IIPC WAC / RESAW Conference 2017 – Day Three Liveblog

It’s the final day of the IIPC/RESAW conference in London. See my day one and day two post for more information on this. I’m back in the main track today and, as usual, these are live notes so comments, additions, corrections, etc. all welcome.

Collection development panel (Chair: Nicola Bingham)

James R. Jacobs, Pamela M. Graham & Kris Kasianovitz: What’s in your web archive? Subject specialist strategies for collection development

We’ve been archiving the web for many years but the need for web archiving really hit home for me in 2013 when NASA took down every one of their technical reports – for review on various grounds. And the web archiving community was very concerned. Michael Nelson said in a post “NASA information is too important to be left on nasa.gov computers”. And I wrote about when we rely on pointing not archiving.

So, as we planned for this panel we looked back on previous IIPC events and we didn’t see a lot about collection curation. We posed three topics all around these areas. So for each theme we’ll watch a brief screen cast by Kris to introduce them…

  1. Collection development and roles

Kris (via video): I wanted to talk about my role as a subject specialist and how collection development fits into that. AS a subject specialist that is a core part of the role, and I use various tools to develop the collection. I see web archiving as absolutely being part of this. Our collection is books, journals, audio visual content, quantitative and qualitative data sets… Web archives are just another piece of the pie. And when we develop our collection we are looking at what is needed now but in anticipation of what we be needed 10 or 20 years in the future, building a solid historical record that will persist in collections. And we think about how our archives fit into the bigger context of other archives around the country and around the world.

For the two web archives I work on – CA.gov and the Bay Area Governments archives – I am the primary person engaged in planning, collecting, describing and making available that content. And when you look at the web capture life cycle you need to ensure the subject specialist is included and their role understood and valued.

The CA.gov archive involves a group from several organisations including the government library. We have been archiving since 2007 in the California Digital Library initially. We moved into Archive-It in 2013.

The Bay Area Governments archives includes materials on 9 counties, but primarily and comprehensively focused on two key counties here. We bring in regional governments and special districts where policy making for these areas occur.

Archiving these collections has been incredibly useful for understanding government, their processes, how to work with government agencies and the dissemination of this work. But as the sole responsible person that is not ideal. We have had really good technical support from Internet Archive around scoping rules, problems with crawls, thinking about writing regular expressions, how to understand and manage what we see from crawls. We’ve also benefitted from working with our colleague Nicholas Taylor here at Stanford who wrote a great QA report which has helped us.

We are heavily reliant on crawlers, on tools and technologies created by you and others, to gather information for our archive. And since most subject selectors have pretty big portfolios of work – outreach, instruction, as well as collection development – we have to have good ties to developers, and to the wider community with whom we can share ideas and questions is really vital.

Pamela: I’m going to talk about two Columbia archives, the Human Rights Web Archive (HRWA) and Historic Preservation and Urban Planning. I’d like to echo Kris’ comments about the importance of subject specialists. The Historic Preservation and Urban Planning archive is led by our architecture subject specialist and we’d reached a point where we had to collect web materials to continue that archive – and she’s done a great job of bringing that together. Human Rights seems to have long been networked – using the idea of the “internet” long before the web and hypertext. We work closely with Alex Thurman, and have an additional specially supported web curator, but there are many more ways to collaborate and work together.

James: I will also reflect on my experience. And the FDLP – Federal Library Program – involves libraries receiving absolutely every government publications in order to ensure a comprehensive archive. There is a wider programme allowing selective collection. At Stanford we are 85% selective – we only weed out content (after five years) very lightly and usually flyers etc. As a librarian I curate content. As an FDLP library we have to think of our collection as part of the wider set of archives, and I like that.

As archivists we also have to understand provenance… How do we do that with the web archive. And at this point I have to shout out to Jefferson Bailey and colleagues for the “End of Term” collection – archiving all gov sites at the end of government terms. This year has been the most expansive, and the most collaborative – including FTP and social media. And, due to the Trump administration’s hostility to science and technology we’ve had huge support – proposals of seed sites, data capture events etc.

2. Collection Development approaches to web archives, perspectives from subject specialists

As subject specialists we all have to engage in collection development – there are no vendors in this space…

Kris: Looking again at the two government archives I work on there is are Depository Program Statuses to act as a starting point… But these haven’t been updated for the web. However, this is really a continuation of the print collection programme. And web archiving actually lets us collect more – we are no longer reliant on agencies putting content into the Depository Program.

