UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles)

Save unique, at-risk digital content

Photo of archivist Gloria Gonzalez with digital archive materials

The UCLA Library, an active member of the OCLC Research Library Partnership, is often on the cusp of innovation, and providing access to born-digital manuscripts is just the latest example. "This is one of our top strategic goals, and the significance of author Susan Sontag's email collection gave our efforts a big boost," explains Tom Hyry, UCLA Director of Library Special Collections. Curators now consider the issues associated with born-digital content as they negotiate new acquisitions.

The lifecycle of managing born-digital materials is a familiar one—acquisition, ingest, processing, metadata, preservation, delivery—yet the specialized technical skills, hardware, software and preservation needs are new and daunting.

The OCLC Research report You've Got to Walk Before You Can Run: First Steps for Managing Born-Digital Content Received on Physical Media inspired the "Jump In" initiative of the Society of American Archivists, in which dozens of archives followed the report's guidance for inventorying physical computer media. The UCLA Library participated in order to understand its backlogs while continuing to focus primary attention on new acquisitions.

Archivist Gloria Gonzalez (pictured at right) located a wide variety of at-risk media in 42 collections, including punched cards, magnetic tape, floppy disks, CDs, DVDs, Zip drives and hard drives. She then undertook the complex task of setting up a digital forensics workstation, which enabled her to process the Sontag email. Researchers can now study it in the special collections reading room—and the authorized Sontag biographer was the first one eager to do so.

"OCLC Research has been a true partner in helping archives move forward by breaking down the 'born-digital' challenge into doable chunks... . As we work with donors, we ask routinely about digital content and are prepared to capture, process and provide access to it. Researchers are both surprised and delighted."

Tom Hyry
Director of Library Special Collections

A next initiative is in conjunction with the SWAT (software and workstations for antiquated technology) pilot, based on the report Swatting the Long Tail of Digital Media: A Call for Collaboration. The UCLA Library is working with UC Irvine to get assistance with transferring content from media that UCLA is unable to read in-house. Each step moves them forward in preserving and providing access to born-digital content.

Map showing location of UCLA

Library at a glance

  • Ranked among the top ten academic libraries in North America
  • One of the largest research library repositories of archival holdings in the country, with more than 3,600 manuscript collections
  • The holdings of all University of California libraries are collectively second only to the Library of Congress in size

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