Category: Preservation

Love Data Week 2018 Roundup

Last week Facet participated in Love Data Week, a 5-day online international event ‘to raise awareness and build a community to engage on topics related to research data management, sharing, preservation, reuse, and library-based research data services.’ We asked our authors  to share their data stories and each responded with a different approach. You’ll find a summary of each post published during the week below.

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David Haynes, author of brand new Metadata for Information Management and Retrieval, 2nd edition, began the week with an exploration of the ethical implications for metadata gathering and uses in his post Metadata – have we got the ethics right?

Next up, Selena Killick, co-author of the forthcoming Putting Library Assessment Data to Work, explained how library data can be used to measure student success in Data is the new oil

Sara Mannheimer and Ryer Banta, co-contributors to The Complete Guide to Personal Digital Archiving, shared their data success story in Building Bridges – in which they offer advice for introducing students to research data management skills through something everyone can relate to—organizing personal digital files.

Bringing the week to a close Andrew Cox, co-author of the forthcoming Exploring Research Data Management, took a look at the future for academic libraries in The Growing Importance of Data in Academic Libraries

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Building Bridges

This guest post from Sara Mannheimer and Ryer Banta is about introducing undergraduates to the foundations of research data management through something everyone can relate to—organizing personal digital files. You can read more about their experience in The Complete Guide to Personal Digital Archiving which features their co-authored chapter, “Personal Digital Archiving as a Bridge to Research Data Management”

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In 2016, we were both working at Montana State University Library, but working in totally different divisions. Sara was the Data Management Librarian with a focus on research data management and data management planning for faculty and graduate students. Ryer was the Undergraduate Experience Librarian, focusing on information literacy instruction and support for undergraduate students. In many ways it would seem that we were living in very different parts of the library.

Although our jobs were quite different, we connected over our shared conviction that undergraduates would benefit from learning fundamental research data management skills. Undergraduates are entering a data-driven job market, where skills related to data management are in high demand. In industry, data scientists are working in a wide variety of sectors, and in academia, researchers are increasingly required to publish research data. Tailoring research data management lessons to undergraduates also served a key student population at MSU. Montana State University is a mid-sized university with about 16,500 total students, about 14,000 of whom are undergraduates. So we knew that there could be a big potential impact if we could figure out a meaningful way to help undergraduates build research data management skills.

As we began to think about creating a useful and meaningful research data management related lesson for undergraduates, our immediate challenge was figuring out how to get over the hurdle of making research data management relevant. Most undergraduates do not encounter research data on a regular basis, and we wanted to connect research data management to their daily life, their current schoolwork, or ideally both. The instructional principle of making lessons relevant may seem to be fairly common sense, but it is also supported by constructivist learning theory. We dipped our toes into this rich area of scholarship while developing our lesson, focusing on a couple of aspects of constructivist learning theory. For anyone developing learning experiences, we highly recommend dipping your toes, and even diving headlong, into constructivist learning theory and related theories.

Constructivist learning theory encompasses several principles, but we focused on the principles related to active, student-focused discovery. Two core tenets of constructivist learning theory specify that:

  • New learning builds on prior knowledge. By tapping into students’ past experiences, educators can create a learning sequence that extends from prior knowledge to the current lesson to a lifelong pattern of curiosity and learning.
  • Meaningful learning develops through “authentic” tasks. Activities conducted in class should simulate activities that students will use in their class assignments and in their real lives. This strategy ensures that the skills students learn in the classroom have direct relevance to their lives outside of the classroom.

Applying these tenets provided us with new insights about how to make research data management relevant for undergraduates. Given that new learning builds on prior knowledge, we aimed to understand students’ prior knowledge regarding data, tap into students’ past learning experiences, and then build upon that knowledge in the classroom. Given that meaningful learning develops through “authentic” tasks, we aimed to teach concrete, relatable skills that could be practiced both during instruction and afterwards. We wanted to position research data management skills in the context of students’ current lives, rather than promising a theoretical applicability to an abstract future career.

