Category Archives: Archival Issues

ACRL Springboard Event 2009

The second annual ACRL Springboard Event was held June 3rd (this morning), 2009 with roughly 300 attendees in the Elluminate e-learning environment. Clifford Lynch, the Executive Directory of Coalition for Networked Information, spoke on issues that “keep him awake at night.” The image of a monster sitting on a sleeping person (Gothic Nightmares) was provided as a metaphor. Here are my notes:

Corporate Memories
Clifford talked about the problem of keeping cultural memory of corporations while businesses fail and get dismantled during the current economic meltdown. Things are happening very fast as business are failing at alarming rates. No one is able to capture the cultural memories of these businesses before they close–there are many closing at any given time.

-We are going through the first really major economic and financial downturn in the age of digital information.
– Institutions are failing, sometimes suddenly. Probably more will fail.
– Some of these failures are almost unimaginable.
– Some of the survivors will survive badly damaged.
– These Failures may cause grave damage to our cultural memory. [There needs to be discussion about how to keep it & maintain these parts of our culture before they disappear]
– There is a public interest in preserving our collective cultural memory which needs to be newly framed for the digital age; current events are helping to clarify the issues [for the long-term. As a society, we need to address this issue.].
– Our cultural memory organizations-libraries, archives, and museums-face a massive new challenge at the same time that their resources are often being severely constrained.
– We are going to have to think about preservation of digital info in new and more flexible ways.
– Corporations don’t feel need to keep official history of company. World got more competitive, and many have discarded archives. Libraries could call and say that they would be cheaper than dumping company.
– Eliminate digital corporate archive is quite and easy. Little prevention or notification because it is so easy to do with technology today.

Clifford mentioned specifically the open access materials that do not have strong operations that survive on a shoe string budget. No one takes responsibility for these small, but necessary and need collections. Traditional newspapers are loosing readership & closing. The local news stations are try to cover local events, but don’t necessarily go into much depth because lack of time. They may not cover the stories at all!
What happens to the collections when the newspapers–digital collections or databases that are constantly in flux and changing. How do you preserve something that is constantly changing. There needs to be a stronger connection with newspapers and libraries to provide an archive. Also need to archive local television stations who are notoriously bad about keeping past stories. They should be keep as a “social good.”

Social Spaces
Development of social spaces and expectations of the public that they are archival. There is a clear lack of understanding about who is responsible for keeping these sources alive without leaving people high and dry. All types of sites that allow sharing of info (photos, text, documents). What happens when these businesses start failing? Like a coffee shop down the street, we’ll say that we miss it when it goes, but it isn’t mandatory to keep. It is also like a walled off garden in which access is not open to the general public–you have to be apart of it. Why not take snapshots of things periodically, such as blogs, or to make a small change of the platform services to stream out to a third party that archives these places. Privacy is a “graduated and negotiated” element in these spaces. Another set of issues include for example, things posted online 20 years ago are not how they think today. How do these things get removed or updated to people’s new lines of thinking–revise these publicly available records? How does copyright play into these services?

The Chronicle wrote recently about alumni wanting to revise newspaper records:

Some questions and comments raised:
– “If local library keep facing financial constraints as do the newspapers who are investing in online vs print due to other constrains, are there examples of successful alliances related to this issue?”

– “If the collective cultural memory is understood as a product of interaction and/or conditioning among the participants in a societal discourse, then how can an academic library engage those groups of individuals who are excluded from such discourse? How can academic librarians engage the user community around us to minimize the damage to the library as a cultural memory institution in these trying economic times?”

– “Do you think that the internet archive is a useful preservation method?” … “The internet archive is not represented in library catalogs”

– “What about privacy issues raised by Facebook users vs. preservation?”

– “Will there be some changes in copyright law that catch up to what is happening with digital content?”

– “Wouldn’t the Library of Congress argue that they are not a national library in the traditional sense so they do not have the authority to archive for national preservation until their congressional mandate changes?”

– “Do you archive not knowing if the format will be sustained in the future, and just hope there will be ways to convert the format to something newer?”

– “I Like your idea about a sort ‘graceful going out of business’ practice for online spaces. How do we encourage (enforce?) a code of conduct that will give users the chance to save copies as organizations fail? Or should this be the responsibility of users?”

– “Doesn’t the increasingly multi-media nature of the web render text snapshots often completely meaningless? How do you snapshot a video or a 3D interactive object?”

– “We need to make better decisions about what to archive… not everything could be retained from the past, and we shouldn’t expect to preserve every social space currently online today. We simply don’t have enough server farms to do such a thing (to store and to emulate), and much more “important” information created within universities and local school systems is lost every day.”

– “I think we raise awareness among the public and collaborate with other groups (e.g.”

– “We must all be aware that digital postings are forever!”

– “People also learn as they get burned. Remember the first time you forgot to save a document?”

– “Maybe originally a listserv had a limited user group; now it’s viewable to whole world.”

Contact Info for Clifford:
– Subscribe to the cni-announce email list

The archive recording of this session will be available at