Digital preservation program at the Libraries

Digital Preservation Framework

The foundational document addressing how the Libraries approach digital preservation created in 2012 and updated in 2023.

1. Purpose

The Digital Preservation Framework formalizes the University of Minnesota Libraries’ commitment to the long-term preservation of its diverse and extensive range of digital resources, thereby assuring enduring access to these resources. This document outlines the Libraries’ approach to the preservation of digital resources and the associated information used to effectively manage these resources, especially for digital content that resides uniquely under the Libraries’ stewardship.

The Libraries’ digital resources are subject to the same overarching criteria for curation -- selection, management, and preservation -- as other resources in the Libraries’ collections. Collection specialists, experts on the enduring value of the content, in consultation with preservation and information technology experts, make these decisions. Digital preservation decisions are made on the basis of this framework document, the Libraries’ strategy and direction, the regard for the enduring value of specific digital resources, and the feasibility of providing the necessary preservation services. Ideally, decisions about the need for and level of preservation are made at the time of creation, acquisition, or licensing of digital resources. In general, the Libraries retains primary preservation responsibility for all digital resources directly under its stewardship.

Preservation strategies may involve a combination of approaches, including locally managed stewardship, as well as stewardship entrusted to a partner, vendor, or other outside entity. Preservation of digital resources may include any actions necessary to preserve enduring access to the content, ensure its authenticity, and mitigate the effects of technology or media obsolescence.

The Framework recognizes that preservation and enduring access to the Libraries’ digital resources must be fully supported by a preservation program that includes planning, research, and monitoring. Other activities will include outreach, education, dissemination of procedures, and establishing best practices. It is also recognized that these activities must be perpetual.


2. Standards Compliance

In achieving its digital preservation objectives, the Libraries recognizes the need to comply with the prevailing standards and practice of the digital preservation community. The Libraries is committed to developing its digital preservation policies, repository, and strategies in accordance with the Open Archival Information System (OAIS) Reference Model (CCSDS 650.0-P-1.1 2009). In addition, the Libraries intends to align its policy, procedures, and practices with the Trustworthy Repositories Audit & Certification (TRAC) standard (ISO/DIS 16363). As part of executing policy at the operational level, the Libraries will also define object level strategies and standards. For example, object level strategies might include migration or emulation.


3. Administrative responsibility

As documented in the 2005 Fiscal Year Libraries Planning Framework “the development of the campus digital infrastructure is an increasing and significant aspect of the Libraries’ activities that is strategic for the University's future.” The Libraries again acknowledged a need in the 2011-2013 strategic plan, based on “the rapid evolution of digital publishing, coupled with trusted mechanisms for accessing and preserving digital content”, for acquiring and ensuring long-term access to digital assets for which it holds primary stewardship responsibility.

Strategic plans continue to state the importance of preservation, both analog and digital support, with the 2016-2020 Strategic Plan having a goal to “Leverage collection action to bring about a sustainable economic model for disseminating and preserving knowledge resources” and the 2021-2025 Plan documenting a collection priority that includes preservation of Library materials, "Expand the breadth of, preservation, and access to our special and distinctive collections."  

3.1 Mandate

The Libraries' mandate for digital preservation is multi-faceted:

  • Organizational support:The University’s threefold mission led to the creation of a library system to support scholarship, teaching, and learning. As more resources and services associated with these functions become digital, the Libraries’ responsibilities must expand to include the identification, stewardship, and preservation of designated digital content.
  • Institutional records:The Board of Regents has mandated that the Libraries maintains the University Archives by collecting, preserving, and providing access to University records as well as papers of faculty and administrators, including those in electronic format.
  • Legal and regulatory obligations:The University has mandated responsibilities to preserve and maintain access to certain digital objects, as well as responsibilities as a designated land grant institution. Some regulatory obligations that are derived from Federal and State laws require us to maintain digital content.
  • Consortial and contractual obligations:The Libraries has consortial obligations and contractual agreements to assume or share in the responsibility for preserving designated digital content.


3.2 Objectives

The primary intention of the digital preservation program is to preserve future access to digital resources that are determined (by collections policy) to be of high value to the University Libraries over the long-term. Some program objectives are to:

  • Protect the Libraries' investment through a fully implemented digital preservation program.
  • Demonstrate organizational commitment through identification of sustainable funding for the program.
  • Comply with preservation community standards and best practices.
  • Seek, expand, and develop digital preservation methods that are appropriate for the Libraries and the University community.
  • Identify, through systematic selection, classes of digital resources to be preserved.
  • Assess the risks for loss of content posed by technology variables such as proprietary file formats, applications, and obsolescence.
  • Evaluate the digital content to determine what type and level of format conversion (migration) or other preservation actions may be required.
  • Determine the appropriate type and level of metadata needed for each content type and the relationship to the object(s).
  • Includes materials that originated in digital form (born digital) and those converted to digital form.