Taking a cue from constructivist learning theories, we realized that we could start with data that students already use and manage on a daily basis, specifically their digital files on their computers. At the same time, we also realized that many of the basic principles of research data management are also found in personal digital archiving practice. These dual realizations helped us focus our lesson on principles and practices that could be immediately applied to students’ digital files. In fact, in our lesson, we designed activities that got students started on reorganizing their files following personal digital archiving best practices. We organized our lesson into four key sections:

  • Set the stage. Students describe the use, importance, and challenges of data within their discipline or other personally relevant contexts. This step helps prepare students to apply the lesson to their own lives.
  • Basics of personal digital archiving. Students discover basic personal digital archiving strategies and principles that are also used to manage research data. This step provides a foundation of knowledge that informs in-class activities.
  • Apply learning with activities. Students apply personal digital archiving strategies and principles to organize and document their own files and data. This step provides students with hands-on experience with personal digital archiving strategies.
  • Debrief to connect personal digital archiving to research data management. Students reflect upon the value of the personal digital archiving principles and practices for their own personal data and discover the connection and similarities between personal digital archiving and research data management. This step allows students to process the lesson and consider future applications of the skills they learned.

We have had success with this lesson, and we have found that teaching personal digital archiving practices can act as a bridge that connects key practices of research data management to students’ everyday lives. Personal digital archiving builds on students’ prior knowledge of their digital belongings, and allows students to learn through authentic tasks that have immediate relevance to their daily lives. We hope that other librarians and educators can adapt and reuse the basic instructional strategies that we developed in their own learning contexts. Critical thinking about managing digital materials—whether personal files or research data—is a foundational skill that will benefit students during their undergraduate education and in their future careers.

Ryer Banta is the information literacy and technology librarian at Centralia College (WA), where he manages digital resources and services, and helps learners develop information literacy and lifelong learning skills. His research interests include open education, instructional design, educational technology, information literacy, and user experience.

You can follow Ryer on Twitter @RyerBanta

Sara Mannheimer is the data librarian at Montana State University in Bozeman, where she facilitates research data management and sharing, and promotes digital scholarship using library collections and “big data” sources. Her research focuses on data management practices, data discovery, digital preservation, and the social, ethical, and technical issues surrounding data-driven research.

You can follow Sara on Twitter @saramannheimer

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The Complete Guide to Personal Digital Archiving helps information professionals break down archival concepts and best practices into teachable solutions. Whether it’s an academic needing help preserving their scholarly records, a student developing their data literacy skills or someone backing up family photos and videos to protect against hard-drive failure, this book will show information professionals how to offer assistance.

Find out more about the book and read a sample chapter here.

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Digitization in the context of collection management

Here is another free chapter from one of our books for International Digital Preservation Day.  This one is about digitization in the context of collection management and is taken from Anna E Bulow and Jess Ahmon’s book, Preparing Collection for Digitization.


Read the free chapter, Digitization in the context of collection management, here

Find out more about the book, Preparing Collections for Digitization, here

Digital preservation strategies for visualizations and simulations

To mark International Digital Preservation Day we have made a new chapter from Preserving Complex Digital Objects freely available to download and view.

The chapter, ‘Digital preservation strategies for visualizations and simulations‘ is by Janet Anderson (formerly Delve), Professor of Digital Humanities, University of Brighton, Hugh Denard, Lecturer in Digital Humanities, King’s College London and William Kilbride, Executive Director, The Digital Preservation Coalition.


The main theme that emerges from the chapter is an acknowledgement that emulation has now come of age as a suitable digital preservation strategy to take preserving complex digital objects.

Read the chapter here

Find out more about the book Preserving Complex Digital Objects here


Extract from Practical Digital Preservation

This is an extract from Adrian Brown DPC Preservation Award-Winning book Practical Digital Preservation. A link to a PDF of the full chapter can be found at the end of this post.

