Last week, our Collections Librarian brought us four floppies (yes, 3.5” diskettes) that contained a copy of Iowa in the Past: A Bibliography of Materials Published Before 1952 compiled by David Hudson. This title was never actually published and there are only two known print copies in Iowa, one at the State Historical Society of Iowa (SHSI) in Des Moines and one at SHSI in Iowa City. The author gave us permission to print and bind copies for the ISU library. He even brought us the disks from Iowa City fearing they might get lost in the mail; this was his only copy.

Various computer storage devices.

Luckily, my CPU still has a 3.5” drive (our Collections Librarian’s did not), and the files were in Word (97-2000) and saved in 1999 to the disks. Three of the four disks copied perfectly and the latest version of Word was able to open the documents without causing any page formatting problems. Unfortunately, the first disk was corrupted and all I was able to access was the title page. I had IT try to run various salvage programs, but it was too far gone. Thankfully, SHSI in Des Moines has graciously offered to copy the missing sections for us so there will be at least three libraries maintaining a print copy.

As a preservation librarian, these are the concerns that I have and am always trying to educate individuals on how to store and manage electronic files. Anytime I present helpful hints such as keeping multiple  copies in different locations and migrating to more current storage devices and file formats, I think everyone already knows all of this and I’m just wasting their time. From now on, I will think back to this experience as a reminder that everyone does not know what our profession knows and that we need to continue talking about the basics.  In this case, the basics include storage devices, hardware/software changes, standard formats, the cloud, and how digital actually complicates saving things for the future.

Does anyone have creative ideas on ways to teach the public about storing and managing their electronic files?  Or proven tricks used to extract information from corrupted storage media?