4. Organizational viability

The digital preservation function is integrated into the operations and planning of the Libraries and throughout the management stages of the digital content lifecycle.

4.1 Scope

The digital preservation program is responsible for identifying, securing, and providing the means to preserve and ensure access to digital resources under the stewardship of the Libraries. Noting feasibility constraints, not all of the digital resources the Libraries acquires or creates can be preserved. Collection policies will assist with selecting materials for preservation.

Rather than limit inclusion within the digital preservation program to formats with known and feasible preservation approaches, a level of preservation is associated with each file format. Preservation levels define the preservation strategies available, which vary across the levels based on the resources required to preserve a format.

In acquiring or creating materials for our collections and repositories, the Libraries must continually define and communicate levels of preservation appropriate to each type of file format. As new formats emerge, and are evaluated, a level of difficulty required to preserve each type is assigned.

This selection process applies to both new and existing content and includes those that originated in digital form (born digital) and those converted from analog to digital form. The Libraries will review existing digital content for preservation as priorities dictate and resources allow.

4.2 Operating principles

The University Libraries’ will use the following principles and actions to guide the development, implementation, and management of the University Libraries’ digital preservation program:

  • Access: Long-term access to selected digital content is the primary goal of all preservation activities.
  • Authenticity: Establish procedures to meet archival requirements pertaining to the provenance, chain of custody, authenticity, and integrity (bit-level and content) of institutional records and assets.
  • Collaboration: Partnerships and collaborative agreements will be investigated and established when deemed to be an appropriate use of Library resources.
  • Intellectual property: Define policies and procedures for the preservation of and access to digital resources that are in accordance with all applicable intellectual property ownership and rights laws.
  • Standards and best practices: 1) Align its policy, procedures, and practices with the Trustworthy Repositories Audit & Certification (TRAC). 2) Comply with the Open Archival Information System (OAIS) reference model standard in the development of digital archives. 3) Adhere to prevailing community-based standards in developing and maintaining its organizational and technological context. 4) Participate in the development of digital preservation standards and their promulgation.
  • Sustainability: Define a sustainability plan for the digital archive that is cost-effective and transparent, and that can be audited over time.
  • Technology: 1) Develop the digital archive to maximize scalability, flexibility, and reliability. 2) Employ appropriate storage management technologies for digital resources, utilizing on-line, near-line, and off-line storage as appropriate. 3) Ensure that hardware, software, and storage media containing archival copies of digital content is managed in accordance with environmental, quality control, security, and other standards and requirements.
  • Training: Provide appropriate training and development for staff in areas related to digital preservation, as well as raise awareness about digital preservation issues and developments for both additional staff and the broader community of digital content producers, archivists, and users.
  • Transparency: Create consistent, documented policies, procedures, and practices for the program and the operation of the digital archive within a distributed environment (across the Libraries, the University, and beyond).


4.3 Roles and responsibilities

Within the Libraries, the University Librarian, the Collections Strategic Steering Committee, the Digital Preservation Analyst, the Digital Library Services Department, the Electronic Records Management Group, and the Directors of the University Digital Conservancy, all contribute to the oversight and management of the digital preservation function and the lifecycle of digital content. The Libraries Leadership Council evaluates high-level policy documents and reviews programmatic plans and progress.

4.4 Selection and acquisition

The Libraries Collection Development Policy sets forth the priorities and criteria for acquiring digital content. Individual collection policies may exist to inform subject-specific needs. The Libraries’ digital resources are subject to the same overarching criteria for curation, selection, management, and preservation as other resources in its collections. Collection specialists, who provide expertise on the enduring value of content, in consultation with preservation and information technology experts, make these decisions.

4.5 Access and use

Without the preservation of digital materials, access would not be possible and essential cultural heritage materials would be at risk. Access to preserved digital content is provided using the most appropriate technology available at the time of use. When retaining the look and feel is deemed necessary (emulation or similar), the Libraries will seek to enable the original versions of the digital objects to be rendered over time. The Libraries’ preservation structure complies with access restrictions as defined in all relevant laws, regulations, licenses, and deposit agreements. Appropriate preservation plans to make rendering the original version possible are devised on a case-by-case basis and revised as needed.

