Digital Preservation Policy
Please note some links lead to information accessible only to the staff of UH Libraries.
University of Houston Libraries aims to anticipate the needs of students, faculty, and staff within the context of a nationally-competitive public research university environment. By serving as a trusted steward of digitized and born digital content, UH Libraries enables long-term access to intellectual and cultural materials of both regional and national interest. The Digital Preservation Policy supports the missions of UH and UH Libraries and makes explicit UH Libraries’ commitment to preserving the digital assets in its collections through the development and evolution of a comprehensive digital preservation program. The policy reflects the goals defined in our institutional mission and contains references to other relevant UH Libraries policies and procedures. The audience for this policy includes librarians and staff of UH Libraries, digital content donors/depositors, funders, and users.
The Libraries’ preservation role is guided by our responsibilities to manage and share our collections for local, national, and global access. By ensuring continued access to these valuable and unique resources, we are protecting substantial institutional investments and supporting the University’s goal to establish itself as a preeminent public research university in the 21st century.
The Libraries defines the primary objective of digital preservation activities as maintaining the ability to meaningfully access digital collection content over time. The primary concern is preserving the ability to access the archival digital object from which derivative files may be created or re-created over time. To this end, preservation of digital library material includes:
- Maintaining multiple, geographically-distributed copies of all digital assets falling within the scope of the digital preservation policy.
- Strategically monitoring digital assets for format obsolescence and data integrity.
- Repairing and replacing corrupted data.
- Creating, storing, and maintaining ongoing preservation metadata.
- Performing format migrations and/or emulation as needed.
- Ensuring that authenticity and provenance is maintained.
- Understanding and reporting on risks affecting ongoing access.
- Periodically reviewing preferred formats and digital media standards.
- Ensuring our approach is based on the preservation functions of the OAIS model.
- Conducting audits to establish trustworthiness and evaluate workflow efficiency.
UH Libraries’ digital preservation mandate is drawn from the following areas.
- Organizational Commitment: UH Libraries’ digital preservation mandate is drawn from the charge of the Digital Preservation Task Force, formed in May of 2014, and the charge of the Digital Preservation Working Group, developed in November 2016. This statement establishes administrative support and provides direction for the development of a comprehensive digital preservation program aimed at maintaining long-term access to the Libraries’ digital assets.
- Scholarship: As an institution of higher education, the University of Houston is obligated to support scholarship, teaching, and learning. As more resources and services associated with these functions become digital, UH’s responsibilities must expand to include the identification, stewardship, and preservation of designated digital content.
- Institutional Records: UH Libraries’ University Archives are charged with collecting and preserving university records that document the history of the University of Houston, including those in electronic format. University Archives records, increasingly born-digital, are frequently requested by units on campus to fulfill administrative and even legal needs.
- Legal Obligations: As a state and government institution, the University of Houston has legal obligations derived from federal and state laws such as the State Records Retention Schedule and the Freedom of Information Act that require us to maintain the authenticity and integrity of archival files.
- Consortia and Contractual Commitments: UH Libraries has commitments to Texas Digital Library (TDL) and contractual agreements in association with our preservation efforts.
As a result of our institutional mandate, UH Libraries has responsibility for the systematic management, storage, preservation, and accessibility of its digital assets. Taking into consideration that the fast pace of technological change greatly impacts digital preservation plans and techniques, UH Libraries has prepared this policy to serve as a guide for moving forward into the immediate future and beyond.
UH Libraries recognizes that the following assets will be retained and managed in accordance with this preservation policy:
- Digital versions of resources owned and reformatted by UH Libraries and that fall under the parameters of UH Libraries’ Digital Collection Development Policy.
- Unique born-digital resources that are part of UH Libraries’ archival/manuscript collections and which are unlikely to be preserved anywhere else.
- Digitized master files of extremely high-risk audiovisual content, representing a significant financial and institutional investment.
- Any other content acquired or digitized by UH Libraries that falls under the parameters of UH Libraries’ Digital Collection Development Policy.
Content acquired exclusively by repositories which are governed by partner organizations (Including the HathiTrust Digital Library and TDL) will be deferred to those organizations for ongoing preservation and/or management. This content includes electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs).
