Digital preservation at State Library of Queensland

Anybody living in the western world in 2017 is creating digital content daily — sometimes even when you don’t realise it. From the more obvious things such as the photos on your mobile phone or your comments on social media, to the less obvious such as purchases recorded on loyalty cards, or time and date stamps of your entry and exit in to carparks — we are leaving digital footprints every where we go.

Some digital content you want to keep forever (baby photos for instance). Other content you don’t. And some digital content you wish didn’t exist at all (that driver’s license photo!). State Library of Queensland, as custodian of Queensland’s documentary heritage, faces similar problems. An increasing amount of the material we collect is digital — photographs, ebooks, videos, sound recordings, etc — each with their own unique challenges when it comes to collecting, storing and preserving them.

First — decide what you want to keep. At SLQ, this involves assessing the item’s significance — is it unique? Does it depict a significant person, place or event relevant to Queensland? Be ruthless with the poor quality or duplicated content — discard files you don’t want to keep.

Secondly — describe and organise your content. Create folders with meaningful titles. Describe your photos (lovingly referred to in the library world as ‘metadata’). “Image 20171118_180030.jpg” won’t mean much to you in 20 years’ time. But “Robert and Mary Smith at Jean Arnold’s wedding, 2017” hopefully will.

Next, ensure your material is stored safely — back it up with multiple copies at multiple locations, if possible (store a backup external drive at a friend or relative’s house).
SLQ performs all of these functions, albeit on a much larger scale, every day to ensure our digital collections are accessible well in to the future. We work collaboratively with other state and national libraries in Australia and New Zealand to investigate and implement best practice for digital preservation.

This year, SLQ is taking part in the inaugural International Digital Preservation Day — a global event being run by the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) to create greater awareness of digital preservation. On Thursday 30 November, libraries and other collecting organisations around the world will be posting blogs (like this one!), photographs and social media updates, as well as holding local events, to help celebrate and promote digital preservation in society. Check out SLQ’s social media feeds (Facebook and Twitter) on the day to learn some more facts about how SLQ is collecting and caring for its digital collections.

With the right planning, we can all harness the power of digital collecting and preservation, and ensure that the only digital footprints we leave behind are those we choose, and that they last forever.

For more information about International Digital Preservation Day, please visit http://www.dpconline.org/events/international-digital-preservation-day. For more information about how to look after your own personal digital collections, please visit http://www.nsla.org.au/publication/digital-archive-toolkit.