4.6 Challenges

There are recognized challenges in implementing an effective and enduring digital preservation program, including:

  • Rapid growth and evolution: Technology that enables the variety of formats and dissemination mechanisms changes rapidly. Establishing a program that is responsive to change is a large challenge.
  • Sustainability: The need for effective cost models and an affordable program is widely acknowledged. The scale is based on the level of commitment. The program should reflect reasonable expectations of requisite resources, i.e., the Libraries should not promise more than can be delivered.
  • Content provider partnerships: Working with creators and providers of valued content to employ appropriate provisions prior to deposit will better facilitate future preservation.
  • Enabling full preservation: Moving from well-managed digital collections to preserved collections in the true sense of the term requires ongoing institutional effort, partnership development, and financial commitment.
  • Flexibility: To respond to evolving technological capabilities and changing user expectations, the digital archive must revise continually the definition of the dissemination information package (DIP) that will allow for the delivery of information to an expanding array of content delivery platform.
  • Education: Training and awareness will be provided for all staff since they contribute directly and indirectly to the digital preservation function, although the majority of staff members do not have digital preservation as an explicit or significant portion of their responsibilities. The Libraries is committed to providing appropriate training for, and raising awareness about, digital preservation issues and developments both for its internal staff and for the broader community of digital content producers, archivists, and users.



5. Financial sustainability

The University Libraries has identified specific resources to support and enhance its digital preservation functions.

5.1 Institutional commitment

To sustain its digital preservation function, the Libraries has allocated a portion of its budget to digital preservation services. In addition, the Libraries will continually seek external/partnership funding to extend its digital preservation scope and capabilities.

5.2 Cooperation and collaboration

The Libraries is committed to collaborating within the University and with other institutions to:

  • Advance the development of the digital preservation program.
  • Share lessons learned with other digital preservation programs.
  • Extend the breadth of its available expertise.
  • Extend the digital content that is available within a broad information community to libraries’ users through cooperative efforts.

Many digital preservation activities and projects involving partnerships and collaborations, are conducted within the Libraries, across campus, and nationally.



6. Technological support levels

The following guidelines distinguish the broad levels of support effort the Libraries will use to address its stated objectives. Support effort and preservation strategy is guided by a number of appraisal criteria, including uniqueness, relative risk of loss, and feasibility/cost of preservation. Digital preservation staff, along with content experts, who understand the enduring value of content, in consultation with record analysts and system administrators, make these decisions.

Fundamental support level
Reasonable effort will be made to ensure long-term preservation for digital objects under this stewardship level. A moderate level of available resources (staff, technologies, funding) will be considered for use. Treatment strategies will be selected from widely available best practices and may include fixity, validation, geographic replication, and others as developed.

Advanced support level
All effort will be made to ensure long-term preservation for digital objects identified at this level. A high level of available resources (staff, technologies, funding) will be considered for use. In addition to the strategies under the fundamental support level, strategies here may also include migration, emulation, normalization, and the development of material-specific solutions.


7. Information security

The University of Minnesota Libraries has a responsibility to safeguard digital content from unauthorized access and use to protect the privacy and intent of content creators.

7.1 Systems security

All systems in the digital preservation infrastructure will meet or exceed University of Minnesota administrative policy for Information security and related procedures, appendices and standards.

7.2 Disaster recovery

University Libraries' digital preservation infrastructure will be considered mission-critical, with appropriate levels of monitoring, response, and recoverability. While digital content stored on University of Minnesota IT hardware is subject to the disaster recovery plans of University data centers, the overall digital preservation infrastructure is built around redundancy and should have multiple recovery strategies.

7.3 Authenticity

University Libraries ensures the authenticity and integrity of its digital content through active and ongoing use of checksums from receipt of the digital content onward. In addition, University Libraries' conducts periodic reviews and audits of its digital content


8. Procedural accountability

As a proponent of good digital preservation practice, the Libraries is committed to transparency in its policies and operations and has established a program to develop, promulgate, and maintain a comprehensive set of policies, procedures, and protocols.

8.1 Audit and transparency

The Libraries is committed to a two-year cycle of self-assessment and aspires to move towards a five-year external audit cycle to evaluate, measure, and adjust the policies, procedures, preservation approaches, and practices of the digital preservation function.

8.2 Policy framework administration

This digital preservation policy framework was completed in the summer of 2012; first approved/endorsed by the Libraries Leadership Council on August 23rd, 2012; and first approved/endorsed by the University Librarian on August 25th, 2012.

