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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

LOCKSS Demystified in RLG DigiNews

The February 15, 2006 issue of RLG DigiNews contains an interview with Vicky Reich of LOCKSS.

This interview is an excellent primer on the LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe) system and answers some common concerns expressed by some in the government information community such as:

  • What kind of content is captured from publisher websites and how is it stored?
  • How does the LOCKSS system ensure, over long periods, that the content in the system is the same as when it was originally collected from the publisher?
  • What are the costs to institutions for using a LOCKSS box? What resources are required (e.g., time, programming) for working with publishers, adding a title, maintaining the LOCKSS box, etc.? What are your costs for maintaining and developing the current system?
  • How are you dealing with format obsolescence?
  • How are you addressing obsolescence of the LOCKSS box itself?

Vicky also outlines some principles that LOCKSS follows that the Government Printing Office would be well advised to follow as they develop FDSys and similar technologies:

  • Secrets are dangerous. Aim for 100% transparency and audit ability in everything.
  • Legal frameworks change and paper trails are not reliable. Bundle and preserve legal rights and restrictions with the content to the greatest possible extent.
  • Guard against technical arrogance. Build and use open source software and nurture a critical and contributing technical community. The LOCKSS software is fully documented and available on New updates are released about every six weeks. It’s easy to install a LOCKSS box.
  • Collection development is a local activity.
  • Building publisher relationships is a collaborative activity. The LOCKSS Alliance community is documenting practices for working with external content providers, such as electronic journal publishers and government entities (state and federal). Members are documenting practices for working with providers of internal content, for example electronic thesis and dissertations, manuscripts, and special collections.
  • Our industries’ business relationships have worked fairly well for 500 years—endeavor to strengthen these, not to break them.

Thanks much to Vicky and RLG DigiNews for bringing us this clear eyed look at digital preservation as practiced by LOCKSS users.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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