Personal Digital Archiving: Librarians as Leaders in Organization and Preservation

The following is a guest post by Melody Condron, resource management coordinator at the University of Houston Libraries. Condron will teach Personal Digital Archiving for Librarians as an online course beginning October 6.

Chances are, you have many digital items: family photographs, bank statements, recipes, or work reports. You may also have a digital life that includes your contacts’ information, emails, texts, and social media. Thirty years ago, most documents and correspondence were on paper. Those items were vulnerable to time, but could be protected by organization and proper storage. The same is true of digital documents, although we tend to create digital items faster and store them more haphazardly. Few of us have a plan for them even though they are at risk. Computers can fail or get stolen; a neglected online account might be shut down; or you may lose the photograph you need simply because you never gave it a title to differentiate it from the other 10,000 photos you created last summer. Learning the basics of personal digital archiving can help digital citizens become better managers of their own lives, and librarians have the organization and preservation training to help people move in the right direction.

Personal Digital Archiving: Librarians as Leaders in Organization and Preservation

Personal Digital Archiving: Librarians as Leaders in Organization and Preservation

At its core, personal digital archiving is the conscious maintenance and storage of your digital documents. The topic is complex because everyone has different needs. A film student, for example, might have multiple digital videos that require much more storage space than a normal computer user. Some people may want to preserve their social media accounts or text messages, while others find that to be too much work. Each individual must assess their own needs. Identifying what you want to keep (and get rid of) only takes you so far: you still have to figure out how to store it, protect it, and share it. Luckily, with an increase in cloud storage solutions and a decrease in the price of external drives and computer storage, options for protecting your data are becoming easier.

Sharing is a larger part of personal digital archiving than many people would assume. In fact, legacy planning is much of the impetus for some personal archivists. It can be exceedingly difficult to gain access to a loved one’s financial and legal documents in case of an emergency if they are all stored digitally behind passwords, or in accounts family members don’t know about. Photographs are also at a high risk of loss if they are not backed up and shared so that families have access.

With an increased interest in personal digital archiving, many libraries offer services to assist people. The Library of Congress has been a leader in this area and offers many resources. At the University of Houston Libraries, personal digital archiving is not a core focus – we don’t spend our days archiving text messages and Twitter. However, we do spend time working on best practices for file naming, metadata, preservation, data management, and organization.

This October, I will be teaching a class on Personal Digital Archiving for Librarians as a “train-the-trainer” opportunity. My goal is to translate that librarian-specific work to a broader audience. Seeing an increased interest in personal archiving is encouraging. As we move forward in a digital world, those best practices, born in libraries, can help people become better stewards of their own digital lives.

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Posted on September 29th, 2015 by Esmeralda Fisher and filed under Announcements | Comments Off on Personal Digital Archiving: Librarians as Leaders in Organization and Preservation