Faye Lemay

Faye Lemay

Last updated on 17 October 2018

This is part 2 of a 4-part series on Digital Preservation at Library and Archives Canada.
Part 1 is posted here: 
https://www.dpconline.org/blog/building-momentum-for-change


In part 2 of this series, we describe the recent initiatives at LAC leading up to the creation of the Strategy for a Digital Preservation Program.

In the early 2010’s, the Digital Preservation business unit was a fledgling team. There were multiple internal and external pressures on LAC to beef up its digital preservation capacity, such as an accelerating volume of digital materials that needed to be preserved for the long-term.  In 2014, the Auditor General of Canada had issued a report raising questions about the readiness of LAC to handle digital records as the format of choice by 2017. It stated that LAC “must articulate these plans in its vision, mission and objectives.  It must put in place strategies, policies and procedures that will allow the transfer and preservation of digital information so that it is accessible to current and future generations”. The audit report highlighted “the need for an electronic archival system such as a trusted digital repository to acquire, preserve and facilitate access to the digital collection”.

Although the overarching institutional goal for a trusted digital repository (TDR) stayed constant throughout this decade, changing institutional priorities and the focus on technology and short-term projects stimulated a re-examination of what was needed to install digital preservation as a core and enduring business component.

In 2015, LAC contracted with the Center for Research Libraries to conduct a high level ISO 16363 assessment of its organizational capacity for a TDR. This study was intended to serve as a baseline of current capacity and identify gaps for program improvement. The audit report recommended that LAC focus on its organizational design, procedures and workflows, policy development, and take ownership over its technology infrastructure.

Library and Archives Canada has been accumulating, for at least three decades, digital content that are born-digital, or may have been part of digitization initiatives, or are contained in increasingly obsolete physical media formats.  In 2016-17, DP unit undertook a digital collections inventory of its Published Heritage, Private Archives and Government records collections, revealing a treasure trove of data about the state of digital collections and providing key evidence on where we needed to focus our efforts to preserve.  

Taking all these into consideration, it was clear that there was a compelling need for a cohesive program driven approach to ensure that the organization would be adequately resourced to administer a national digital preservation program worthy of its mandate. It was also important to bear in mind the organizational complexities at LAC, which has combined responsibilities for Canada’s published heritage, federal government records and private archives of national significance, each with its particular institutional approaches, challenges and strengths.

It was with this in mind that our approach to program design addressed digital preservation as a part of the full digital curation lifecycle and focussed only on what was needed to develop digital preservation as a program. Organizational strategies for other parts of the lifecycle such as digital acquisitions and digital access would need to be addressed separately.

In 2017, DP staff defined its strategic vision for digital preservation as a program compliant with ISO 16363, with all the functions of the OAIS implemented, well integrated into the core business of the organization and aligned with corporate strategy. 

In November 2017, the Strategy for a Digital Preservation Program was launched outlining three main programming streams:

  • Technical Infrastructure
  • Digital Collection Management,
  • Practices, plans and operational policies

These three streams were further broken down into three stages:  Information gathering phase to set the program foundation, program development and program implementation.  

The DP Team is well underway and is in between Phases 1 and 2 of the strategic plan. Having an institution-wide commitment to developing digital preservation as a core business function has invigorated the program to new levels. 

In Part 3 of the series: we will discuss the current state of DP at LAC.


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