Putting the Digital Preservation Capacity Self-Assessment Results to Work for You
by Veronica Martzahl
In the lead up to the 2022 Digital Preservation Capacity Self-Assessment survey launch, several blog entries have highlighted how the round of self-assessment by CoSA members will help identify resources needed to manage electronic records and to establish and sustain digital repositories. The survey results will also guide the SERI subcommittees in their ongoing efforts and potentially suggest areas to work collaboratively with CoSA’s partner associations. While these are important and impactful benefits for the state and territorial archives community as a whole, you may be wondering: how can the survey directly benefit your institution? This post focuses on ways you can use results from the survey to assess, grow, and promote the digital preservation program at your institution.
Let me preface by saying that I speak from experience. CoSA first administered the DPC Self-Assessment in 2012. I was hired as the first Digital Archivist at the Massachusetts Archives in 2013, in no small part due to the results from that survey. Using the results, my manager was able to point to several components that could be improved by bringing on a staff member with experience in digital preservation. The survey provided data – quantifiable numbers that could be used to make his case.
Shortly after I was hired, I was able to use the DPC self-assessment components and capability metrics to show how purchasing a digital preservation software solution would improve our capacity to manage, preserve and make accessible electronic government records. When CoSA administered the survey again in 2015, Massachusetts’ score had improved by over 20 points. That was over six years ago – I can’t wait to see what improvements the 2022 survey will show!
The great thing about the DPC Self-Assessment survey is that there are components that any institution can work on. Maybe now isn’t a great time to ask for a new budget line item for software or hardware, but you can focus on policy development or collaborative engagement. Improvement is structured to be incremental and manageable.
Creating an action plan is a great way to structure your “next steps” following the components and capability thresholds in the DPCMM. Select a component y to focus on first and ask yourself the following questions:
- What are the first steps to improving your electronic records program?
- Who should be involved in your planning?
- Which current or near-term enterprise or agency (funded and supported) initiatives can be leveraged to further our business case for strengthening our digital preservation capabilities?
- What challenges do you anticipate in achieving these goals?
- What resources will be needed and when?
- What is the timeline for completing your goals?
The SERP Framework (https://www.statearchivists.org/research-resources/serp-framework) provides great suggestions for the steps to move up levels in the major digital preservation capabilities, and this tool will be getting a refresh soon to make it even more useful for the CoSA community.
Whether the 2022 survey shows that your digital preservation program has made progress, slipped back a bit, or stayed the same, the important thing is that you will have current data to work with. At this point in the blog any number of pithy sayings would apply – “Knowledge is Power” or “Knowing is half the battle,” for example. But I will wrap up by saying that digital preservation is a complicated, integrated and long-term people-process-technology challenge that can seem overwhelming at times, but I truly believe the DCP Self-Assessment can make it feel more manageable.
Image Source: NBC The More You Know image 1995-2003