April 26, 2016

By Dr. Trevor Owens, Senior Program Officer, Office of Library Services, IMLS

This is the first post in a four-part series highlighting recent awards made by the Office of Library Services in the National Digital Platform priority area, through the National Leadership Grants for Libraries program and the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian program. In particular, this series will explore trends in this portfolio as emergent themes in this work develop dialog between the agency’s priorities and the insights of our applicant and expert peer reviewers. To learn more about each project, click on their IMLS log number for links to components of their grant application.

IMLS’ recent awards in the National Digital Platform area included nearly $1.4 million in funding for projects that are intended to improve libraries as well as archives’ ability to collect, manage, preserve and provide access to born digital Information. We have highlighted a few of those projects and the work underway below, in hopes of better informing the field of the latest developments in this important area.

Scaling Up Perma.CC: Web Archiving Supporting Scholarly Communication

Link rot is a serious problem affecting as much as 70% of all scholarly articles in law, medicine, science and technology, causing irreversible harm to the digital scholarly record. Through Scaling Up Perma.cc: Ensuring the Integrity of the Digital Scholarly Record (LG-70-16-0023-16), the Harvard Law School Library Innovation Lab, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and over 130 partner libraries will work to sustainably scale Perma.cc to combat link rot in all scholarly fields.

With $782,649 in IMLS funds and a substantial commitment of $823,126 in cost share, the project will build on solutions and approaches developed in the field of legal scholarship, and expand the Perma library coalition and tackle link rot in other fields. The team will scale a proven technology and approach sustainably by designing, testing and launching a service that can subsidize the services offered to those supported by academic library partners. In keeping with the scale of this IMLS investment, the project has already taken a mature effort with an impressive array of partners from libraries, publishing, and web archiving to work together to substantially scale up an effort which has already proved quite successful in one domain. Combined with Systems Interoperability and Collaborative Development for Web Archiving (LG-71-15-0174-15) and Combining Social Media Storytelling with Web Archives (LG-71-15-0077) it is clear that web archiving tools and services are becoming a key part of the national digital platform portfolio.

Practical Emulation, Virtualization and Digital Art

A recent report from David Rosenthal on emulation and virtualization has further shifted the tide from thinking that migrating files to new formats would be more sustainable than emulation as a strategy for digital preservation. In that vein, I am thrilled that IMLS can support progressing this work through A Re-enactment Tool for Collections of Digital Artifacts (LG-70-16-0079-16). With $169,970 in IMLS funds and $109,494 in cost share, Rhizome in partnership with Yale University and the University of Freiberg will enhance a set of software tools connecting archives of digital artifacts and emulation frameworks. This will significantly increase the viability of emulation as a preservation strategy by making environments of legacy software more usable for collection managers.

What excites me most about this work is how pragmatic it is. The message that comes through in Rosenthal’s recent review of the state of emulation technology is that while the tools could be improved, they are ready to use today. Projects like this that directly deploy these technologies to provide access to objects are critical for both demonstrating the value of this work and understanding what should be improved about these tools. In consort with last year’s Software Preservation Network forum (LG-73-15-0133-15), funding of this project cements the role that working with open source emulation frameworks is likely to play in the national digital platform portfolio going forward.

The recent grants are only the latest efforts by IMLS to highlight the importance of the National Digital Platform. The agency last year IMLS held a convening on The National Digital Platform. Here, DC Public Library Executive Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan welcomes participants.

The recent grants are only the latest efforts by IMLS to highlight the importance of the National Digital Platform. The agency last year IMLS held a convening on The National Digital Platform. Here, DC Public Library Executive Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan welcomes participants.

Tactical Improvements in Libraries Roles in Big Data Cyberinfrastructure

Libraries are increasingly stepping up its responsibilities to curate and manage research data in the academy. Various federal funders focused on scientific research are making substantial investments in science cyberinfrastructure. In this environment, it is often challenging to articulate exactly what kinds of targeted investments in this area can make the best use of limited IMLS funds. Developing Library Cyberinfrastructure Strategy for Big Data Sharing and Reuse (LG-71-16-0037-16) is a great example of the sort of work in this area that makes sense as a part of the national digital platform portfolio.

Through an investment of $308,175 in IMLS funds, Virginia Tech Libraries, in partnership with the departments of Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science, and the University of North Texas Department of Library and Information Sciences will explore synthesizing five types of existing Cyberinfrastructure options with key requirements from three library big data services. Importantly, this is not about establishing a local cyberinfrastructure. Instead, this is about benchmarking and modeling how different services available today can best meet the needs of library users for libraries around the country.

Emerging Content Area: Born Digital Audiovisual Evidence

The national digital platform priority is focused on scaling up tools and services that are already doing great work. However, it is still essential that this portfolio include work scanning the horizon for emerging forms of digital content that demand the attention of library and archives professionals. In that capacity, On the Record, All the Time: Setting an Agenda for Audiovisual Evidence Management (RE-43-16-0053-16) illustrates how the national digital platform can support this kind of exploratory work through national forum grants. Through this project, UCLA’s Department of Information Studies will bring together stakeholders to define the challenges and specific priorities for, the management and preservation of new forms of audiovisual evidence generated by the widespread use of surveillance cameras, smartphones, and bodycams in law enforcement. Stakeholders from law enforcement agencies, libraries, and archives, will come together to develop a strategy for working together on both the ethical and practical issues relating to the management of digital information and open data.

Together these four projects demonstrate the way that the national digital platform portfolio of grants is advancing tools, services and practices to meet the challenge of curating, managing, preserving and providing access to born digital content.

Dr. Trevor Owens is a senior library program officer charged with leading National Digital Platform efforts for IMLS.


National Leadership Grants for Libraries
Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program