The Libraries will review the framework every two years to ensure that it remains current and comprehensive as the digital preservation functions at the University Libraries evolve. Recommended changes that rise to a level of major revision will be shared with the Council for their information.<

Reviews or updates to this document: January 2014 (updates), November 2016 (reviewed), January 2019 (reviewed), April 2020 (updated), August 2020 (updated), September 2022 (updated), October 2023 (updated).

8.3 Definitions

The Digital Preservation and Data Archiving Glossary provides a current set of definitions of terms used in this digital preservation policy framework and employed by the digital preservation functions at the Libraries. Definitions for select terms are listed below:

The services and functions which make the archival information holdings and related services visible to Consumers and authorized users. This includes restricting access in some instances due to copyright, confidentiality, or statutory requirements

A mechanical characteristic of any digital object that reflects the degree of trustworthiness in the object, in that the supportive metadata accompanying the object makes it clear that the possessed object is what it purports to be.

Bit-level preservation
A baseline preservation approach that ensures the integrity of digital objects and associated metadata over time in their original form, even as the physical storage media which houses them evolves and changes.

Chain of custody
A process used to maintain and document the chronological history of the handling, including the transfer of ownership, of any arbitrary digital file from its creation to a final state version. See also Provenance Information.

An algorithmically-computed numeric value for a file or a set of files used to validate the state and content of the file for the purpose of detecting accidental errors that may have been introduced during its transmission or storage. The integrity of the data can be checked at any later time by re-computing the checksum and comparing it with the stored one. If the checksums match, the data was almost certainly not altered

Internal consistency or lack of corruption in electronic data. See also Checksum

A period of time long enough for there to be concern about the impacts of changing technologies, including support for new media and data formats, and of a changing Designated Community, on the information being held in an OAIS. This period extends into the indefinite future

Structured information that describes the context, content and structure of a document and their management over time to allow users to find, manage, control, understand or preserve information over time.

Open Archival Information System (OAIS)
The Open Archive Information System (OAIS) Reference Model, an ISO standard that formally expresses the roles (producer, management, consumer, and implicitly archives), functions (common services, ingest, archival storage, data management, administration, preservation planning, and access), and content (submission information package, archival information collection, archival information package, and dissemination information package) of an archive. It was approved as an ISO standard in 2003 and updated in 2012: ISO 14721:2012.

The processes and operations in ensuring the technical and intellectual survival of objects through time.

Provenance information
The information that documents the history of the Content Information. This information tells the origin or source of the Content Information, any changes that may have taken place since it was originated, and who has had custody of it since it was originated. The Archive is responsible for creating and preserving Provenance Information from the point of Ingest; however, earlier Provenance Information should be provided by the Producer. Provenance Information adds to the evidence to support Authenticity

Reference model
A framework for understanding significant relationships among the entities of some environment, and for the development of consistent standards or specifications supporting that environment. A reference model is based on a small number of unifying concepts and may be used as a basis for education and explaining standards to a non-specialist.

Rules typically developed, adopted, and promoted by large organizations that can advocate for their broad usage. Data standards enable the exchange of data while technology standards enable the delivery of data between systems.

Trusted digital repository
A trusted digital repository is one whose mission is to provide long-term access to managed digital resources to its designated community, now and into the future; that accepts responsibility for the long-term maintenance of digital resources on behalf of its depositors and for the benefit of current and future users; that designs its system(s) in accordance with commonly accepted conventions and standards to ensure the ongoing management, access, and security of materials deposited within it; that establishes methodologies for system evaluation that meet community expectations of trustworthiness; that can be depended upon to carry out its long-term responsibilities to depositors and users openly and explicitly; and whose policies, practices, and performance can be audited and measured.

The tasks, procedural steps, organizations or people, required input and output information and tools needed for each step in a business process. A workflow approach to analyzing and managing a business process can be combined with an object-oriented programming approach, which tends to focus on documents, data, and databases.

8.4 References

The original draft framework was adapted from a model framework developed and shared by Nancy Y. McGovern, an international expert and educator in digital preservation. The model can be accessed on the ICPSR Data Management and Curation website.

Section 6 was updated in 2020 and adapted from the Utah State's Archive Digital Preservation Framework (V1.0 pdf).

Section 7 was updated in 2020 and adapted from a draft of the Penn State University Libraries Digital Preservation Policy.

Last Updated: Dec 1, 2023 8:36 AM