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Image source: Flickr cc pic by Walraven

Picture a scene: in a county record office somewhere in England, a young archivist is looking through the morning post. Among the usual enquiry letters and payments for copies of documents is a mysterious padded envelope. Opening it reveals five floppy disks of various sizes, accompanied by a brief covering letter from the office manager of a long-established local business, explaining that the contents had been discovered during a recent office refurbishment; since the record office has previously acquired the historic paper records of the company, perhaps these would also be of interest? The disks themselves bear only terse labels, such as ‘Minutes, 1988-90’ or ‘customers.dbf’. Some, the archivist recognizes as being 3.5” disks, while the larger ones seem vaguely familiar from a digital preservation seminar she attended during her training. On one point she is certain: the office PCs are not capable of reading any of them. How can she discover what is actually on the disks, and whether they contain important business records or junk? And even if they do prove of archival interest, what should the record office actually do with them?

Meanwhile, a university librarian in the mid-west USA attends a faculty meeting to discuss the burgeoning institutional repository. Introduced a few years ago to store PDF copies of academic preprints and postprints, there is increasing demand from staff to store other kinds of content in a much wider range of formats, from original research data, to student dissertations and theses, teaching materials and course notes, and to make that content available for reuse by others in novel ways. How, the librarian ponders, does the repository need to be adapted to meet these new requirements, and what must the library do to ensure the long-term preservation of such a diverse digital collection?

Finally, in East Africa, a national archivist has just finished reading a report from a consultant commissioned to advise on requirements for preserving electronic records. The latest in a series of projects to develop records management within government, he knows that this work is crucial to promoting transparency, empowering citizens by providing them with access to reliable information, reducing corruption and improving governance through the use of new technologies. The national archives has achieved much in recent years, putting in place strong records management processes and guidance. But how to develop the digital preservation systems necessary to achieve the report’s ambitious recommendations, with limited budgets and staff skills, and an unreliable IT infrastructure?

Practical Digital Preservation is intended to help these people, and the countless other information managers and curators around the world who are wrestling with the challenges of preserving digital data, to answer these questions. If the book had been written only a few years ago, it would first have to explain the need for digital preservation at length, illustrated no doubt with celebrated examples of data loss such as the BBC Domesday disks, or NASA’s Viking probe.

Today, most information management professionals are all too aware of the fact that, without active intervention, digital information is subject to rapid and catastrophic loss – the warnings of an impending ‘Digital Dark Ages’ have served their purpose. Hopefully, they are equally alive to the enormous benefits of digital preservation, in unlocking the current and long-term value of that information. Instead, their principal concern now is how to respond in a practical way to these challenges. There is a sense that awareness of the solutions has not kept pace with appreciation of the potential and the problems.

Such solutions as are widely known are generally seen as being the preserve of major institutions – the national libraries and archives – with multi-million pound budgets and large numbers of staff at their disposal. Even if reality often doesn’t match this perception – many national memory institutions are tackling digital preservation on a comparative shoestring – there is no doubt that such organizations have been at the vanguard of developments in the field.

The challenges can sometimes appear overpowering. The extraordinary growth in the creation of digital information is often described using rather frightening or negative analogies, such as the ‘digital deluge’ or ‘data tsunami’. These certainly reflect the common anxieties that information curators and consumers have about their abilities to manage these gargantuan volumes of data, and to find and understand the information they need within. These concerns are compounded by a similarly overwhelming wave of information generated by the digital preservation community: no one with any exposure to the field can have escaped a certain sense of despair at ever keeping up to date with the constant stream of reports, conferences, blogs, wikis, projects and tweets.


Practical Digital Preservation demonstrates that, in reality, it is not only possible but eminently realistic for organizations of all sizes to put digital preservation into practice, even with very limited resources and existing knowledge. The book demonstrates this through a combination of practical guidance, and case studies which reinforce that guidance, illustrating how it has already been successfully applied in the real world.

Find out more

This is an extract from the first chapter of Practical Digital Preservation.  You can read the full chapter here, for free.

Find out more information, browse the table of contents and purchase the book here.

