The following is a guest post by Barrie Howard, IT Project Manager at the Library of Congress.
This is the first post in a series about digital preservation training inspired by the Library’s Digital Preservation Outreach & Education (DPOE) Program. Today I’ll focus on some exceptional individuals, who among other things, have completed one of the DPOE Train-the-Trainer workshops and delivered digital preservation training. I am interviewing Stephanie Kom, North Dakota State Library; Carol Kussmann, University of Minnesota Libraries; and Sara Ring, Minitex (a library network providing continuing education and other services to MN, ND and SD), who recently led an introductory virtual course on digital preservation.
Barrie: Carol, you attended the inaugural DPOE Train-the-Trainer Workshop in Washington, and Stephanie and Sara, you attended the first regional event at the Indiana State Archives during the summer of 2012, correct? Can you tell the readers about your experiences and how you and others have benefited as a result?
Carol: In addition to learning about the DPOE curriculum itself the most valuable aspect of these Train-the-Trainer workshops was meeting new people and building relationships. In the inaugural workshop, we met people from across the country, many whom I have looked to for advice or worked with on other projects. Because of the Indiana regional training, we now have a sizable group of trainers in the Midwest that I feel comfortable with in talking about DPOE and other electronic record issues. We work with each other and provide feedback and assistance when we go out and train others or work on digital preservation issues in our own roles.
Stephanie: We were just starting a digital program at my institution so the DPOE training was beyond helpful in just informing me what needed to be done to preserve our future digital content. It gave me the tools to explain our needs to our IT department. I also echo Carol’s thoughts on the networking opportunities. It was a great way to meet people in the region that are working with the same issues.
Sara: As my colleagues mentioned, in addition to learning the DPOE curriculum, what was most valuable to me was meeting new colleagues and forming relationships to build upon after the workshop. Shortly after the training, about eight of us began meeting virtually on a regular basis to offer our first digital preservation course (using the DPOE curriculum). Our small upper Midwest collaborative included trainers from North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. We had trainers from libraries, state archives and a museum participating, and we found we all had different strengths to share with our audience. Our first virtual course, “Managing Digital Content Over Time: An Introduction to Digital Preservation,” reached about 35 organizations of all types, and our second virtual course reached about 20 organizations in the region.
Barrie: Since becoming official DPOE trainers, you have developed a virtual course to provide an introduction to digital preservation. Can you provide a few details about the course, and have you developed any other training materials from the DPOE Curriculum?
Stephanie, Carol, Sara: The virtual course we offered was broken up as three sessions, scheduled every other week. Each session covered two of the DPOE modules. Using the DPOE workshop materials as a starting point we added local examples from our own organizations and built in discussion questions and polls for the attendees so that we had plenty of interaction.
Evaluations from this first offering informed us that people wanted to know more about various tools used to manage and preserve digital content. In response, in our second offering of the course we built in more demonstrations of tools to help identify, manage and monitor digital content over time. Since we were discussing and demonstrating tools that dealt with metadata, we added more content about technical and preservation metadata standards. We also built in take-home exercises for attendees to complete between sessions. Attendees have responded well to these changes and find the take-home exercises that we have built in really useful.
We also created a Google Site for this course, with an up-to-date list of resources, best practices and class exercises. Carol created step-by-step guides that people can follow for understanding and using tools that can assist with managing and preserving their electronic records. These can be found on the University of Minnesota Libraries Digital Preservation Page.
Working through Minitex, we have developed three different classes related to digital preservation; An Introduction to Digital Preservation (webinar); the DPOE virtual course that was mentioned; and a full day in-person DPOE-based workshop. We have presented each of these at least two times.
Barrie: The DPOE curriculum, which is built upon the OAIS Reference Model, recently underwent a revision. Have you noticed any significant changes in the materials since you attended the workshop in 2011 or 2012? What improvements have you observed?
