Expert Offers Tips on Preserving Digital Content

iStudent Blog

With the proliferation of online journals, periodicals and other publications, digital preservation is a hot topic for information professionals. Philip Gust, the developer of Stanford University Libraries’ metadata management system called LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe), is on the cutting edge of this field. He shared his expertise in a recent seminar as part of the free, online SJSU SLIS Colloquium Series.

Gust’s work focuses on integrating digital preservation into libraries and making preserved content useful to librarians and library users. In his presentation titled “Digital Preservation for the Rest of Us: What’s in it for Librarians and Library Users,” Gust talks about how vitally important it is that libraries take steps to preserve digital content and ensure users can access it. He also describes different types of digital preservation systems and their pros and cons, and gives practical advice on how to choose a system that’s right for your library or even create your own.

Gust calls digital preservation a “must-have” for any library that buys digital content. Libraries can’t rely on publishers to provide long-term access to digital content, he explains, and he doesn’t consider do-it-yourself backups a viable option either. Libraries may choose to outsource the work to a digital preservation agency, he says, or even better, implement their own digital preservation system.

Much of the presentation covers these last two options. Outsourcing digital preservation to subscription agency like Portico requires a set-up fee based on the size of the collection plus an annual fee that can go up unexpectedly from one year to the next. That fluctuation can make it hard for a library to accurately budget for those costs. Also, if a library should face a budget crunch and be unable to pay the fees, it will lose access to its digital content until those fees are paid in full.

Setting up your own digital preservation system is “surprisingly easy,” Gust says. Also, there’s no set-up fee and only a small annual fee. Another plus is the fact that the library retains access to its material even if it’s unable to pay the fee, and there’s no penalty to rejoin. The only other costs are for installation of the open-source software and regular maintenance of the computer and software.

In summing up his talk, Gust says libraries should budget for long-term digital preservation just as they would for physical content. “Going digital doesn’t eliminate upkeep costs. It shifts them,” he says. “It may be cheaper, but you’ll have to figure that out.”

There are still a number of dynamic speakers lined up for the Colloquium Series this semester. For the schedule of upcoming webcasts, click here. Past colloquia are available as webcasts on each semester page. Archived webcasts can also be viewed at your convenience on our video page and the SLIS Colloquia blog. Podcasts can be downloaded from iTunes.

SJSU SLIS also offers a free Career Colloquium Series dedicated to career development. share job search tips, resume advice, and career insight. New topics are presented each semester during the academic year.

And if you have any thoughts on Gust’s presentation or the Colloquium Series, please share them in the Comments section below. We’d love to hear from you.