how we wish we were at this session! there is so much blogging and Flickr-ing and Twittering going on, and some if it is really fabulous. Maybe we need to have a larger forum on using social media and actually USE social media to bring in people who can’t attend the discussion.


PARS Forum

Topic: ARL Preservation Statistics

A lot of the ARL preservation stats were shaped by the leadership during the 1980s.  From 1984 – 1985 pilot preservation statistics survey was conducted.  This led to the 1988-1989 annual survey that continued for a number of years.  The survey was revised in the mid 1990’s to include a few digitization questions; the preservation statistics survey form has a question on the digital form that was optional while other questions on microfilming were required.

The preservation survey provided continuity for collection of preservation data over two decades and establishes longitudinal trends which run the risk of standing still in time.  The 2006 Future of Preservation in ARL Libraries Task Force was formed to address this.  Clearly the time has not past for the preservation agenda but the actual forum for collecting this data has passed.

What is happening will be informed by Lars Myers’ “Safeguarding Collections” and the discussion on these issues in the ARL Statistics and Assessment Committee.  The committee moved on a recommendation to halt the collection of preservation statistics until a more defined ARL agenda could be determined. The need is to determine how preservation fits into the research library’s role in the 21st C.  A lot more people are involved in preservation activities than in the ‘80s.  It is clearly going to take a cooperative/collaborative effort, a national preservation strategy, which is outside of the individual institution model.

ARL libraries need a better way to make an argument that research libraries need to invest in preservation and the current statistics do not provide this information.  Things like LOCKSS and Portico are not captured for instance, nor are the relationships with OCLC, CRL, and other entities.  A self-study protocol might provide a more important recommendation surfacing from the report.

ARL continues to place a high value on preservation and there are two SPEC kits that relate to hot issues in content and preservation: Collecting Global Resources and Digital Preservation.  These efforts will inform the decision by ARL and they will be reviewing the remaining 3 surveys collected.  A task force is closely collecting feedback on a review process of the annual surveys.  The task force was formed after Oct 2010 and was a first step. ARL has spent a lot of time in San Diego collecting feedback on the questions about the annual salary survey, the annual library statistics compilation, and regarding special collections.

The Question and Answer session involved various levels of specifics starting with a general statement that the ARL preservation survey never did a good job of capturing what actually occurred in a Preservation department so this revision is a very good thing.  Revision needs to take into consideration

  • how the statistics are used by the field as well as by ARL;
  • quantifiable results of preservation as seen through the proliferation of survey tools available in preservation;
  • needs to take conservation into consideration;
  • how to make the information collected usable as well as useful;
  • the difference between born digital and digitized materials and how that may impact decisions and collaborations; stewardship of digital collections;
  • the potential inclusion of the technicians performed digitization outside of the Preservation department;
  • methods of designing the survey to incorporate the people who assist in preservation as a whole but are not part of the actual department;
  • potentially using the statistics to assist in the certification of repositories;
  • separation of digital and analog activities in the survey mandatory;
  • whether or not it would be possible to have a preservation person on the Task Force itself.

ARL was happy with the dialogue but asked all to remember that this is just the beginning of the revision process and that it will be several more years before anything concrete is determined.  Also stressed that the end decision may be to stop collecting preservation statistics but not before significant thought had been put into the decision.

Conversations similar to this one would be occurring at New Orleans as well as ARCL in Philadelphia.  Questions could be emailed to ARL to continue the dialogue but it was suggested that the ALA Connect space for the forum would be a better potential venue for preservation people to come to some sort of synthesis of ideas.  ARL Task Force members must be library directors because ARL is a membership organization and only directors can be members and that if we have any Directors on tap, we should encourage them to get involved.

Editors’ Note: Rebecca Miller posted more on this session over at LibraryJournal.com. If you find other similar posts, please share!

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6 Responses

  1. Let me echo your big THANK YOU to Adrienne Bell, and also thank you PCAN folks for sharing this info. As one who doesn’t make it to these kinds of events (my employer can’t/won’t send me, and I choose not to pay my own way) I really appreciate those who go to the extra effort to record and share what went on.

  2. Thank you Adrienne and Beth! I could not make the Book and Paper session or the Forum due to the usual ALA multiple committee commitments. The synopses were very helpful.

  3. The ALA/PARS 2011 Mid-winter was not the tipping point of 2010 Annual when physical collection care was subsumed by digital collection funding and management. The ARL statistics meeting was exciting. Howard Besser, NYU, posed a distinction between born and converted digital collections. I see all collections, including analog, as inherently digital (or screen searchable and displayable) regardless of end user format. Preservation is best described as tethered to the physicality of collection media or the embodied (self-authenticating) collections, and screen collections tethered to the disembodied (self-indexing) collections and ultimately to cloud connectivity and corporate agendas.

    As for the ARL statistics, their metric nature links them to conservation production including all the reprographies. Much of the “dark matter” of preservation will forever go un-reported, including adventuring in flood waters or advocating for the continuing role of physical books.

    In my view, book conservators are not well situated to interplay with developments that will control the destiny of print collections. This is so with regard to shared print archives where Karen Schneider and Lorcan Demsey who have both identified the high stakes. (links at my current page). This is the same scenario that resulted in the complete disposal of newspaper print runs during the filming eras.

    Book conservators are also absent from the forums (such as TeleRead) where the “death of the book” (meaning the obsolescence of print) is projected and then believed. These folks are framing the future. Book conservators do realize features and attributes of paper books, but have failed to project these during the continuing surge to screen display of books. It is the continuing role of print books in a context of their own screen delivery that needs exposition and support.

    One of the responses here in Iowa is a spring break course on the “Continuing Role of Real Collections”. This session will highlight all of the kinds of physical collections on campus and demonstrate their special functions in instruction and research. During an onslaught of screen simulation we have common cause with collections care specialists in paleontology, archeology, ethnography and material culture.

  4. Thank you very much for this writeup. We in SI Archives and Special Collections are charged with gathering statistics toward the Institution’s overall goals of digitization. Of course, we also are interested in continuing to gather preservation stats in order to provide and gain insight into predictable costs and efficiencies as regards funding and managment. We are currently building a pilot for scalable interdepartmental digitization, publication and preservation of unique hidden item-level non-library collections. I look forward to contributing our perspective, and critical analysis of our metrics choices and their utility through the project’s lifecycle, to the fray.

  5. @Nora, that project sounds really interesting. I wonder if any of the stats issue has been taking up at AIC’s LCCDG? it hasn’t as far as I am aware.

    We are continuing to collect data as we have done in the past pending ARL’s decision. I wasn’t willing to have no stats for several years, since we also need something to show our executive group that we are being productive. But they do only tell one part of the story, that is how many widgets you have produced. I’m still curious what non-ARL data others are collecting.

  6. […] are now out there (see the links on our right-sidebar).  This issue came up in a discussion at ALA Midwinter and the question was asked if PCAN would take on the role of aggregator. It’s a fine line, we […]

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