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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.

BPE 2007 – Building docs collection with Archive-IT

At the recently closed Best Practices Exchange 2007, Kelly Eubank of the North Carolina State Archives presented how NC has made archived agency web pages available throught their use of the Archive-It tool.

The NC collection can be found at http://www.ah.dcr.state.nc.us/archives/webarchives/index.html.

Looking at all the collections available from the Archive-IT web sites, it seems like a number of state governments are using this tool:

  • Alabama – several collections
  • Arizona – several collections
  • Indiana State and Local Documents by Indiana University
  • Virginia – several collections by Library of Virginia
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • Nebraska – County gov’t sites saved by Nebraska Historical Society.
  • North Carolina – several collections
  • North Dakota – several collections
  • Tennesee – several collections
  • Utah – several collections

Let’s hear it for all of the these state libraries, archives and universities trying to gather the information output of their state agencies.

FGI would warmly welcome any detailed statements from owners of the collections above, particularly about their future access plans.

BPE 2007 – Shoestring Repositories

There were so many good presentations at Best Practices Exchange 2007, that is doesn’t seem fair to single out any one of them as “really cool”, but I can’t think of another phrase for Robert Hulshof-Schmidt’s Creating an Online Documents Repository on a Shoestring presentation.

Robert is on the staff of the Oregon State Library and he described how his library used a new depository law, the mixed blessing of a statewide Content Management System and some nifty programming to create a system that automatically harvests agency publications, deposits them to a library web server and creates a URL for document catalogers. It’s not entirely automated. Nothing can be in the current state of affairs, but it sounds like it minimizes the need for human review of a lot of files.

Another nice feature of the Oregon system is that it automatically converts ingested documents into either HTML (if text based) or PDF (if binary based, like Word/Excel). So it looks like OSL is able to do some important potential preservation work at the point of ingestion.

Oregon’s document repository can be found at http://egov.oregon.gov/OSL/GRES/REPOS/.

BPE 2007 – File Formats and Preservation

At Best Practices Exchange 2007, there was much talk about appropriate file formats for preservation. I brought this up during my presentation on LOCKSS and there was general agreement about how we need open, non-proprietary formats to have any real chance of doing long-term digital preservation. Some states, including Oregon are converting documents they receive into more open formats like HTML and PDF. Oregon even has an automated tool for doing so, but more about that in another posting.

Glen McAninch of the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives gave a presentation specifically on this topic, called Format Issues in Digital Preservation. His slides will hopefully show up on the schedule page in the next few weeks.

Glen described Florida’s work in providing “risk assessment” information to state agencies about different kinds of file formats. They take several factors into account – open vs. closed, current market share, existence of current conversion tools, etc. After describing Florida’s work, Glen suggested that Kentucky might go down a similar path. It looked useful, but I couldn’t find a link to the Florida document to share with you. There are some snippets from the Florida document in Glen’s presentation, which will hopefully be posted soon.

While not mentioned at the Exchange, two good sources for information about file formats and their link to digital preservation are the PRONOM Registry of file format documentation and the File Formats Blog.

BPE 2007 – Tracking New Publications

As I mentioned in my introduction to the Best Practices Exchange 2007, one of the tracks was Metadata & Discovery. Under this heading were a number of sessions aimed an answering the question, “How can we find out about new state publications if the agency won’t tell us when they put out new stuff?” This is a question that still plagues me in Alaska, even though I have a spidering program that generates a list of new files added to agency web servers. The basic problem is that what I get is a list of files, which me and an assistant need to comb through to see if there are any documents to be claimed, printed, etc. This is time intensive, taking between 10 and 20 hours for a state with a gov’t as small as Alaska’s. The holy grail for us would be any way to be notified just about documents.

One of the sessions I attended offered two options that I think will really help my program. I intend to start implementing these options this week. If they work well and I remember, I’ll report back in six months or so.

The session was done by Michelle Reilly of the Arizona State Library and Mary Jo Lazun of the Maryland State Law Library.

Michelle’s presentation was on using the calendar in Microsoft Outlook as a way of reminding program staff to check for new agency serials and annual reports. While we have a paper “print from web” listing that my assistant checks every Friday, what I like about Michelle’s use of Outlook Calendar is the ability to check off issues captured and that we can key reminders to publication frequency. So instead of visiting EVERY serials page every Friday just in case, we can put frequency appropriate reminders so only a small set of pubs needs to be visited on any given day. Michelle’s instructions and screen shots should be available on the presentations page in the next few weeks.

Mary Jo is interested in capturing new titles the library doesn’t know about yet. Her presentation was concerned with using page alerting software to track agency pages. I tried and discarded this option about three years ago but alerting services appeared to have improved since then. Mary Jo is currently using WatchThatPage, which seems to be working for her, but encourages people to try other options. Mary Jo sets her page watchers on agency home pages and any obvious “publications pages.” She currently has about 500 page watchers organized by agency. She estimates about 2/3 of the page updates are trivial changes (date changes, etc), but that the rest hold some value for her library.

Because the conference held five simultaneous sessions most of the time, I didn’t get to most of the metadata and discovery tracks. Hopefully we’ll see more writeups from attendees.

BPE 2007 Introduction

From May 2-4, 2007, it was my privilege to attend and present at Best Practices Exchange 2007. The purpose of this conference was to share information on how states and other organizations are discovering, describing, preserving and providing access to digital, (mostly government) information. There were six broad tracks – Metadata & Discovery, Access, Preservation, Technology, Project Management & Outreach, and Emerging Issues. A more detailed explanation of the tracks is available on the web site.

This conference drew 103 registered attendees representing 32 States and Provinces from 61 organizations. A list of presenters and presentations is available at http://bpexchange.org/presentations_chron.htm
and should have all the presentation slides, including mine in the next few weeks. But in case you can’t wait, I’ve attached my LOCKSS presentation slides to this blog post.

Those who know me well know that I find it hard to resist cliches. So I have to say this isn’t your parents’ conference. The organizers of this conference followed last year’s model of very short presentations (10-20 minutes) with small audiences (20-35) to allow for maximum discussion and sharing between states and organizations. I didn’t attend last year, but I found the format very helpful and invigorating. There were also long breaks and lunches to facilitate networking. During one “break”, someone from InterPARES
took the time to do a one-to-one JHove tutorial for me. JHove extracts technical metadata from a large variety of files and I really wish I had a working knowledge of it when I prepared our latest “gubernatorial snapshot” DVD for the Alaska State Publications Program. I’m so impressed, I might offer a file analysis as an optional download.

This conference has something for everyone regardless of their experience with technology. There are a variety of sessions and all speakers were patience and supportive of all questions. As a result, I even think I now have a partial handle on OAIster and OAI-PMH, which I didn’t despite having tried to read many articles on the subject.

Assuming this conference is offered next year, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you register. As soon as I hear that BPE 2008 is being planned, I’m going to start promoting it to the entire Alaska State/Federal depository community.

Over the next few days, I plan to write more about what I learned from the Exchange. It will be more about lessons learned than a blow-by-blow description of sessions. I might make an exception for the keynotes, which were done by Brewster Kahle and former Arizona legislator Jeff Hatch-Miller.

If you are reading this and were a fellow BPE2007 attendee, would you include a tag of BPE2007 in anything you blog about? Thanks!