UCL Library Services will apply the principles of digital curation to its digital assets, and will work to promote good practice in digital asset management in the wider institutional context. The UCL Library Services repositories will be embedded in UCL's teaching, learning and research activities.
To support the UCL Library Services Strategy (2005-10); in particular, the strategic commitments therein to archiving (Library Strategy paras 40-48), digitization (paras 49-51), preservation (paras 55-57), and the strategic development of e-repositories (paras 58-64).
To support the vision of the UCL Library Services e-strategy, which aims to harness emerging communications and information technology to support teaching, learning and research at UCL; in particular, to elaborate on the strategic commitments therein to digital curation (Library e-strategy paras 38-42).
Digital curation is the appraisal and active management of digital material throughout its lifecycle, supported by the adoption of appropriate standards and best practice. The purpose of digital curation is to ensure that the intellectual content of selected digital files remains accessible, over time and across changing environments, by whomever it is required, for as long as is required.
Digital curation includes, but is not limited to, digital preservation.
The Digital Curation Strategy relates to the digital resources which are owned by UCL Library Services, and to the digital resources which are managed by UCL Library Services, within the Library's e-repositories, on behalf of UCL Departments or other parties.
In the context of digital preservation, the scope of this Strategy is widened to include all digital content, whether it is owned outright, managed by UCL Library Services on behalf of other parties, or licensed to UCL Library Services.
5. Strategic context
The Digital Curation Strategy operates within the framework of the UCL Library Services e-strategy.
The following UCL Library Services Strategies and documents are also of particular relevance to the Digital Curation Strategy:
- The E-resources Strategy
- E-learning Strategy (in preparation)
- The Digitisation Strategy (in preparation)
The UCL Records Management Policy also provides context for this Strategy, insofar as it relates to the curation of the Library's business and administrative records.
6. Political context
An increasing recognition that the research outputs, primary data, learning objects and other digital material produced by researchers and teachers are valuable assets of HE institutions, allied to an increased emphasis in recent years on accountability and value for money in the sector, is driving the need for coherent and co-ordinated approaches to the management of digital assets across UK HE institutions.
As a service Department within a global university, UCL Library Services will seek to benchmark its provision against international comparators.
7. Economic context
There are significant costs associated with the re-creation or recovery of digital material which has been allowed to fall into obsolescence.
The provision of managed public access to digital content can raise the visibility and impact of an institution; in the case of research outputs, raised visibility can lead to increased return on investment, through higher research rankings and improved performance in research assessment.
8. Social context
There is an expectation among students, researchers and other users of library collections that all library resources should be available on-line, on demand, at all times.
As a 'memory organisation', it is appropriate for UCL Library Services to include the long-term curation of selected digital materials within its portfolio of services.
9. Technological context
Rapid changes in repository and preservation technologies and tools in recent years provide a rich technological environment for UCL Library Services' digital curation activities.
10. Key components
The Digital Curation Strategy has 9 key components.
- Digital collection development
- Business processes
11. Digital collection development
All digital material owned or managed by UCL Library Services will be digitally curated wherever it is judged to be of sufficiently lasting value.
Principles of selection and appraisal will be applied to all of UCL Library Services' digital collection development activities.
The establishment of priorities for digitization, and the identification of funding to support the creation of new content, are the responsibility of the UCL Library Services Digitization Steering Group.
The UCL Library Services' IT Services Group will be closely involved at the planning stages of any proposals which may result in the creation of new digital content.
Priorities for the transfer of legacy material to managed repositories will be set by the Digitization Steering Group, in the context of the Library's strategic priorities, the assessment by the Digital Curation Manager of the resource requirements, and the existing commitments of the Digital Curation Team.
In practical terms, the digital curation of such material will entail its transfer from filestores and other storage media into one of the Library's digital repositories. This may additionally involve the creation or generation of new metadata.
As far as is possible, the transfer of legacy materials to managed repositories will be carried out by the Group, Team or individual responsible for the collection, with support from the Digital Curation Team.
Funding opportunities may be sought to support the curation of legacy materials; in some cases, the procurement of new resources may be a pre-requisite for curation.
Material owned by other UCL Departments
UCL Library Services will encourage managed approaches to the curation of digital resources by other UCL Departments, and will be pleased to advise other UCL Departments on the curation of their digital assets via the ISC's Digital Curation Working Group.
In agreed cases, the Library's repository software will be made available to other UCL Departments for the storage, disclosure and preservation of significant digital collections, in partnership with UCL Library Services.
No such partnership will be entered into without the endorsement of the Director of UCL Library Services, whose decision will take into account the resource requirements, and the Library's strategic priorities and existing commitments.
Any costs incurred by the Library in maintaining such a partnership may be sought from the UCL Department in question.
The work of depositing digital content to the Library's repositories in such partnerships will be the responsibility of the UCL Department in question, with support from the Digital Curation Team.
UCL Library Services will seek to pursue funding applications, in collaboration with UCL Departments, to support the development of UCL's digital collections.
Descriptive metadata will be standards-based, to support discovery and interoperability.
The descriptive metadata standard used may differ from collection to collection; the Digital Curation Team will determine the preferred standard to be used in each case.
Appropriate technical, administrative, rights, preservation and structural metadata – all hereafter referred to as 'administrative metadata' - will be associated with digital objects, to support both access and preservation. As far as is achievable, such metadata will be standards-based.
Workflows which incorporate the automated creation of administrative metadata will be sought.
The appropriate level of compliance with any metadata standard will be determined for each collection by the Digital Curation Team. As part of the decision process, the Team will balance the cost of metadata creation against the possible future consequences of incomplete coverage.
Where there is a choice, open file formats will be used alongside or instead of proprietary formats.
The choice of format will in part be influenced by preservation requirements. Where appropriate, separately-stored preservation and access formats will be adopted. In such cases, workflows in which access files are automatically derived from master preservation files will be sought.
UCL Library Services will also aim, by the use of appropriate formats, to support text mining and data mining of its digitally-curated content.
The conversion of files to new or additional formats at any stage in their lifecycle will be subject to the availability of resources.
The UCL Library Services digital collections will be discoverable through public, Web-based repository interfaces. Additionally, where it is judged appropriate, the functionality to search the Library's repositories will be embedded in dedicated project- or collection-specific Web sites.
Appropriate standards and technologies will be adopted to ensure that, as far as is possible, the Library's digital collections will also be discoverable through network-level services such as search engines and data harvesting services.
Material will be delivered within the user's Web browser wherever file formats permit. In cases where a local application is required to render a digital object, this will be made clear to the user at the point of retrieval.
Wherever possible, digital content will be made openly and freely available.
Where partial access restrictions apply, the preferred methods for authentication will be UCL IP address ranges and/or UCL Information Systems username and password. Library-administered username/password combinations to manage access will only be implemented where unavoidable.
Certain materials, such as confidential or sensitive data, and master preservation files, will only be accessible by authorised UCL Library Services staff.
Access to some content, such as very high resolution images suitable for reproduction in printed works, may only be permitted in return for a fee; where such stipulations apply, they will be made clear to the user at the point of retrieval.
It is recognised that the expansion of UCL Library Services' digital curation agenda to support the re-use and repurposing of data sets may bring with it a requirement for raised levels of expertise in licensing within the Digital Curation Team. This situation will be kept under careful review.
UCL Library Services will pursue a risk-managed approach to collecting, disclosing and preserving digital content.
Best efforts will be made to acknowledge the interests of rights holders and to ensure that copyrights are not infringed. An appropriate deposit agreement will be put in place for each new collection. A 'take-down' policy will apply to all digitally-curated content.
UCL Library Services is committed to the long-term preservation of the digital content which it manages, for as long as that content is judged to be of lasting value.
A Digital Preservation Plan will be drawn up for each digital collection curated by the Library. The responsibility for drawing up and reviewing Digital Preservation Plans will be shared between the Digital Curation Team and the group, team or individual responsible for the collection.
UCL Library Services will, for each digital collection, seek to find an appropriate balance between levels of intervention and the cost of such intervention.
To ensure that resources continue to be prioritised efficiently, each Digital Preservation Plan will specify a review date.
The core elements of the UCL Library Services' Digital Preservation Plans are annexed to this Strategy (Annex 1).
The adoption of outsourced digital preservation services will be considered. A framework of criteria will be drawn up for the evaluation, and subsequent periodic re-assessment, of third-party preservation services.
Where in-house digital preservation is undertaken, strategies both for bit-level preservation (file integrity) and content preservation (file usability) will be in place.
Bit-level preservation will be assured through the use of mirrored RAID storage, appropriate backup regimes, and the use of checksums, against which the integrity of stored files will regularly be tested.
UCL Library Services may achieve content preservation through a variety of methods, but for reasons of scale and cost, it is expected that these will involve data migration in preference to other techniques. In practice, this may mean one or more of the following activities: normalisation of files on acquisition; format transformation on delivery; or format migration at obsolescence. The method(s) used may vary for different materials, and will be specified in the Digital Preservation Plan for each collection.
The National Archives' PRONOM Registry will be used as an arbiter of software and format obsolescence.
A Working Group of UCL Library Services staff will be initiated to help to address the Library's requirement for perpetual access to licensed content. The Group will maintain an awareness of UCL's needs as they relate to the preservation of leased materials, and will assess all relevant third-party services and other opportunities for securing appropriate long-term access to licensed content.
The Working Group will report to the UCL Library Services E-Resources Steering Group, to which it may occasionally make funding recommendations.
To support and inform its digital preservation activity, the Digital Curation Team will aim to keep in touch with best practice, changing technical standards and emerging tools and techniques in digital preservation, and to cascade this learning to other UCL Library Services staff, and the wider UCL community, as and when appropriate.
UCL Library Services will not guarantee to retain all its digitally-curated content indefinitely and unreflectingly. Material which is judged to have outlived its use, and to have little archival value, will be discarded.
The periodic appraisal of digital collections will be built into the collection-level Digital Preservation Plans, which will include a retention review date.
To support the embedding of digital curation in the wider institutional context, a Digital Curation Working Group, reporting to UCL Information Strategy Committee (ISC) and with representation from stakeholders across UCL, will be established.
To deliver the effective digital curation of institutional assets, UCL Library Services will work in partnership with UCL corporate support departments, especially UCL Information Systems, UCL Management Systems and UCL Museums and Collections and with the ISC Digital Curation Working Group.
The Digital Curation Team will work to ensure that UCL Library Services' staff, especially Subject and Site librarians, are kept up to date on the Library's digital curation activities.
The Digital Curation Team will encourage Library staff to build on existing relationships with UCL academic departments to ensure that the UCL Library Services repositories are more firmly embedded in research workflows, that open access to research is promoted, and that the digital collections curated by the Library are incorporated into teaching and learning programmes.
The UCL Library Services Digital Curation Team will be proactive in seeking external project funding and collaborations, including collaborations with other UCL Departments and other UK and international institutions, to drive forward the Digital Curation agenda.
19. Business processes
The DigiTool platform will be the main tool underpinning UCL Library Services' digital collecting activities. DigiTool will also support the Library's in-house digital preservation activities.
UCL Library Services will continue to use open source GNU EPrints as the collecting and access platform for its repository of e-prints and e-theses. EPrints has a substantial UK user base, and it offers a responsive development programme which tracks the UK research agenda.
Opportunities for the integration of services currently delivered through GNU EPrints and DigiTool, and the case for maintaining GNU EPrints, will periodically be reviewed.
UCL Library Services will work with other corporate support departments to effect the closer integration of Library repositories with other UCL systems, especially the VLE, UCL's authentication technologies, and the emerging UCL Research Information System.
UCL Library Services will seek to compile timely and appropriate management information on its digital curation activities. An appraisal of management information requirements and the resources required to meet them will be included in the planning phase of any new digital collecting activities.
Where appropriate, UCL Library Services will employ the lifecycle costing techniques which UCL and the British Library have jointly developed through the LIFE2 (Life-cycle Information for E-literature) Project.
This Strategy has been designed to support incremental implementation, assuming existing levels of UCL Library Services staff. Any new services will typically begin with pilot-scale projects, and services will not be formalised without an assessment of the resource implications. Full business cases will be drawn up to accompany any applications for additional funding from UCL. In expanding its digital curation activities, the Library will seek to capitalise on its good track record of success in external funding bids.
Where a service rests on a commitment of financial or other resource by a UCL academic department, formal Agreements between those departments, outlining roles, responsibilities and resource arrangements, will be drawn up for signature by the Head of Department and the Director of UCL Library Services.
The Digital Curation Strategy will be reviewed biannually.
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Last modified 12 March 2009