Today libraries, archives, and organizations of every size are creating websites with digital materials that they maintain day in and day out. Some repositories are digitizing written works in the public domain and putting them on the Web and on CD-ROM (or equivalent technology) to make them accessible to the public, with the twofold aim of (1) providing access to the information today while preserving the fragile or rare originals for the future, and at the same time (2) wanting to “keep” the digital information for the future. Other institutions have created massive digital databases of their holdings, including books, manuscripts, and images that they want to be accessible on the Web. On top of all this is the incredible amount of office files, materials, circulation records, and cataloging records that are created every day.
The very largest libraries and archives in the world, in conjunction with national library and archive consortia, have been looking at the issue of the preservation of digital materials for several years. They have begun publishing “best practices” that any library of any size can incorporate into its project planning, budgets, and follow-up. Corporations and financial institutions have focused their energies on contingency plans and enterprise-wide backup of data.
Less well-funded libraries and archives and other cultural institutions need a practical “howto” guide to plan for the future of their data, whether it be for access tomorrow, next year, or in ten years.