Carol: What I like about DPOE is that it provides a framework for people to talk about common issues related to digital preservation. The main concepts have not changed – which is good, but there has been a significant increase to the number of examples and resources. The “Digital Preservation Trends” slides were not available in the 2011 training. Keeping up to date on what people are doing, exploring new resources and tools, and following changing best practices is very important as digital preservation continues to be a moving target.
Sara, Stephanie: We found the “Digital Preservation Trends” slides, the final module covered in the DPOE workshop, to be a nice addition to the baseline curriculum. We don’t think they existed when we attended the DPOE train-the-trainer workshop back in 2012. We both especially like the “Engaging with the Digital Preservation Community” section which lists some of the organizations, listservs, and conferences that would be of interest to digital preservation practitioners. When you’re new to digital preservation (or the only one at your organization working with digital content), it can be overwhelming knowing where to start. Providing resources like this offers a way to get involved in the digital preservation community; to learn from each other. We always try to close our digital preservation classes by providing community resources like this.
Barrie: Regarding training opportunities, could you compare the strengths and challenges of traditional in-person learning environments to distance learning options?
Stephanie, Carol, Sara: Personally we all prefer in-person learning environments over virtual and believe that most people would agree. We saw this preference echoed in the DPOE 2014 Training Needs Assessment Survey (PDF).
The main strength of in-person is the interaction with the presenter and other participants; as a presenter you can adjust your presentation immediately based on audience reactions and their specific needs and understanding. As a participant you can meet and relate to other people in similar situations, and there are more opportunities at in-person workshops for having those types of discussions with colleagues during breaks or during lunch.
However, in-person learning is not always feasible with travel time and costs, and in this part of the country, weather often gets in the way (we have all had our share of driving through blizzard conditions in Minnesota and North Dakota). Convenience and timeliness is definitely a benefit of long distance learning; more people from a single institution can often attend for little or no additional cost. As trainers we have worked really hard to build in hands-on activities in our virtual digital preservation courses, but could probably do a lot more to encourage networking among the attendees.
Barrie: Are there plans to convene the “Managing Digital Content Over Time” series in 2015?
Stephanie, Carol, Sara: Yes, we plan on offering at least one virtual course this spring. We’ll be checking in with our upper Midwest collaborative of trainers to see who is interested in participating this time around. Minitex provides workshops on request, so we may do more virtual or in-person classes if there is demand.
Barrie: How has the DPOE program influenced and/or affected the work that you do at your organization?
Carol: The inaugural DPOE Training (2011) took place while I was working on an NDIIPP project led by the Minnesota State Archives to preserve and provide access to government digital records which provided me with additional tools with which to work from during the project. After the project ended, I continued to use the information I learned during the project and DPOE training to develop a workflow for processing and preserving digital records at the Minnesota State Archives.
Since then, I became a Digital Preservation Analyst at the University of Minnesota Libraries where I continue to focus on digital preservation workflows, education and training, and other related activities. Overall, the DPOE training helped to build a foundation from which to discuss digital preservation with others whether in a classroom setting, conference presentation or one-on-one conversations. I look forward to continuing to work with members of the DPOE community.
Sara: As a digitization and metadata training coordinator at Minitex, a large part of my job is developing and presenting workshops for library professionals in our region. Participating in the DPOE training (2012) was one of the first steps I took to build and expand our training program at Minitex to include digital preservation. The DPOE program has also given me the opportunity to build up our own small cohort of DPOE trainers in the region, so we can schedule regular workshops based on who is available to present at the time.
Stephanie: I started the digitization program at our institution in 2012. Digital preservation has become a main component of that program and I am still working to get a full-fledged plan moving. Our institution is responsible for preserving other digital content and I would like our preservation plan to encompass all aspects of our work here at the library. I think one of the great things about the DPOE training is that the different pieces can be implemented before starting to produce digital content or it can be retrofitted into an already-established digital program. It can be more work when you already have a lot of digital content but the training materials make each step seem manageable.