Gueguen – Question 5
5What is the biggest issue facing data curation now: technology, infrastructure, staffing, training, or something else?
Digital Archivist, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library – University of Virginia
¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 I would say that all of those factors are affecting data curation, and each is interrelated. The technology needs to be developed and available first so that infrastructure can be built on it. Libraries and archives have made a lot of progress in this area, especially in the realm of repository development. At UVa we were involved in the earliest stages of developing the Fedora digital repository, and we continue to develop this powerful tool. Fedora, and the offshoot, Hydra, provide the capacity to store digital objects of any kind. The repository can then interact with all kinds of tools that do things with those objects—index and search metadata, stream video, and display the pages of a book in order. The proliferation of data formats, operating systems, software, and media has been truly staggering in the last thirty years. Developing technology solutions like Fedora that will last and be interoperable is a huge task, but I think we are beginning to take on those challenges.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 With technology in place, infrastructure—by which I mean a framework of standardization, organizational support, planning, and shared responsibilities—must follow in order to allow for successful adoption. If there is no infrastructure for using and supporting a certain technology, it can sometimes die out. For example UVa’s Fedora repository, is being developed using standard metadata schemes. Because these standards are widely used, the organization can trust that the digital object described with them will be understandable in the future. The organization can then feel confident investing staff resources in creating these objects and later will be able to share them with other repositories using similar standards. This sharing then increases the likelihood these objects will endure. Overall, the entire infrastructure supports the goals of long-term preservation. On the other hand, another example might be the adoption of a software tool that creates data in proprietary formats. If the infrastructure does not support that format (for example, other software cannot read it, or staff do not know how to use it), it will not be sustainable. Either the data in those formats will become obsolete and unrecoverable, or the infrastructure will have to adapt to support it.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Many organizations, especially in the cultural heritage sector, lack this infrastructure, in part because they lack the staffing to develop and maintain it. Trends in higher education have seen library budgets plummet, and leaner staffing models are part of the fallout. These remaining staff members, in turn, are not always trained to keep up with cutting-edge developments in technology and standards. It makes sense that when your staff is busy on the reference desk, instructing classes, engaging in collection development, and meeting with faculty, learning an entirely new skill set will not get top priority. Libraries like UVa hire a staff with diverse talents and then find ways to help those employees work together. Digital Curators often tend to be “connectors” or “translators” helping bridge the divide between traditional data, archival practice, and modern technological tools. In turn, they help those on either side of the divide understand each other and work together better. Eventually, even the more traditional jobs begin to include more work with technology. Over time, this kind of savvy staffing translates into overall changes in the profession.