Over the 3 days of the conference papers were presented by representatives of practitioners and policy makers concerned with digitisation and digital preservation. Technical, legal, cultural, and sustainability challenges related to digitisation and digital preservation were explored. LIBER was there to showcase our members digitisation activities as embodied in Europeana Libraries and Europeana Newspapers. Europeana Newspapers clearly illustrated the value that a coordinated digitisation project can offer for society because it makes rich cultural heritage available in new ways and has the potential to facilitate new research and broader cultural understanding. Equally important is ensuring that such rich content is sustainable and remains available and accessible to all. Key to this is investment in digital preservation; ensuring libraries have the skills and infrastructure in place to do this. The best way to ensure these things are in place is to engage in broader digital preservation networks to develop best practice and standards e.g. APARSEN.
Collaboration was a strong theme throughout the conference, whether this was to develop best practice, ensure sustainability, or the development of legal frameworks. At the closing ceremony participants were invited to contribute to and endorse a declaration on digital preservation.
The declaration is a strong statement in support of the value of digital preservation; starting with the statement that each individual should be guaranteed access to information (including digital) as a human right, that digitisation is a means of ensuing access, as is digital preservation.
Valuable recommendations are made throughout the document such as support for international work in copyright exceptions and limitations to allow for digital preservation to happen, the development and implementation of curricula and the production of basic guidelines for developing countries. UNESCO can also play an important role in advocating for digital preservation frameworks.Interestingly, UNESCO has also committed to creating and maintaining a database of digital preservation activities.
Recommendations to other stakeholder include a recommendation to member states to develop policies in relation to digital preservation, to professional organisations to assist in the development of a practical vision of the way forward, and to industry to adhere to standards.
So, do libraries have more to add to this document? To begin with, some of the language is quite document centric. Given the context that LIBER is currently working in, such as elaborating the role of the library in data sharing, building Open Access infrastructures, and how libraries can preserve born digital material, perhaps the emphasis should be more on access to (and resuse of) information. Preservation and access to scientific data has the potential to help solve global challenges and should not be ignored. Also, as libraries are coming face to face with many of the challenges that preservation of digital and born digital material presents, member states should be encouraged to work with them, not just on legal frameworks, but also on policies for digital preservation to ensure that such policies are workable and sustainable.
The declaration also makes reference to a set of digitisation guideline that were developed by UNESCO. These guidelines need to be updated. As libraries have been working together (certainly within LIBER) to develop best practice in digitisation, they could have much to contribute to updating such guidelines.
The draft recommendations will be available for comment at www.unesco.org over the coming weeks,