One of the keynote speakers at the recent ARL membership meeting was Ingrid Parent, the University Librarian at the University of British Columbia and a past president of IFLA. Her focus was the evolving information environment which was the theme of her IFLA Trend Report, “Riding the Tide or Caught in the Waves: Navigating the Evolving Information Environment.” As I read her report I was stunned by one statistic: “In 2010, the quantity of information transmitted globally exceeded one zettabyte for the first time, and is expected to double every two years.” I can’t even imagine how much information that is or even how we as archivists will be able to deal with that much digital information.
I think the most important thing we can do is to get prepared. During the meeting on Transforming Special Collections in the Digital Age, which was chaired by former SAA president Tom Hickerson and included past SAA presidents Anne Kenney and Jackie Dooley, it was mentioned that SAA has worked with ARL to make DAS program courses available to staff at the ARL member institutions. When it was noted that attendance from the ARL member schools was not as robust as hoped one library director noted that his staff was not ready to tackle digitization and weren’t quite sure where to start.
I was pleased that it was suggested that this institution send one or two people to take the courses as they might be able to help the library leadership think about the most effective ways to deal with born digital information and digitizing projects. I was also pleased to see that archivists are on the front lines of this issue and have the skills and experience that will help organizations understand digital records and determine the most effective ways to deal with these collections.
I saw that fourteen of our colleagues have earned Digital Archives Specialist Certification. These fourteen and the nearly 900 others who are working towards their certification have decided to ride the tide and obtain the skills needed to work with digital collections. You may decide that you don’t want to do the DAS program but I do encourage you to read and be aware of the changing information landscape. Be aware of what you can do to ensure that digital materials are preserved and accessible now and in the future.
And if you haven’t read it already I encourage you to read the IFLA trend report. It was interesting to hear Dr. Parent discuss the trends that will change our information environment, how some of these trends are in conflict with one another, some of the likely results of these trends and what our next steps should be.