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Digital preservation outreach: supporting NSW public libraries

Digital collecting and preservation

Damien Webb presenting at Digital collecting seminar

Damien Webb presenting at Digital Collecting seminar in June 2019

Part of the State Library’s remit is to provide specialist advice and support to all local councils providing public library services to the people of NSW. Over the last 12 months our Public Library Services team has been developing ways to share information on digital collecting and digital preservation with public libraries.   

The State Library has been collecting digital material for some time now. Our Digital Preservation Policy was approved in 2015, we have a dedicated digital preservation system, the expertise to manage this system, and can support the digital collecting activities of librarians. To some public libraries this doesn’t seem achievable. There isn’t the budget, the buy-in from the organisation or the required expertise to actively collect and preserve born digital content.  

Ellen Forsyth, Consultant, Public Library Services has been bringing together experts across the Library to work out ways to help NSW public libraries tackle digital collecting and preservation. This need was identified through the local studies audit of NSW public libraries in 2014.

In May we hosted the seminar ‘Digital collecting for NSW public library staff’ that covered the Library’s activities in relation to digital collecting, preserving digital material, and included a few sessions on digitisation and access.  The aim of the seminar was not to use the time to talk about how well the Library does things, but rather to present best practise and options for organisations of various sizes.   

The feedback from the attendees (both in person and online) was very positive and we are now looking at more targeted training opportunities in the future.  

View information and resources from the Digital collecting for NSW public library staff seminar.

Oral history training for public library staff Portable Local Studies Collecting

Another initiative undertaken by the Library has been the development of Portable Local Studies Collecting kits to assist public library staff to conduct and record oral history interviews and scan photographs, letters, documents and other artefacts. Two different kits were created — one, a backpack with equipment to digitally record oral history interviews; and the other, a wheeled case with scanning and basic conservation supplies. There are 16 libraries across NSW using these kits to collect new material in their communities and to make it freely available through their libraries and online. 

Advice on the items in the kits was provided by State Library of NSW staff with expertise in the collection areas and digitisation, including Bruce York, Damien Cassidy, Catherine Thomson and Scott Wajon. Oriana Acevedo, Ronald Briggs and Damien Webb have provided advice about the target collecting areas.  

Eleven oral history kits and five scanning kits were funded by the State Library of NSW. Preference was given to proposals for collecting material with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and/or collecting material with other culturally and linguistically diverse communities in their community languages.  

Selected libraries are receiving training— oral history training took place in October and scanning training will take place in November. Training includes oral history recording, as well as using the oral history equipment and basic collection care knowledge.  

Continued outreach

Oral history training for public library staff

Public library staff learning to use the oral history recording equipment

In 2020 we will continue our outreach in this area. Joanna Fleming and Matthew Burgess from the Digital Curation team will  attend the next local studies working group meeting in Sydney, for a Q&A session. Local studies librarians are encouraged to bring along any problems or curly questions that they have on digital preservation and digital collecting.

Following the Q&A, the Library will trial a two-day workshop on digital preservation. Developed as part of the Australasia Preserves Working Group on Digital Preservation Education, participants will:

  • learn about key concepts regarding various aspect of receiving, handling and managing digital content 
  • learn how to approach workflow development for digital preservation 
  • learn about and get hands on experience with tools for working with digital materials 

Watch the NSW public library email lists for more information about these upcoming sessions on digital collecting and digital preservation.