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OCLC Online Computer Library Center Steering Around the Iceberg: Economic Sustainability for Digital Collections Brian Lavoie Research Scientist OCLC Economics.

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Presentation on theme: "OCLC Online Computer Library Center Steering Around the Iceberg: Economic Sustainability for Digital Collections Brian Lavoie Research Scientist OCLC Economics."— Presentation transcript:

1 OCLC Online Computer Library Center Steering Around the Iceberg: Economic Sustainability for Digital Collections Brian Lavoie Research Scientist OCLC Economics of Digitization Symposium: May 18, 2004

2 Roadmap Economics of long-term digital stewardship Digital preservation Decision-makers, incentives, and economic sustainability Solutions?

3 Rising digital tide Equivalent of 5 exabytes of new information created in 2002 (Varian & Lyman) 92 percent stored on magnetic or optical media Mass migration: –Cultural artifacts (images, audio, video, text) –Electronic publishing (books, journals, databases) –Communication (listservs, blogs, chat rooms) Barriers to entry into digital information environments relatively low

4 Opportunities and challenges Digital technologies offer new opportunities to create, share, re-purpose, and link information … … but introduce new challenges in managing information Building digital collections requires substantial commitment of time, effort, and resources Economic sustainability: ability to marshal and put to effective use sufficient resources, on an ongoing basis, to support long-term stewardship of digital materials

5 Costs of long-term digital stewardship Not cheap! Complex technology environment between content and user Preservation: –Ensure access today, tomorrow, and for future generations –Maintain scholarly/cultural record in both their historical continuity and media diversity

6 Digital preservation Importance of digital preservation: –Digital storage media fragile –Rapid obsolescence as hardware/software environments evolve Need to preserve arises earlier and more frequently in digital information lifecycle: –Little scope to postpone digital preservation activities –Likely to be ongoing, pre-emptive process Preservation resource requirements are higher and more immediate –Total lifecycle costs resemble an iceberg

7 Obstacles to economic sustainability Preservation historically under-funded Digitization/digital collections supported by one- off grants, short-term funding, re-allocation of existing funds Most fundamental problem: ensure cooperation between key decision-makers associated with digital preservation, who collectively: –Determine whether preservation activities will go forward –Are responsible for committing resources to preservation

8 Key decision-making roles Rights Holder Beneficiary Archive Holds right to preserve Can grant/cede right to another entity Benefits from preservation … Directly: as end user Indirectly: on behalf of end-users Implements and manages preservation process

9 More about decision-makers … Decision-makers are roles, not distinct entities … –Single institution can fill one, two, or all three roles Multiple entities can share the same role Contributions to sustainability: –Beneficiary: need to preserve –Archive: willingness to preserve –Rights Holder: right to preserve Sustainable digital collections emerge from cooperative interaction between need, willingness, and right to preserve

10 Analog Digital Organization of decision-making roles Beneficiary Archive Rights Holder LIBRARY Beneficiary Archive Rights Holder REPOSITORY PUBLISHER LIBRARY

11 Splitting off the Rights Holder role … Right to preserve usually associated with ownership/custody Networked digital environments: –Content remains in custody of creator/publisher –Collecting institutions provide networked access Preservation activity must begin early in information lifecycle … –While content is outside custody of collecting institutions Incentive gap: –Rights Holder may not benefit from long-term preservation –Little incentive to commit resources to preservation

12 Splitting off the Archive role … Digital preservation activity likely to occur earlier and more frequently in information lifecycle –Resource requirements higher –Technical infrastructure expensive to build Very little core funding for digital preservation –Implies re-allocation of funds away from other activities/services Institutions may be unwilling to take on Archive role Incentive problem: –High costs of digital preservation exceed benefits

13 Remedies? Rights Holder has no incentive to preserve: –Legal Environment (legislation, directives, mandates) –Negotiation/Bargaining Beneficiary/Rights Holder unwilling to take on Archive role: –Collaboration, coordination, and centralization of digital preservation activities –Leverage common infrastructure, exploit economies of scale, and eliminate redundancies –Reduce costs and increase incentives to preserve

14 Steering around the iceberg … Sustainable digital collections require long- term commitment of time, effort, resources –Much of these costs bound up in securing the long- term accessibility of digital materials Economic sustainability requires cooperation between all key decision-making roles –Beneficiary, Archive, and Rights Holder In networked digital environments, one or more decision-making roles may become detached from collecting institutions –Creates potential for incentive gaps, which threaten economic sustainability

15 More information … Lavoie, B.F. (2003) The Incentives to Preserve Digital Materials: Roles, Scenarios, and Economic Decision- Making OCLC Research White Paper, available at: Lavoie, B.F. (2004) Of Mice and Memory … Economically Sustainable Preservation for the 21 st Century in Access in the Future Tense (Council on Library and Information Resources). Available at:


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