Preserving our "national" collection

A recent report published by the Library of Congress makes a very strong case for government investments in digital preservation infrastructure. Although it is a US report, the arguments are equally valid in the Canadian context.

The report talks about how digital information technologies are now the "foundation of our nation’s knowledge capital", "key to economic prosperity" and crucial for maintaining global competitiveness. "They also deepen citizens’ engagement with democracy and enrich their daily lives by enabling new forms of communication and creativity."

Much of our digital assets, however are at high risk of being lost because digital technologies changes so rapidly.

What is at stake if we don't act?

Only the "loss of data representing billions of dollars of investment in new information technology, new scientific discoveries, and new information upon which our economic prosperity and national security depend."

To address this, they are proposing a National Digital Stewardship Alliance that will take on the collective responsibility for preserving their "national collection".

From 2006-2008, Library and Archives Canada undertook a consultation of major stakeholders across Canada that essentially called for a similar thing- a distributed network of repositories to collect and preserve Canada's valuable digital material. LAC, CISTI and some provincial and university libraries are already building Trusted Digital Repositories, however, these organizations can only cover a small portion of the valuable material that is created in Canada every year.

Canada will also need to adopt a more comprehensive, coordinated strategy and strong leadership if we are to ensure that our investments in digital content are not permanently and irrevocably lost.