Preliminary findings on monitoring "preservation health" of digital repositories summarized in new report


National libraries, government archives, broadcasting archives, scientific data archives, and university repositories are all investing substantial resources in the creation and maintenance of preservation metadata for the curation and long-term preservation of their digital collections. This preservation metadata is often considered as "contingency information" that is stored and maintained in the event of future need. An important function of preservation metadata is to understand what exactly is in the repository and to provide information that enables periodic check-ups and screenings for risks to long-term access.

The Open Planets Foundation (OPF), a European-based organization that provides practical solutions and expertise in digital preservation to major libraries and archives with long-term access mandates, suggested the need for repositories to perform periodic "health checks" as a routine part of their preservation activities. Based on this suggestion, OCLC Research launched a Preservation Health Check Pilot to develop a general approach to monitor the health of the content of repositories based on the associated preservation metadata.

In Phase 1 of this pilot, we developed a use case for preservation monitoring (identifying and tracking changes impacting a set of key properties of digital preservation). Our goal was to determine if the preservation metadata recorded and maintained by repositories could serve as a useful evidence base to support the operational workflow of repositories.

Preservation Health Check: Monitoring Threats to Digital Repository Content presents the preliminary findings of our Phase 1 investigation of preservation monitoring. Written by Wouter Kool, Brian Lavoie and Titia van der Werf, the report suggests that there is an opportunity to use PREMIS preservation metadata as an evidence base to support a threat assessment exercise based on the Simple Property-Oriented Threat (SPOT) model.     

Key highlights:

  • There is a need for digital preservation repositories to perform periodic "health checks" as a routine part of preservation activities
  • Preservation Health Check activities serve the day-to-day planning and operations of digital repositories
  • A certain level of predictability and harmonization is necessary for threat assessment applications that rely on automated data evaluation
  • Analysis reveals a variety of gaps in current preservation metadata coverage, which might be filled by other metadata schema
  • Findings suggest an opportunity to use PREMIS preservation metadata as an evidence base to support a threat assessment exercise
  • The results of preservation actions (PREMIS Events) represent a crucial part of the information needed for assessment—whether this information is under the direct control of the repository itself, or whether it is created and maintained by parties external to the repository.
  • The flexibility of the PREMIS standard allows for a large diversity in implementations and leaves much room for encoding relevant metadata in other formats and schemas—all of which impedes the implementation of a threat assessment logic that generalizes over many repositories. 

This report will be of interest to digital repository managers, digital preservation practitioners, and PREMIS implementers.

Phase 2 of our Preservation Health Check Pilot will extend the logic diagrams to other SPOT properties developed in Phase 1 and test them against a data set of "real-world" preservation metadata provided by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

For more information:

Titia van der Werf
Senior Program Officer
OCLC Research

Melissa Renspie
Senior Communications Officer
OCLC Research



Quick links:

Preservation Health Check: Monitoring Threats to Digital Repository Content

  • Report overview page [link]
  • Download the report:
    [8.5x11"] (.pdf: 307K/20pp.)
    [A4] (.pdf: 302K/20pp.)

Suggested citation:

Kool, Wouter, Brian Lavoie and Titia van der Werf. 2014. Preservation Health Check: Monitoring Threats to Digital Repository Content. Dublin, Ohio: OCLC Research.

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