Protecting Your Library's Digital Sources: The Essential Guide to Planning and Preservation

Ina Fourie (University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 1 December 2004




Fourie, I. (2004), "Protecting Your Library's Digital Sources: The Essential Guide to Planning and Preservation", The Electronic Library, Vol. 22 No. 6, pp. 533-533.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The loss of digital data can have serious implications that can bring organizations to a stand‐still. Disaster response plans for digital resources should therefore be a priority for all managers of digital libraries or any other organizations involved with digital data. Sadly, this, however, is not the case.

In Protecting Your Library's Digital Sources Miriam Kahn starts with a quote: “Despite the events of September 11, 2001, the power blackout in the northeastern United States and Canada in August 2003, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other disasters natural and otherwise, one out of every three businesses or organisations has no disaster response plan for digital resources and will not survive a failure of its computers or technology” (p. xi, quoted from “Survey: firms unprepared for operations, IT outages”, Business First, March 7, 2003, p. A27.)

Against this background Miriam Kahn shares her extensive expertise in planning for, recovering from, and preventing disasters that can affect digital information. She has been working in the field of preservation since 1989, and succeeds in offering a concise, to the point, very practical guideline on planning for digital disasters. To read through Protecting Your Library's Digital Sources will take only a few hours: the main text is covered in 54 pages. These include nine chapters dealing with the prevention of common causes of digital data loss such as viruses and outdated software, the loss of computer operations (e.g. through flood or water damage), and disaster response planning including planning for hardware and physical storage media. There are also chapters on protecting data for long‐term retention, decision‐making, and best practices (the latter includes organisations involved with the study of the preservation of electronic records. Overall,the emphasis is on long‐term planning and practical advice.

The real value of Protecting Your Library's Digital Sources, however, lies in the application of the guidelines offered in the 29 checklists included. These cover copyright, a step‐by‐step basic disaster response action plan, alternative disaster responses, emergency remote‐access routines, contact information for computer assistance on lost data and damaged hardware, a hardware inventory, vendors, consortia, a basic disaster response or contingency plan, disaster response team responsibilities, organisational computer responsibility and data creation, business resumption insurance planning for computer operations, manual circulation procedures, documenting restoration of data, access to backup, remote storage facility questions, backup routines for individuals, frequency of backup, backup personnel, location of backup vs archiving, backup storage locations by department or computer, configuration of computers for each network, floor, building and, suggested criteria for evaluating restoration importance, and decision‐making criteria for long‐term retention of digital materials and digital projects. I believe that when purchasing Protecting Your Library's Digital Sources this is what you are really paying for: if applied or adapted according to personal circumstances, this can save managers of digital libraries endless hours of planning disaster responses.

The book includes a good index, and fairly extensive list of sources. It also includes an appendix with contact points for organisations involved with the study of the preservation of electronic records, and an appendix with a list of companies that protect or help cope with the lost of digital data.

Protecting Your Library's Digital Sources is highly recommended as a practical to‐do list for all managers of digital libraries as well as other resources of digital information. For real value for money, the advice should, however, be applied.

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