Conferences, meetings and meet-ups are important networking and collaboration events that allow librarians and archivists to share digital stewardship experiences. While national conferences and meetings offer strong professional development opportunities, regional and local meetings offer opportunities for practitioners to connect and network with a local community of practice. In a previous blog post, Kim Schroeder, a lecturer at the Wayne State University School of Library and Information Science, shared her experiences planning and holding Regional Digital Preservation Practitioners (RDPP) in Detroit. In this post, part of our Insights Interview series, I’m excited to talk to Ed Busch, Electronic Records Archivist at Michigan State University, about his experiences spearheading the Mid-Michigan Digital Practitioners Group.
Erin: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at Michigan State University.
Ed: I come from what I suspect is a unique background for an archivist. I have an undergraduate B.S. in Fisheries from Humboldt State University in California, took coursework in programming (BASIC, FORTAN, APL), worked as a computer operator (loading punch cards and hanging tapes), performed software testing as well as requirements writing, and was a stay-at home dad for a period of time.
It was during this period, that I looked into librarianship; I thought I could bring an IT background along with my love of history and genealogy to the field. After I completed my MLIS and Archives Administration certificate at Wayne State in 2007, I began a processing archivist position at the MSU Archives that lead to my current position as the Electronic Records Archivist.
As an archivist here, I work on a lot of different projects. This includes “digital projects” such as web crawling (via Archive-It), adding content to our website, managing our Archivists’ Toolkit installation, managing a couple of listservs (Michigan Archival Association and Big10 Archivists), working on our Trusted Digital Repository workflows and identifying useful tools to aid processing digital records. I also continue to do some paper processing, manage our Civil War Letters and Diaries Digitization project and the development of an AV Digitization Lab at the archives. I’m also the first person staff consults for PC or network issues at the archives.
Erin: How are you involved in digital preservation at your organization?
Ed: I supported my fellow electronic records archivist Lisa Schmidt on a NHPRC grant to create the Spartan Archive, a repository for Michigan State University’s born-digital institutional administrative records. For the grant, we focused on MSU’s Office of the Registrar digital records.
As a follow-on to the grant we are working on creating a Trusted Digital Repository for MSU. We are currently ingesting digital records using Archivematica into a preservation environment. Lisa and an intern do most of the actual ingesting while I provide technical advice, create workflows for unique items and identify useful tools. We are also evaluating applications that can help manage our digital assets and to provide access to them.
One area that has been on the “To Do list” is processing the digital assets from our university photographers and videographers. The challenges include selecting what to keep and what not, how to provide access and how to fund the storage for this large amount of data. I’ve also explored some facial recognition applications but haven’t found a good way to integrate into our TDR yet.
I’m also the person doing all the web archiving for the University and testing out migrating ArchivesSpace so that we can schedule a transition for it. Besides the Mid-Michigan Digital Practitioners (MMDP) meeting planning, I also attend meetings of Web Developers here at MSU (WebDev CAFE) and am a volunteer on the ArchivesSpace Technical Advisory Council.
Erin: Could you talk about Mid-Michigan Digital Practitioners Group. You have had some very successful regional meetings over the past couple of years. Can you tell us more about these?
Ed: In February of 2013, I heard about a new group for Digital Preservation Practitioners in the Detroit/Ann Arbor/Toledo/Windsor Area. I recall thinking that this sounds neat and wanted to explore if there was interest in holding a session for Mid-Michigan Digital Preservation Practitioners with the purpose to get together and talk about what the various institutions are doing: projects, technologies, partners, etc.
After contacting some of my colleagues about this, the answer was a resounding yes! Portia Vescio (Assistant Director of the Archives) and myself contacted Digital Curation Librarian Aaron Collie and we created Mid-Michigan Digital Practitioners. Systems Librarian Ranti Junus joined the three of us to form the Mid-Michigan Digital Practitioners planning group. We’ve had great support from the MSU Archives and MSU Libraries leadership for this effort.
We held our first meeting at MSU in August of 2013. From the beginning, we’ve been big on using email and surveys to get ideas and help from the Mid-Michigan professionals working with digital materials. For this first meeting, we came up with a rough agenda and started soliciting presenters to talk about what they were working on. We also communicated with Kim and Lance [Stuchell]’s group to keep them in the loop. There was some concern that there were two groups but we really wanted to serve the needs of the Mid-Michigan area. Many smaller shops don’t have the resources to go far. At that first meeting, we had over 50 attendees from around 15 different institutions. What most people kept saying they liked best was the chance to talk to other people trying to solve the same problems.
We held the second meeting in March 2014 at Grand Valley State University with over 50 attendees from 24 different institutions. We repeated the process and held the third meeting at Central Michigan University this past September with 50 attendees from over 20 institutions.
We’re now just starting the planning for the 4th meeting for March 27, 2015 at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. We have high hopes for a great meeting and hopefully some student involvement from the U of Michigan School of Information and Wayne State University School of Library Science. We’ve also setup a listserv (email@example.com) to aid communication.
Erin: What did you feel was most successful about your meetings?
Ed: I think what’s been most successful is creating a chance for archivists, librarians and museum curators from all types and sizes of institutions to share experiences, what’s worked, what hasn’t, nifty tools, cool projects, etc. about their digital materials. Feedback from the meetings has this as the thing most people liked best. We also really do try to use the feedback we get to improve each meeting, try out new things and talk about what people are interested in learning more about.
Erin: What kind of impact do you think these meetings have had on your community and the organizations in your region?
Ed: I think our greatest contribution to the region has been creating a place for professionals from large and small institutions to see what’s happening in the area of digital materials and to share experiences. Digital materials have the same issues/problems/situations for all of us; the main difference being what resources we can use to deal with them. By providing a forum for people to meet, hopefully everyone can get ideas to take back with them and to have information they can share with their leadership on the importance of this work.
Erin: What one piece of advice would you offer others who may be interested in starting up a regional practitioners group?
Ed: One thing that I believe has made our group able to keep going is that the core planning group is all located at MSU. We can meet every few weeks to work on the next meeting, assign tasks and share information with the host institution. Saying that, for the next MMDP meeting, we are expanding our planning group to include a few other people to call in to the planning meetings. We’ll see how that works and regroup if needed or possibly add some more. Flexibility is important.
I do sincerely believe though that what really makes a difference is the interest and commitment of the planning team and its leadership at the Archives and Libraries to keep this going even though we each have a lot on our plates. We feel this is vital to the community of archivists, librarians and curators in the area.