Library: Digital Preservation

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The Leon S. McGoogan Health Sciences Library, in keeping with its mission, is committed to preserving its digital collections through a comprehensive digital preservation program for both born-analog and born-digital collections. This policy outlines the active management and ongoing planning necessary to ensure long-term preservation and access to the library’s digital assets for the foreseeable future.


The objectives of this policy are:

  • Establish a formal commitment on behalf of the library that will proactively protect its digital collections
  • Explain the scope of digital preservation, including the sources and types of materials that will be preserved
  • Enumerate the challenges inherent in implementing a digital preservation program
  • Ensure the authenticity, reliability, and long-term access of digital collections


  • Access: The process for the retrieval of data and information from storage media, through the use of catalogs, indexes, and/or other tools.
  • Analog: Data and information in a format that must be digitized to make it digitally accessible.
  • Born-Digital: Data and information created and maintained in a digital format.
  • Digital Assets: Digital objects (e.g., text, image, audio-visual files) owned or managed by an institution (or person).
  • Digital Preservation: Comprehensive set of managed activities that are necessary to provide continued access to digital objects, beyond the limits of media failure or technology change. At minimum it should include bit-level preservation.
  • Digitized Materials: Analog materials that have been transformed into digital form, especially for storage, access and use in a computer environment.
  • Open Archival Information System (OAIS) Reference Model: A high-level model that describes the components and processes necessary for digital archives, including six distinct functional areas: ingest, archival storage, data management, administration preservation planning, and access. (Richard Pearce-Moses, A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology, Society of American Archivists 2005) Full reference model and specifications: Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS), Recommended Practice, CCSDS 650.0-M-2, Magenta Book, Space Communications and Navigation Office, NASA, June 2012.


Like other Library resources, criteria for selection and preservation will be consistent. Materials selected for digital stewardship and preservation carry with them the library’s commitment to maintain the materials for as long as needed or desired.

The library will strive to:

  • Comply with the OAIS reference model, and other digital preservation standards and practices
  • Develop a scalable and realistic digital preservation infrastructure
  • Manage hardware, software, and storage media components in accordance with industry standards and security requirements
  • Ensure interoperability and long-term sustainability by using open-source formats and software whenever feasible
  • Ensure the integrity of data by guaranteeing that it is the same as it was when it was originally recorded
  • Create and maintain adequate metadata (e.g., administrative, descriptive, preservation, provenance, rights, and technical) necessary for the ongoing use of the digital assets
  • And comply with copyright, intellectual property rights, and/or other legal rights related to copying, storage, modification, and use of digital resources


The library’s levels of commitment as outlined below recognize that developing solutions for “born-digital” materials inform solutions for the other categories. This statement does not imply that these assets are inherently more valuable or important than any of the other categories and/or our traditional, analog materials.

  • Born-digital materials: Rigorous effort will be made to ensure preservation in perpetuity of materials selected for preservation, both Library resources and institutional records.
  • Digitized materials (no available analog): All reasonable steps must be taken to preserve materials without a print analog when re-digitization is not possible or if re-digitization would pose further harm to the physical item.
  • Digitized materials (available analog): Reasonable measures will be taken to extend the life of the digital objects with a readily available print analog. However, the cost of re-digitizing as needed will be weighed against the cost of preserving the existing digital objects.
  • Other items and materials: No preservation steps will be taken for materials requested for short-term use, such as materials scanned for research or exhibits, or for content that does not meet the requirements of the Collection Management Policy (link when policy exists).

Each of the above content sources may present content of varying types which require different preservation strategies. The List of Preferred File Formats gives an overview of many of the content types the library encounters, as well as recommendations for format types that are most suited for long-term preservation. The library will likely acquire materials in additional formats in the future, and preservation strategies will be developed to accommodate new formats as needed.

Financial Commitment

The library is committed to digital preservation and has identified specific resources to support its digital preservation program. The Digital Archivist is a permanent position that has digital preservation explicitly written into their job description, with annual professional development funding as a priority. The library has committed to maintaining funding for a comprehensive digital preservation system, Preservica, as well as diverse data storage solutions.

