Collections Principle 9

Collections Principle 9: A good collection is sustainable over time.

Digital collections containing resources of long-term value should be sustained and archived permanently to ensure access. Sustainability needs to be addressed from an organizational, financial, and technical perspective. Organizational commitment requires buy-in from administrators. There must be a clear understanding of the long-term obligations necessary to ensure a sustained digital collection.

Sustaining the collection may take different sets of skills and different commitments of resources than the original collection building. Aspects of ongoing maintenance include maintaining the currency of locations, ensuring that access applications remain usable, data entry and data cleaning, logging and accumulating statistics, and providing some level of end- user support. They also include the system administration functions of upgrading server hardware and operating system software as required over time, maintaining server security, and ensuring that restoration of applications and data from backups is always possible.

In particular, digital collections built with special funding should have a plan for their continued availability, maintenance and support beyond the funded period. Optimally, regardless of how it was initiated, the digital collection will be integrated into the institutional collections management workflow.

Sustainability at the collection level is related to, but not identical with, persistence at the object level (see OBJECTS Principle 2). Certainly the collection-level archiving strategy should be tied to the object-level preservation strategy. However, managers of collections containing materials of long-term importance should take steps to ensure not only that the objects within them will be preserved in usable form over time, but also that collection-level access to the content is maintained.

There is a growing body of literature on sustainability. Some particularly relevant resources are listed here:


Last updated: 09/03/2008