About the author

Adrian Brown is the Director of the Parliamentary Archives and has lectured and published widely on all aspects of digital preservation. He was previously Head of Digital Preservation at the National Archives where his team won the International Digital Preservation Award in 2007.

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The ‘why-to’ as well as the ‘how-to’ textbook for archivists

 Facet Publishing have announced the release of the second edition of Laura 9781783302062A Millar’s Archives: Principles and practices

Originally published in 2010, the second edition of the Waldo Gifford Leland Award-winning textbook, Archives: Principles and practices, has been extensively revised to address the impact of digital technologies on records and archives.

Written in clear language with lively examples, the book introduces core archival concepts, explains best-practice approaches and discusses the central activities that archivists need to understand to ensure the documentary materials in their charge are cared for as effectively as possible.

Author, Laura A Millar said,

Archivists search, sometimes in vain, for a balance between abstract theory and traditional practice, both of which can become increasingly arcane or impractical over time. My book seeks to strike a balance between principles and practices. It is as much a ‘why-to’ book as a ‘how-to’ book.

Part of the Principles and Practice in Records Management and Archives series, this book will be essential reading for archival practitioners, archival studies students and professors, librarians, museum curators, local authorities, small governments, public libraries, community museums, corporations, associations and other agencies with archival responsibility.

Laura A. Millar is an independent consultant in the fields of records, archives and information management, publishing and education. She has taught records, archives and information management courses in universities and colleges in Canada and internationally and is the author of dozens of books and articles on a range of topics. In 2010, the first edition of Archives: Principles and practices was awarded the prestigious Waldo Gifford Leland Award from the Society of American Archivists in recognition of its ‘superior excellence and usefulness in the fields of archival history, theory, or practice.’

More information about the book:

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In this post-truth world, can we still rely on archives to tell the truth?

Facet Publishing have announced the release of The Silence of the Archive by David Thomas, Simon Fowler and Valerie Johnson

 In recent years big data initiatives, not to mention Hollywood, the video game industry and countless other popular media, have reinforced and even glamorized the public image of the archive as the ultimate repository of facts and the hope of future generations for uncovering ‘what actually happened’. Chambers Cat 2.02.qxdThe reality is, however, that for all sorts of reasons the record may not have been preserved or survived in the archive. In fact, the record may never have even existed – its creation being as imagined as is its contents. And even if it does exist, it may be silent on the salient facts, or it may obfuscate, mislead or flat out lie.

The Silence of the Archive, written by three expert and knowledgeable archivists, with a foreword by Anne J. Gilliland, draws attention to the many limitations of archives and the inevitability of their having parameters.

Co-author David Thomas said,

In The Silence of the Archive, we explore the question of whether archives are all that they seem. Are there silences, omissions and falsehoods which undermine their truth claims? Are their holdings, as some of us were taught, the unselfconscious products of administrative processes, or are they the products of powers relations? Is there a democratic deficit in archives?

The book, part of the Principles and Practice in Records Management and Archives series, will make compelling reading for professional archivists, records managers and records creators, postgraduate and undergraduate students of history, archives, librarianship and information studies, as well as academics and other users of archives.

About the authors:

David Thomas is a Visiting Professor at the University of Northumbria. Previously, he worked at The National Archives where he was Director of Technology and was responsible for digital preservation and for providing access to digital material.

Simon Fowler is an Associate Teaching Fellow at the University of Dundee where he teaches a course on military archives. Previously he worked at The National Archives for nearly thirty years.

Dr Valerie Johnson is Director of Research and Collections at The National Archives. She has worked as an archivist and a historian in the academic, corporate and public sectors.


Anne J Gilliland is Professor, Department of Information Studies, Director, Center for Information as Evidence, University of California, USA.

​The series editor: Geoffrey Yeo is honorary researcher in archives and records management at University College London (UCL), London.

About the book:

The Silence of the Archive | May 2017 | 224pp
Paperback: 9781783301553 | Hardback: 9781783301560 | eBook: 9781783301577