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Digital Preservation Policy Workshop 2023

Wednesday, 7 February 2024
Audrey Whitty presenting Digital Preservation Policy

Dr Audrey Whitty, NLI Director, speaking at the event

On the 8th of November 2023, the National Library of Ireland organised a specialised workshop on writing and revising Digital Preservation Policies in collaboration with the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC).

For those unfamiliar, digital preservation is the series of managed activities necessary to ensure continued access to digital materials for as long as necessary. Digital preservation is a key strategic enabler for the NLI in order to collect, protect and make accessible the recorded memory of Ireland. Since 2018, the National Library of Ireland has held a knowledge-sharing event on World Digital Preservation Day (WDPD). This year, the NLI marked WDPD by unveiling our first-ever Digital Preservation Policy as well as organising the event. While writing the Policy, we realised that a workshop on this topic would benefit Ireland's wider GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museum) sector.

Jenny Mitcham and Sharon McMeekin from the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) led the workshop after an introduction by the Director of the NLI, Dr. Audrey Whitty. The DPC is a membership organisation that aims to exchange good practices within the field of digital preservation, fostering a global community of practice that the NLI is proud to belong to. The DPC recently launched the second version of the Digital Preservation Policy Toolkit—a resource we used while drafting our policy. Jenny Mitcham, amongst others, also played a key role as an external reviewer of the NLI’s Policy.

Over thirty practitioners in our sector attended the event from diverse backgrounds, reflecting the multidisciplinary nature of digital preservation. Attendees included representatives from local and national Cultural Heritage organisations from across the island of Ireland, finance and industry, media, Higher Education, health, government and parliamentary departments.

The DPC guided attendees through the nuances of policy creation and revision, employing their toolkit and the Rapid Assessment Model (DPC RAM). This included hands-on exercises for drafting policy sections, enriched with breakout sessions and discussions to explore various challenges and considerations.

Three case studies were presented, including Audrey Drohan from University College Dublin, Aisling Keane from the University of Galway, and Kieran O’Leary of the NLI. The case studies displayed a variety of policy approaches, as the different institutions were all at different stages in their digital preservation policy journey, from first policy to undergoing revision. A common strand in all three case studies included aligning the policy with organisational objectives, the need for regular review, and the implementation challenges.

As the workshop concluded, it was evident that the journey of digital preservation is a continuous and evolving process that demands adaptability, collaboration, and a deep understanding of the unique challenges each organisation faces. Feedback from participants highlighted that the opportunity for peer-to-peer discussions was a particularly valued aspect of the day. The NLI is committed to fostering a community of practice within the field of digital preservation, which is why we organise events such as these. The diverse backgrounds of the participants enriched the discussions, underscoring the multidisciplinary approach necessary in this field.  Events such as these reinforce the importance of shared knowledge and experiences in building a resilient and forward-thinking GLAM sector.