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.
It certainly is important for the archival community to acknowledge and prepare for the upcoming tsunami of digital records in need of management. This is especially true when we consider all types of records, including those created by the federal government. One such body very interested in the long-term access plans of federal records is the Public Interest Declassification Board. The PIDB recently concluded a multi-year study and reported to the President on just this issue, focusing not only on access measures related to classification and declassification, but on the need for improved records management and increased collaboration between professionals to make fundamental changes needed to promote such access. We new technological approaches that will assist us in our efforts to appraise our information in the Big Data Era.
I encourage you to view the PIDB’s Report to the President on Transforming the Security Classification System and to follow its activities on its blog, Transforming Classification. The report addresses many access issues very relevant to the entire archival and records management community. Additionally, the PIDB will host a public meeting on November 21, 2013 at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC. I encourage everyone who can to sign up via Eventbrite and attend this event, which will focus on the PIDB’s fourteen recommendations to the President and the challenges and opportunities surrounding the issue of prioritizing records for access. More information about the PIDB is on its website: http://www.archives.gov/declassification/pidb/index.html. Join the conversation on the PIDB blog at: http://blogs.archives.gov/transformingclassification/