Guest Bloggers


LiliBrik

Along with our wishes for a happy new year, we’d also like to say thank you to our readers for making last year such a rewarding one for us.  We appreciate your shared insights and feedback, and thank you for being part of our virtual preservation community.

2013 is already off to an exciting start, beginning with a frozen pipe which burst in the offices of our Special Collections and Archives over break.  Since I was basking in the Arizona sunshine at the time, Hilary will fill you in on the details of that escapade next Tuesday.  We’re also in the midst of our search for the 2013 Lennox Foundation Intern; if you or someone you know is planning to apply, please note the January 17 deadline.

Parks Library, Iowa State University

Parks Library, Iowa State University

As we look ahead to the rest of 2013, are there any favorite topics you would like to see us revisit?  We’ve covered topics as diverse as disaster response, conservation treatments, digitization projects, book and paper arts, commercial binding, reformatting, book reviews, conferences, sustainability, whimsical quizzes, and local preservation events.  Are there topics we’ve never discussed that you wish we would?  Guest bloggers from other departments of the Library from whom you’d like to hear?  Join our conversation!

Wishing you all a productive and fulfilling 2013!

Harrison Inefuku is Iowa State University Library’s new Digital Repository Coordinator.  While Harrison is not part of the Preservation Department, he works closely with us on digital preservation issues, and has agreed to be an occasional guest blogger.

As Hilary mentioned in an earlier post, I left hot and humid Hawai‘i for what turned out to be an even hotter and more humid Iowa. I’ve already been asked on multiple occasions, “What could draw someone from the white, sandy beaches of O‘ahu to the exotic climes of central Iowa?”

The opportunity to serve as Iowa State University’s first Digital Repository Coordinator, of course! And, despite my aversion to heat and humidity, I am thoroughly enjoying my time here.

In my role as digital repository coordinator, I am overseeing the development and operations of Digital Repository @ Iowa State University, Iowa State’s new institutional repository. An institutional repository is a platform for collecting and providing access to scholarly, research and creative works being produced by members of the Iowa State community—our faculty, staff, students, administrators and university offices, programs, centers and departments.

There isn’t much in the repository yet. I’ve spent much of my first two months here developing the administrative framework of the repository—writing the policies, guidelines and procedures that will determine how the repository functions. Many of the recent theses and dissertations written by now-Iowa State alumni are available, as well as many publications written by library faculty and staff. Try doing a search on your favorite Parks Library Preservation blog writers and see if anything comes up!

Of course, when we provide access to digital materials, we want to ensure that these materials remain accessible over time. This is where my close working relationship with the Preservation Department comes in. Together, with the Preservation and Special Collections departments, we need to develop strategies for digital preservation to ensure that the scholarly and creative output of Iowa State is preserved for posterity.

The vast majority of information created today is born-digital and, in increasing numbers, exists in digital format only.  In the digital environment, it is easy to lose information—through changes in technology, the ease of manipulating digital files, and the tendency for files to corrupt right when you need them. Preservation is further complicated by copyright law, which places limitations on how and why libraries can make reproductions of the materials in their collections.

My approach to digital preservation draws from archival science and diplomatics (the study of archival documents), so in addition to ensuring ongoing access to our digital collections, I am concerned with their authenticity and reliability. In future guest blog posts, I intend to touch on a myriad of topics relating to digital preservation, including a discussion of diplomatics and the authenticity of records.  I think Parks Library Preservation is going to quickly regret inviting me to be a guest blogger.

Stay tuned, everyone!

A hui hou,

Harrison

Evan Anderson started as our new Stacks Manager two months ago and we welcomed him with a roof leak and then a disaster workshop.  Stacks Management is not part of the Preservation Department, but Evan has agreed to be a guest writer on occasion since the departments work so closely together. 

The codex has been around for approximately 2,000 years, or more than a quarter of the time humans have been recording information via writing.  Though codicologists, historians, and other scholars debate exactly why it quickly and largely superseded the scroll as the dominant storage and transmission medium, there is little question of its general durability.  This durability, though, is contingent upon many factors, from the material and construction of the codex, to the conditions it experiences during its lifecycle, to the individuals responsible for preserving and maintaining it.

While this all may be a given, even a codex that is bound well, has sturdy boards, and is kept with care, still faces dangers to its longevity:  disasters happen.  Books, like people, have bad days sometimes.

On April 19 and 20, the Iowa Conservation & Preservation Consortium, with support from an IMLS Connecting to Collections grant, Iowa Library Services, Iowa Museum Services, and State Historical Society of Iowa, held a workshop called “Disasters Happen: Preparation & Response Training” at the African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids to address these bad days.

In some ways, for me, this workshop came about a week too late.  The Library Storage Building (the University Library’s off-site storage facility) has a particular problem:  the roof leaks.  It leaks, not always, but enough, and though typically in the same spots, water does like to travel, so once in a while a new leak occurs.  Friday, April 13 was one such ‘once in a while.’  Though the leak was neither prodigious in quantity of water nor in size of flow, it was persistent enough to affect several score of books.  With the assistance of Preservation staff, we began the process of drying out damp books, freezing the more profoundly damaged, and, sadly, discarding some irrevocably moldy volumes.  This crash course in a wet book crisis informed my analysis of the “Disasters Happen” workshop.  As information was presented, I considered whether it was something I should have done, or not have done, or, at the very least contemplated, and then considered how I could incorporate these lessons into future crises.  Sadly, I do know for sure that there will be other crises.

Though I had read the procedures at Iowa State and have had coursework that touched on disaster planning and emergency response, the workshop and the pre-workshop experience demonstrated the absolute necessity of not only developing a plan (or plans) and being cognizant of said plans, but also actually executing said plans and not just reacting as the situation unfolds (a tenuous strategy at best, a horrible exponential scaling of a disaster at worst).

In no part of the workshop was this more amply demonstrated than the concluding mock disaster drill.  We had been presented with information on how to handle various media when afflicted by various problems, how to plan, and what to consider, and now forced to put this into work.  The small group I was a part of assigned roles and attempted to execute a plan, when an outsider decided to ‘join’ and take action, damaging materials, violating collection decisions, ignoring input:  in short, generally contributing mostly harm.  Although frustrating at the time, I found this to be highly instructive upon reflection.

Books may be very durable over the long term, but they can face extreme, adverse conditions.  And, as durable as they are, they cannot plan accordingly, so we must.  And helping a codex cope with a catastrophe directly comes from creating, committing to, and carrying out a well-conceived plan.  Doing so will ensure that in a few hundred years when all our newfangled digital technologies are hopelessly obsolete and all their electrons have escaped, our print books can still be accessed for all the thousands of years of knowledge we’ve contained within them.

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