Roles and Responsibilities

Preservation of any format requires a community of collaborative partners to be successful, and is an ongoing cycle of actions and decisions, not a single event. Libraries, archives, and their staff are traditionally responsible for preserving and providing access to the scholarly record, and this does not change as formats become more predominantly digital. To achieve success, responsibility for the preservation of digital materials requires the participation of archivists, Library staff, Campus IT, Library administration, and University administration.

  • McGoogan Health Sciences Library
    • Is entrusted to provide access to scholarly and historically important materials. As a continuation of this responsibility to preserve information in analog formats, the Library assumes responsibility for the long‐term * preservation of, and access to, digital materials of enduring value that are entrusted to our care.
  • Library Administration
    • Is committed to supporting an environment in which digital preservation is regarded as a critically necessary endeavor. This support includes providing adequate managerial and financial commitment to develop a * digital preservation program. Resource allocation in support of digital preservation is crucial to the future of valuable digital materials created, owned, or managed by the library.
  • Content Creators & Archivists
    • Content creators and archivists play a key role in identifying and collecting digital content. Due to a higher risk of loss associated with digital formats, content creators and archivists must collaborate closely to manage digital assets throughout their entire lifecycle. Members of this stakeholder group will be responsible for a wide variety of tasks. Their work includes best practices and procedures.
  • University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) Campus IT
    • The preservation of digital materials requires a much higher involvement of information technology experts than needed with analog materials. Campus IT provided conceptual advice at the inception of the program and will continue to provide technical support to ensure its success.


The library recognizes that there are several challenges to implementing an effective digital preservation policy, such as:

  • Change: Technology changes frequently, and with it, formats, and dissemination mechanisms. As the Library's digital collection diversifies over time, staff will be required to monitor the changing needs of materials, and update policies and procedures based on these needs.
  • Rapid growth: The University's official record is increasingly available only in digital format. The library’s digitized collection grows each year. Stewarding these materials requires a concerted investment in technological equipment, resources, and staff that must scale with increasing demands and obligations.
  • Sustainability: A sustainable digital preservation model responds to change with appropriate new technology and increases in staffing. Cost modeling numbers are difficult to come by in the field, but noteworthy advancements are being made. The library requires sufficient funding for operations and major improvements to manage its digital collections and to sustain funding for ongoing digital preservation efforts. A digital preservation policy requires adequate resources. The library must refrain from promising more than it can deliver.
  • Selection: Realistically, the Library cannot preserve everything. It is vital that sensible selection processes and criteria be developed.
  • Management: Additional thought must be given to the coordination and oversight of digital collections that are to be preserved. To balance the sometimes competing goals of access and preservation, the Library will focus on the role preservation plays in access.
  • Partnerships: The Library is committed to working with content providers including creators, donors, and others to preserve their content.
  • Expertise: The Library must commit to hiring or developing staff with the requisite expertise to operate a robust digital preservation program. Additionally, the library must be committed to continually update staff skills as technologies change.
  • Rights: The changing landscape surrounding intellectual property rights impacts the ability to provide access to digital materials and can impact digital preservation efforts. In addition, the library must function as a steward for materials that are in-copyright and have access restrictions.


Assigning security measures reduces risks of data loss and/or damage and enables ability to maintain rights management of digital objects. Security protocols may include, but are not limited to, firewalls, intrusion detection, and assigned access and use privileges. UNMC implements cyber security protocols and technologies using software and capitalizing on vendors’ services.

Access & Use

The library acquires, manages, and preserves digital resources so that they remain accessible to its constituents over the long term. Certain limitations may be placed on access due to legal obligations, donor agreements, and other reasons, but, in so far as possible, the library endeavors to make its digital resources openly available to all users.

Review of Policy

This policy will be reviewed, at a minimum, annually to assure timely revisions as technology progresses and preservation strategies and experience mature.

This policy was adapted from and inspired by: