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Digital preservation is a process of maintaining, in a condition suitable for use, materials produced in digital formats, including the preservation of bit stream and the continued ability to render or display the content represented by the bit stream [ODLIS].  The preservation of content in digital format has become a crucial for libraries. The way they preserve the printed materials, there is a need to preserve the content available in electronic format for the future use. However, it has been realised that, this is not as simple as preservation of books due to non availability of suitable standards in relation to formats, media etc.

I had an opportunity to discuss the issues concerned to digital preservation with Mr Rory Mcleod, British Library, London. From the discussions, I realised that, many issues needs to be taken into consideration before embarking on archiving digital documents (Digitized or Digitally born). For the British Library digital preservation and its sustainability is an issue and it is trying to address it by taking into consideration suitable measures. The British Library addresses these issues through:

  • Formation of team consisting of experts drawn from the field of Library and Information Science, Computer Science and Business Management.
  • Formulation of policies in regard to formats, risk assessment, digitization, evaluation etc

In regard to digitization of rare documents the library has adopted a policy to retain the print versions of documents after undertaking digitization till the time, better standards and technologies are available for digital preservation. Whereas, it has not yet started the preservation of the electronic content (digitally born), however it is planning to start it after obtaining proper sanctions from the UK government.

The library adopted a policy to use popular file formats available for use on multi-platforms to store the digital documents/objects. It is concerned about the issues of file formats in regard to migration, emulation and virtualisation. However, it is not planning to store the required hardware, Operating Systems and software for use of particular file formats in future rather believes in popular formats, which would not fade away from the market soon and there will be some alternative options to migrate into any future file formats. In regard to image data formats it has preferred to use JPEG2000.

It is worth noting some of the policies adopted by the British Library in regard to digital preservation. I feel that the approach adopted by the British Library answers many of the questions being asked in the professional circles on this issue. It is worth to use its policies as a benchmark by other libraries especially from the developing world.

Some background material in regard to policies of the British Library and Library of Congress on digital preservation is worth to have a look at it. Also, it will be useful to have a look on following projects websites.

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