Learning Objectives from the 2021 TDL Digital Preservation Survey Results

At the end of 2021, TDL conducted a survey to help us share resources, strategies, and experiences that will strengthen our commitment to digital preservation. We wanted to learn about the various local tools, workflows, and policies you have in place so that we can shape the digital preservation training and learning opportunities we offer in the coming years. Thank you to all 25 of you who completed the survey, I’m excited to share the results here.

Just over half of the respondents were TDL members. Of all respondents, over half also identified themselves as intermediate learners to expert digital preservationists. I found it incredibly encouraging that Texas houses so much expertise, and I hope to leverage that towards some of the learning and training opportunities the survey helped identify. That said, I know from other answers and via discussions with some of you who’ve self-identified as beginners that you have discrete skills worth sharing, as well.

Next, I asked whether folks had local digital preservation policies and inventories. Only 48.5% have policies, and more than half (58.3%) do not have inventories of their digital collections and records. 62.5% of respondents are still working on developing their procedures and workflows, and those 20.8% that have them are mostly willing to share as examples. For those of you without inventories, the TDL Content Inventory and Prioritization (Google s/s; June 2017) can be used to track what your institution holds digitally and to prioritize digital preservation projects. And, our Digital Preservation Interest Group has been collecting policy guidance, examples and workflows here on its wiki: https://texasdigitallibrary.atlassian.net/l/c/zG2Qe8zU. Several of you indicated in the survey that you’re willing to share your own policies and workflows with the rest of the region, so I’ll be reaching out to you to collect them and provide access via the wiki.

When it comes to your digital preservation toolset, respondents are applying a wide-range of tools and systems. Archivematica was the most used digital preservation workflow system, which is unsurprising since we’ve had an active A-TEX community for several years now. Almost as many of you are using write blockers and BitCurator’s set of digital forensics tools. Several are using TDL’s Digital Preservation Services, so TDL has deployed its DuraCloud to support your varied preservation storage choices, including Chronopolis and Glacier. A few folks are using Preservica, a proprietary system that accomplishes many of the same functions as Archivematica and which uses Amazon storage. There are some of you using the command line to deploy a variety of tools, like running checksums and deploying DROID and DDRescue. TeraCopy is the last of the tools that multiple respondents have used to securely move digital content. With the exception of content and workflow management systems doing double duty as makeshift digital preservation environments (Vireo, DSpace, Alma, OneDrive, Coda, Omeka), the rest of the responses each appeared just once each: FRED, Jhove, AIPs, ImageMagick. Tree Size, Agent Ransack, Remove empty directories, Bulk Rename Utility, external floppy disk and CD drives, Archive-It, handbrake, Windows Media Player, Data Accessioner, Fixity Pro, Wayback machine to save links, and 7zip. One wise respondent mentioned that grants are an important tool in their digital preservation toolbox, and another mentioned a locally designed and hosted tool that makes preservation packages to send to their Archivematica instance.

When it comes to what you want to learn about and the kinds of training you’re interested in, none of you said you were against learning together. So, your answers will help me identify ways to share our expertise and learn together using materials available broadly. Only 3 of the respondents said that they spend more than 25% of their time doing digital preservation tasks, and most were well under that threshold. That data reinforces our suspicion that folks need some help carving out time, and that that time would be best spent together.

The Basics 

Many of you want simple ways to get started in digital preservation, so we’ll need to find ways to offer recurring training on some of the basics. I’m teaching a workshop at the TLA conference this year, so I’m hoping I can adjust that to our needs for TDL. Several folks mentioned wanting to hear examples of use cases, workflows, Archival Information Package (AIP) composition, policies, and procedures, so we’re on the right track as we gather those on our wiki. Still, we can find other ways to review these materials, and others, together. Maintenance tasks were also topical in your responses, and I consider those part of understanding the basics of digital preservation.

Software & Formats

As many of you who are using the free and open source Archivematica system already, there are more who still want to learn about it in our community. There was overall interest in task automation to manage information packages (SIPs, AIPs, DIPs), something that Archivematica and Preservica do, for instance, though many of you preferred free and lower cost options. Additionally, folks wished for training using free and open source e-PADD to manage email. While no particular software was named, there was also interest in software for versioning (i.e. Github).

In addition to low cost software, respondents wished to learn more about what’s under the hood of those systems. For instance, identifying good practice preservation file types, working with AV materials, and creating preservation plans for multiple formats.

Tools Using the Command Line & Digital Forensics

Many of you are interested in using the command line to run discrete digital preservation processing tasks, including forensic ones. Respondents wished to use command line tools to help detect duplicate files to identify for potential weeding, move preservation packages using Bag-It and other transfer tools, identify private and sensitive data in files, bulk rename, and run checksums. Several folks prefer to get training in BitCurator, which pulls together multiple existing command line and forensics tools to accomplish digital preservation tasks. Two respondents indicated that the NARA file analyzer was a tool you wanted to learn about.

In addition to software, respondents indicated wanting to learn how to create an ingest hardware station, including write blockers like the Tableau, the KryoFlux disk reader, and other essentials.

The survey revealed that we have expertise in our community to supplement the free and easy access to materials available broadly to learn and understand these tools. TDL will find ways to match your curiosity with shared learning opportunities in this area. I’d be remiss if I ignored your requests for consistent mentorship after training, and I’m confident we can find that within our community. 


Near and dear to my heart, you want help with advocating for digital preservation. While TDL works in several local, national and international digital preservation communities to advocate on behalf of our members (DuraCloud open source community, Chronopolis, NDSA, PASIG, iPRES, Web Archiving, the Digital Preservation Services Collaborative, etc), we want to support members in making the case for digital preservation to their IT colleagues, highlighting the value of extensive supporting metadata, and interacting with communities to support digital preservation of materials not historically included in institutional archives and collections. 

Finally, I was so pleased that so many of you are actively involved in multiple digital preservation communities. TDL will continue to support you in this collective action in any way we can, so if you wish to be active in NDSA, PASIG, the Web Archiving Texas Interest Group (WATXIG), the TDL Digital Preservation Interest Group (DPIG), or any other groups TDL hosts or counts as colleagues, please do let us know how to help.


Posted in A-Tex, Chronopolis, digital preservation, Groups, Texas Digital Library, web archiving


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