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We've come a long way

It is no exaggeration to say that digital collecting has brought new challenges. Speaking from the viewpoint of the collection development team, how much has changed and how much everyone in my team has learnt about digital collecting in the past few years. There are things we never imagined learning – RAW files, BAGGER, BWAVs, CHECKSUMS!

A few years back I was lucky to represent the Library on the National and State Libraries Australasia working group on digital collecting. I realised that some other libraries were more advanced with their digital collecting than we were  and I started to see what was ahead of us if we were to collect, manage and preserve born-digital content.  Since then the Library has adopted the NSLA digital collecting principles and approved a digital preservation policy. These developments were important milestones. We have now implemented the Library’s new library collection management system  and its poetically named digital preservation component,  ROSETTA. With major digitisation projects under our belts and with new digital curation staff in place we are truly putting the principles and policies into practice.  RAW files and BAGGERs are not just words.

For me it started with my involvement in the digitisation of the oral history collection. File formats had to be of archival standard. There were archival standards for oral history! The realisation that every digital item had to have metadata and a particular metadata schema or collection level description would not be sufficient and  the newly digitised files had to be checked. QA was a whole new thing.

A few years on, I realise that my colleagues and I are all in the middle of it and doing this work ourselves! We are all on the same trajectory with the help of NSLA training on digital preservation. Everyone is learning new concepts, addressing preservation issues, processing new technical information.

A high proportion of what we collect now involves a digital component. For example,  personal archives  might still include paper, photo prints, analogue recordings but most likely there are also  few CDs , DVDS and USBs chucked in as well. Sometimes a personal archive is all digital – Word docs, PDFs, Excel spreadsheets, emails –  it leaves us exclaiming 'YIKES what do I do???!!'  I cannot overstate the difference it has made having the expertise in the building,  having  new digital curation specialists who we can work with closelyto teach us, support us and to make the new systems work. The digital curation specialists make sure that what we collect will be in a format that they can ingest into the new preservation system  and that will be possible to digitally preserve for the future.

Librarian seated at a computer

Anne Hocking, Collection Liaison Specialist Librarian, and Bagger champion, checks a new digital collection 

A great new development has been that our digital curators have started accompanying us on field visits to our clients. We open up the client’s laptop  and the digital curator is checking out files, investigating, asking questions, applying DIGITAL FORENSICS – a term that I particularly love. It speaks of science labs.  It’s edgy, technical and cool!

In collecting new material for the Library, we are always reminded that there is a lot of overlap with non-digital collecting formats  and at times I still find it useful to compare paper with digital – content is content. It all has to be assessed and selected but digital formats are different and bring new preservation issues with them.

We’ve only just begun -  maybe we’ll always feel like that - and there’s a lot of work ahead of us which is exciting and challenging.  It feels like there’s a great sense of a joint mission in the Library’s collection management world –  collectors, curators, cataloguers  - and at the centre are  our charioteers, the digital curators. Onwards!


Sally Hone, Collection Development Coordinator

Pictured is Anne Hocking, Collection Liaison Specialist