The preservation and retention policy will be reviewed by the end of each calendar year to assure timely updates as technology and experience mature, or more often if the need arises.
As with any digital preservation program, UH Libraries faces multiple challenges and risks. Challenges include:
- The development of organizational and technical infrastructures which can efficiently manage digital content is a complex and expensive undertaking.
- Maintaining understandable, reliable, and authentic digital materials and ensuring their accessibility over the long term requires the capacity for active management of rapidly changing hardware and software. A method for managing persistent identifiers for digital materials must be put into place, and must be sustainable over time. Currently, persistent identifiers are created and managed via the Greens ARK minter app within the larger digital access and preservation workflow.
- A wide variety of variables exist during the digital preservation process: mixed levels of complexity in terms of object structure, relationships, and dependencies; mixed levels of intellectual control; different levels of complexity in preservation planning and processing; different timetables for preservation action; and the need of different preservation approaches, often at different scales.
- A tremendous amount of digital material of all types is being produced and an exponential growth is occurring.
- Digital assets will need to be migrated as systems change over time. Standards which will aid in the preservation of digital materials are not yet well established, and this lack of consistency inhibits concerted preservation efforts.
To fulfill our institutional mandate, UH Libraries adheres to a series of principles that support long-term access to materials. Some of these principles, including continual improvement, excellence in collections, partnership and collaboration, and service excellence, are rooted in UH Libraries core values as articulated in the UH Libraries 2017-2021 Strategic Directions document. The principles demonstrate the central role digital preservation plays in the success of UH Libraries, and aligns UH Libraries with important national standards and best practices. The following elements of the digital preservation framework allow us to uphold the principles of the Libraries.
- Clearly and consistently document policies, procedures, and practices and review them on a regular basis.
- Document and identify any remedial treatment, alterations, and/or additions to master files and make them as minimal and reversible as possible.
- Manage files throughout their lifecycle by determining their retention, use, and preservation, ideally at acquisition or creation.
- Comply with intellectual property, copyright, and ownership rights related to digital assets through the use of a defined copyright assessment protocol created by UH Libraries’ RightsStatements.org working group. This document is evolving alongside the development of our digital asset management system.
- Establish procedures to meet archival requirements pertaining to provenance, chain of custody, authenticity, and integrity.
- Select the most appropriate and cost-effective strategy for the preservation of digital assets.
- Provide the widest possible access to digital objects selected for preservation.
- Generate preservation metadata necessary for the future use of digital assets.
- Preserve descriptive metadata and maintain the links between digital assets and their metadata. This will be achieved via the inclusion of the preservation package ARK identifier in the item-level descriptive metadata for each access object.
- Preserve digital assets that have been described using appropriate metadata for resource discovery, management, and/or preservation.
- Use standardized metadata schema for interoperability between programs.
- Ensure our approach is based on the OAIS Model and the requirements for a Trusted Digital Repository.
- Adhere to prevailing community standards for preserving access to digital assets.
- Commit to an interoperable, scalable digital archive with appropriate storage management capabilities.
- Manage the hardware, software, and storage media components of the digital preservation function in accordance with environmental standards, quality control specifications, and security requirements.
- Keep abreast of technological change and monitor new developments in the digital preservation field, including an awareness of international standards.
- Trusted Digital Repositories: Attributes and Responsibilities
- Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System
Roles and Responsibilities
UH Libraries has identified multiple stakeholders who contribute to the life cycle of records and administer the digital preservation program. These core groups include UH Libraries as an institution, members of the UH Libraries’ administration, Library Technology Services, Metadata and Digitization Services, Special Collections, Branch Libraries, Digital Research Services, the larger UH Main Campus community, TDL, and content producers and donors. This section articulates the key roles of each group.
Since its beginning, the UH Libraries has been entrusted to preserve important scholarly resources in order to fulfill the educational and administrative mission of the University. UH Libraries continues this commitment with the digitized and born digital assets it retains.
