Sustaining Digital Resources Boot Camp

Bootcamp attendees from Indiana University, Iowa State University, Northwestern University, University of Iowa, Washington University in St. Louis, and Wayne State University.
Attendees from Indiana University, Iowa State University, Northwestern University, University of Iowa, Washington University in St. Louis, and Wayne State University. Photo credit: Nancy Maron.

Daniel Johnson, Digital Preservation Librarian, and I participated in the Sustaining Digital Resources Boot Camp at Northwestern University last week, August 8-10.

The boot camp was billed as “the business model boot camp for digital project leaders” and we were not sure what to expect. In the weeks leading up the trip, we had several conversations about what sustainability means for the Libraries and our projects. We were asked to pick one project to use as an example for the boot camp and we chose the Iowa Digital Library. At first, our thoughts revolved around sustainability in the forms of digital preservation, open source software, and perpetual access to the Libraries digital collections. We reframed our thoughts after talking to Nancy Maron who organizes and leads the boot camp. She encouraged us to think less about the technical aspects of digital preservation and more on overall sustainability of digital projects. What does it take to sustain the Iowa Digital Library? How might the Iowa Digital Library be sustained in the absence of the institutional support that we currently enjoy? How do we get more stakeholders involved with IDL to make its necessity transparent across campus and across the state?

There are no easy answers to those questions. Conducting additional research can answer some of the questions (Who is the Iowa Digital Library’s audience, and what do they find most useful?). Mulling over various conversation topics from the boot camp and discussing them with colleagues in the Libraries will also help.

I suspect that the boot camp takes on varying flavors depending on the backgrounds and projects of the participants. I’m thankful that we attended with this group. Many of our conversations had me nodding along thinking “Yes, we’re doing that too” and “Yes! That’s a struggle for me too.” Project prioritization, in particular, is a topic that I ponder on a regular basis. I learned that others face the same challenges, and many are trying to overcome the challenge with more robust project planning (the same strategy that I’m employing). It might work; it might not. Regardless, I appreciate the camaraderie and catharsis, and I look forward to comparing notes in the future.

You can read more on digital project sustainability from BlueSky to BluePrint and Ithaka S+R.

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