YUL Digital Preservation: Strategic Plan
“Preservation is not a place into which content is put for safe-keeping, but rather, it is a process in which content evolves proactively and reactively through the application of strategy-embodying services.”
The purpose of the York University Library Digital Preservation Plan is to outline the digital preservation strategy used by York University Library to ensure continued access to its digital collections by the Designated Community.
Objectives: The primary focus of the YUL’s digital preservation activities is on preserving the intellectual content of the materials digitized by the library, materials deposited into YorkSpace, and born digital materials acquired by Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections. This means that YUL will prioritize the preservation of the content of all materials ingested, as opposed to the look and feel of the document.
The following properties are those which will be prioritized in all preservation activities:
- The intellectual content of the object in the repository. This will be defined on a collection-level, type-by-type basis and includes all supplemental materials and the relationship between these objects, as can be determined from metadata or other context at the time of ingest.
- Metadata included with the object at the time of ingest, especially that which relates it to other objects within the repository, or to the universe of its collection type overall.
- The intellectual rights to the object held by YUL and members of its designated community. While these properties are used to control access to the content and to determine its preservation level, they are also preserved themselves.
Secondary considerations in preservation include the following items. While not strictly a part of the intellectual content of the preservation object, these properties are necessary to ensure its preservation and as such must be tracked as well:
- The object’s chain of custody, starting as early as possible but at the very least from the time it entered the repository. This information is necessary in order to understand the history of the object, and to denote any transformations or changes that have occurred to the content.
- Information on the object’s representation. For every digital object, some level of interpretation is necessary in order to transform the object from binary data into a human interpretable item.
- Fixity information. The repository will keep sufficient metadata on the object to ensure at any point in the future that the object remains in a complete and uncorrupted state.
The preservation of the above properties will be carried out using a transformative approach. That is, the formats (both at the file level and the metadata level) used in the repository will be constantly monitored (per the Environmental Monitoring of Preservation Formats policy) in order to ensure their suitability to long-term preservation. In instances where a format is deemed to present an unacceptable level of risk to the long-term viability of the content, an appropriate successor format will be chosen, with input from the Designated Community, and all materials in the existing format in question will be migrated over. Given YUL’s Strategic Plan (Steward York’s research assets), additional transformation may be made on the material in order to increase its findability. Such transformations will never be made in such a way as to endanger the long-term preservation of the material, and in situation where this would occur, the material so transformed will not be considered as part of the preservation plan.
Scope: YUL commits to preserving the materials for which it has accepted responsibility to the greatest degree possible. However, there are a number of criteria necessary to the repository’s ability to carry out this mission. In order to provide some level of preservation on materials for which not every criteria is met, YUL has defined multiple preservation levels, which indicate a level of preservation behaviours that YUL will use upon the content in question. For additional information on preservation levels, see the Preservation Implementation Plan.
The criteria to be assessed when determining preservation level include:
- Rights: YUL should have appropriate rights to preserve the material in a matter consistent with its Preservation Strategies. At a minimum, YUL should have the right to locally load the content for archival purposes. In most cases, this should also include the ability to transform the content into new formats in the event that an existing one should become obsolete.
- Appropriate metadata: Content to be ingested into the repository should be accompanied by metadata sufficient to provide a meaningful context to the content, as understood by the Designated Community. This can include information situating the content withing its universe (e.g., keywords, bibliographic metadata) or information contributing to the object’s usability (e.g., dataset codebooks). The criteria for acceptability under this measure will be defined on a Content Type basis.
- Validity: The content object must be a well-formed and valid instance of the type of object it purports to be.
- Format Appropriateness: YUL will, for each Content Type, maintain a list of formats which will be deemed as acceptable for long-term preservation. This list will be based on the needs of the Designated Community, as well as the format’s future prospects for migration.
Compliance with all of these criteria is necessary for an object to be subject to the full extent of preservation activities., as defined in the Preservation Implementation Plan. Failure or partial compliance does not necessarily mean that an object cannot be ingested into the repository, but an inability to meet these criteria will result in the use of a less robust preservation plan.
Review and Revision: YUL commits to the review and revision of its preservation practices and the corresponding documentation, as outlined in the Review Cycle for Documentation Policy.
Adapted from and inspired by:
- OCUL's Scholars Portal "Scholars Portal Preservation Strategic Plan".