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New-Model Scholarship: How Will It Survive?

report cover

by Abby Smith
March 2003

Copyright 2003 by the Council on Library and Information Resources. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transcribed in any form without permission of the publisher. Requests for reproduction should be submitted to the Director of Communications at the Council on Library and Information Resources.

About the Author


New-Model Scholarship: Headed for Early Obsolescence?

New-Model Scholarship: Three Examples

History of Recent Science and Technology, the Dibner Institute
Center for History and New Media, George Mason University
Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, University of Virginia
What Do These Examples Tell Us?
Who Should be Responsible for Safekeeping?
How Do We Decide What to Preserve?
How Do We Sustain These Resources?

Organizational Approaches to Preserving Digital Content

Enterprise-Based Preservation Services

Research Libraries

University of California Libraries
DSpace at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Harvard University Libraries
Stanford University Libraries
Academic Disciplines
Government-Sponsored Preservation
Community-Based Preservation Services

The Internet Archive
The Role of Funders in Digital Preservation

Moving Forward

Looking Ahead
The Responsibility for Stewardship

References and Web Sites

Appendix 1. Organizational Models for Digital Archiving, by Dale Flecker

Appendix 2. Digital Preservation in the United States: Survey of Current Research, Practice, and Common Understandings, by Daniel Greenstein and Abby Smith

About the Author

Abby Smith is director of programs at CLIR. She is responsible for developing and managing collaboration with key library and archival institutions to ensure long-term access to our cultural and scholarly heritage. Before joining CLIR in 1997, she had worked at the Library of Congress for nine years, first as a consultant to the special collections divisions, then as coordinator of several cultural and academic programs in the offices of the Librarian of Congress and the Associate Librarian for Library Services. She is the author of Why Digitize? and Strategies for Building Digitized Collections, and coauthor of Managing Cultural Assets from a Business Perspective, and The Evidence at Hand: Report of the Task Force on the Artifact in Library Collections.


In 2002, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which for several years has been supporting Web-based projects to document the history of contemporary science and technology, turned to the library and archival community for guidance on how the foundation’s data creators could preserve their digital documents. With a generous grant to the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), the foundation sought to engage those who are best positioned to advise on digital preservation issues.

CLIR hosted a meeting of scholars, librarians, archivists, technologists, publishers, and funders to discuss the preservation of digital scholarly resources. The goal of the workshop was to identify the needs of various stakeholders-Web site creators; distributors and publishers of digital materials; representatives of archives, libraries, and repositories that want to collect these sites and make them available; end users; and anyone in the chain of scholarly communication who might want to discover and use these works for their own purposes-and to agree on common approaches to meeting those needs.

The needs, it turns out, are great, and the approaches not yet clear. Discussions of preservation needs included those of large-scale databases in the sciences and the published electronic record in all disciplines, but the participants’ central concern was the complex needs of the digital resources documenting contemporary actions and ideas-digital objects that are created outside the library and seldom developed expressly for publication. These are wholly new types of information resources, so novel that no common term except “digital objects” or “sites” can describe them. To get a sense of what is under construction and how complicated these sites tend to be, data creators from the Dibner Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, George Mason University, and the University of Virginia presented their Web-based work, spoke about what they were trying to achieve, and defined what they perceived as barriers to creation and longevity. Librarians, archivists, publishers, and others discussed how they are grappling with the problems presented by the complex and often unstructured digital objects that arrive on their doorsteps, too often unannounced, to be preserved. All participants tried to identify the work to be done to ensure digital object longevity and to articulate the new roles and responsibilities that all stakeholders in the research community must embrace to be good stewards of scholarly resources.

This report is informed by the lively discussions that took place at that conference, and by two papers that were circulated in advance and which are included as Appendixes 1 and 2. Although based on much of the information shared and knowledge created at that meeting, the report takes those conversations as a point of departure only. It does not attempt to report in detail on the meeting itself or on the views of its participants. Rather, this document attempts to describe the scope of problems posed by preserving Web-based scholarly resources. It focuses on “new-model scholarship”-scholarship that is born digital and constitutes an important source for present and future research and teaching. The new-model scholarship is, specifically, the variety of Web sites and other desktop digital objects that faculty and graduate students are creating that fall somewhere short of “published” but are worthy of access into the future. A strict distinction between primary and secondary sources is neither possible nor desirable in the digital objects under discussion, as the report shows. The report is not intended to be comprehensive in its review of current activities. Furthermore, the projects and preservation initiatives mentioned do not pretend to be typical, but are rather exemplary of the range of aspirations held and actions undertaken by leading innovators in digital content creation.

In “Moving Forward,” several ideas are advanced for short- and long-term steps to address the growing problem of digital stewardship. These are modest proposals suggesting promising directions that can realistically be taken. Special attention is paid to identifying all the sectors in higher education that will be responsible for ensuring the future of scholarship and its resources. Much progress was made in 2002. Digital preservation has become a vital concern to many outside libraries and archives. The federal government, chiefly through programs of the National Archives and the Library of Congress, has challenged the library, archival, and research and development communities to address what it perceives to be a serious civic problem sooner rather than later. Our hope is to engage those who see preservation as a crucial element in the stewardship of scholarly resources and to point to ways in which each member of the research community can contribute to the public good that such stewardship serves.

CLIR is grateful to the Sloan Foundation for its support and to the many leaders in digital librarianship, scholarship, and publishing who contributed their time and energy to explore a difficult and urgent problem.

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