Digital assets retained, managed, or owned by UH Libraries need adequate resources and support to remain accessible into the future. UH Libraries’ administration allocates appropriate resources to ensure that preservation activities are sustained and developed into the future.
Library Technology Services
The role of technology is an essential leg of a robust and sustained digital preservation program. The program relies on Library Technology Services to support key software applications and maintain local and remote storage so that it aligns with UH Libraries’ digital preservation principles as well as digital preservation national standards and best practices.
Metadata and Digitization Services
A successful digital preservation program requires designated librarians to be engaged with the work of digital preservation on a day-to-day basis. Members of Metadata and Digitization Services manage key portions of the digital preservation program as one part of a larger digital library workflow.
As the individuals who have specialized content knowledge and established relationships with content producers, librarians and archivists in Special Collections play a key role in identifying, acquiring, and describing content for the digital preservation program. Additionally, designated archivists adhere to the digital preservation program when managing born digital workflows.
As the individuals who have specialized content knowledge and established relationships with content producers, librarians in the Architecture and Art, Music, and Health Sciences Libraries play a key role in identifying, acquiring, and describing content for the digital preservation program.
Digital Research Services
Digital Research Services coordinates with other internal and external stakeholders to develop and implement digital preservation policies and to ensure the policy and strategies are being met, especially for resources managed by or through external stakeholders.
UH Main Campus Community
Campus units deposit materials of enduring value with the Libraries to be preserved. The Libraries receives UH funding that it chooses to allocate towards digital preservation.
Texas Digital Library
TDL manages and supports long-term, distributed storage for UH Libraries’ digital preservation program.
Content Producers and Donors
Key stakeholders include the producers or creators of the digital content who donate/deposit digital assets with UH Libraries with the understanding that their gifts will be properly managed and preserved.
For detailed information on digital preservation roles and responsibilities at UH Libraries, see Appendix A, Section 1: “Roles and Responsibilities.”
As digitized and born digital assets grow, the ability for any one institution to preserve digital assets without collaboration involving other groups and institutions becomes increasingly difficult. To address increasing digital preservation needs, UH Libraries aims to collaborate with external partners, including TDL and HathiTrust, to implement the digital preservation policy and to share the larger responsibility of preserving digital assets for long-term access. In doing so, UH Libraries will take appropriate steps to build and sustain these relationships, including:
- Identifying appropriate partners.
- Establishing written agreements on roles and responsibilities.
- Helping develop the policies, procedures, and tools necessary to support any collaborative digital preservation efforts
- Working with the producers of digital assets to encourage practices that enable preservation.
- Sharing information on its own experiences, and learning from the experience of others.
Selection and Acquisition
The digital preservation program supports existing digitization and born digital workflows at UH Libraries. As such, the program complies with current policies and procedures around the selection and acquisition of content for long-term access, including:
- UH Libraries’ Digital Library Collection Development Policy
- Special Collections’ Procedures for Accessioning Born Digital Content
For detailed information on digital preservation selection and acquisition at UH Libraries, see Appendix A, Section 2.b: “Selection and Acquisition Policies and Procedures.”
Access and Use
UH Libraries’ aim is to provide online access to all digital collections in a meaningful format for its users via the Libraries’ Web site and other dissemination platforms. To facilitate this process, UH Libraries collects and communicates relevant information about rights and access restrictions to its users. Information on the copyright status of materials will be conveyed in the UH Digital Library using the standardized statements provided by RightsStatements.org; work to update descriptive metadata with these statements is underway as of December 2016. Access restrictions might relate to intellectual property rights, legal requirements, or privacy concerns.
This policy is reviewed annually by the Digital Preservation Working Group to accommodate changes in institutional resources, technology, and priorities.
Columbia University, 2006
ICPSR Digital Preservation Policy Framework, 2007
Government of Canada, Digital Preservation Policy Framework: Development Guideline
National Library of Australia, 2013
NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation, 2013
The Ohio State University Libraries, 2013
Purdue University Research Repository Digital Preservation Policy, 2012
The State and University Library, Denmark, 2012
University of Massachusetts, Amherst Libraries, 2011
YUL Digital Preservation Policy Framework, November 2014