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Joint Study in Digital Preservation-Guiding Principles

Commission on Preservation and Access

The Cornell / Xerox / Commission on Preservation and Access Joint Study in Digital Preservation

Guiding Principles

The Joint Study was guided from the outset by four principles: a preservation program using digital technology has certain requirements; access is as important as preservation; the use of an emerging technology requires collaborative expertise; and only practical, widely applicable processes that include a recognition of the importance of standards and product availability should be used.

National preservation requirements were considered in the Joint Study.[6]The study assumed that the use of digital technology must be both cost effective and result in products of sufficiently high quality to be considered viable for the preservation of deteriorating library materials. A major focus of the study was the development of a system that would optimize the time spent scanning a book while producing a suitable paper replacement for it. The scanning and printing system exploited in this study enabled technicians to scan at a level of quality and a rate comparable to photocopying and to create a digital print master for producing high-quality paper facsimiles at low cost. The study evaluated the long-term storage implications for the digital “preservation master,” including refreshing and periodic recopying, and the feasibility of creating microfilm from the digital files.

The second guiding principle was that convenient access to preserved library materials is essential. For many disciplines a paper version of the work remains the medium of choice,[7] and for those disciplines, print-on-demand is a strategy that will enhance access. From the beginning, this project was designed as a networked application for the creation, storage, and transmission of digital images. The effect of enhanced access on research use and methods was not studied. Such evaluation may require the development of a critical mass of material in digital image form that is easily available to researchers.

The third guiding principle was that the investigation into the use of digital technology in a library setting could only be undertaken with a spirit of collaboration. All participants understood that no one organization possessed the experience and expertise to establish digital technology as a preservation option. Cornell University relied heavily on its development partner, the Xerox Corporation,8 and on the support of the Commission on Preservation and Access. The project also relied heavily on internal collaboration at Cornell between the University Library and Cornell Information Technologies. This study has convinced Cornell that extensive collaboration is critical to further investigation of digital technology, and should include the participation of: other research libraries and university technology organizations, groups that facilitate national programs, standard-setting organizations, technology vendors, funding bodies, and service bureaus that provide scanning, filming, or other services.

In keeping with the spirit of collaboration and cooperation, every attempt was made to use standards that promote future exchange of digital material among libraries and scholars. For example, proprietary image file formats, data compression standards, and network protocols were avoided in the design and architecture of the system. Image files from this project can be made available for use by commercial software packages running on standard hardware systems.

An important guiding principle was to rely to the extent possible only on technology that was readily available as product or near product and that was developed for broader marketplaces. This decision should ensure that the technology will be widely accessible to other institutions, and that its continued existence does not depend solely upon library applications. It also helps to ensure the continuing support of the system developed at Cornell.

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