So, for CA.gov we really treat this as a domain collection. And no-one really doing this except some UCs, myself, and state library and archives – not the other depository libraries. However, we don’t collect think tanks, or the not-for-profit players that influence policy – this is for clarity although this content provides important context.

We also had to think about granularity… For instance for the CA transport there is a top level domain and sub domains for each regional transport group, and so we treat all of these as seeds.

Scoping rules matter a great deal, partly as our resources are not unlimited. We have been fortunate that with the CA.gov archive that we have about 3TB space for this year, and have been able to utilise it all… We may not need all of that going forwards, but it has been useful to have that much space.

Pamela: Much of what Kris has said reflects our experience at Columbia. Our web archiving strengths mirror many of our other collection strengths and indeed I think web archiving is this important bridge from print to fully digital. I spent some time talking with our librarian (Chris) recently, and she will add sites as they come up in discussion, she monitors the news for sites that could be seeds for our collection… She is very integrated in her approach to this work.

For the human rights work one of the challenges is the time that we have to contribute. And this is a truly interdisciplinary area with unclear boundaries, and those are both challenging aspects. We do look at subject guides and other practice to improve and develop our collections. And each fall we sponsor about two dozen human rights scholars to visit and engage, and that feeds into what we collect… The other thing that I hope to do in the future is to do more assessment to look at more authoritative lists in order to compare with other places… Colleagues look at a site called ideallist which lists opportunities and funding in these types of spaces. We also try to capture sites that look more vulnerable – small activist groups – although it is nt clear if they actually are that risky.

Cost wise the expensive part of collecting is both human effort to catalogue, and the permission process in the collecting process. And yesterday’s discussion of possible need for ethics groups as part of the permissions prpcess.

In the web archiving space we have to be clearer on scope and boundaries as there is such a big, almost limitless, set of materials to pick from. But otherwise plenty of parallels.

James: For me the material we collect is in the public domain so permissions are not part of my challenge here. But there are other aspects of my work, including LOCKSS. In the case of Fugitive US Agencies Collection we take entire sites (e.g. CBO, GAO, EPA) plus sites at risk (eg Census, Current Industrial Reports). These “fugitive” agencies include publications should be in the depository programme but are not. And those lots documents that fail to make it out, they are what this collection is about. When a library notes a lost document I will share that on the Lost Docs Project blog, and then also am able to collect and seed the cloud and web archive – using the WordPress Amber plugin – for links. For instance the CBO looked at the health bill, aka Trump Care, was missing… In fact many CBO publications were missing so I have added it as a see for our Archive-it

3. Discovery and use of web archives

Discovery and use of web archives is becoming increasingly important as we look for needles in ever larger haystacks. So, firstly, over to Kris:

Kris: One way we get archives out there is in our catalogue, and into WorldCat. That’s one plae to help other libraries know what we are collecting, and how to find and understand it… So would be interested to do some work with users around what they want to find and how… I suspect it will be about a specific request – e.g. city council in one place over a ten year period… But they won’t be looking for a web archive per se… We have to think about that, and what kind of intermediaries are needed to make that work… Can we also provide better seed lists and documentation for this? In Social Sciences we have the Code Book and I think we need to share the equivalent information for web archives, to expose documentation on how the archive was built… And linking to seeds nad other parts of collections .

One other thing we have to think about is process and document ingest mechanism. We are trying to do this for CA.gov to better describe what we do… BUt maybe there is a standard way to produce that sort of documentation – like the Codebook…

Pamela: Very quickly… At Columbia we catalogue individual sites. We also have a customised portal for the Human Rights. That has facets for “search as research” so you can search and develop and learn by working through facets – that’s often more useful than item searches… And, in terms of collecting for the web we do have to think of what we collect as data for analysis as part of a larger data sets…

James: In the interests of time we have to wrap up, but there was one comment I wanted to make.which is that there are tools we use but also gaps that we see for subject specialists [see slide]… And Andrew’s comments about the catalogue struck home with me…


Q1) Can you expand on that issue of the catalogue?

A1) Yes, I think we have to see web archives both as bulk data AND collections as collections. We have to be able to pull out the documents and reports – the traditional materials – and combine them with other material in the catalogue… So it is exciting to think about that, about the workflow… And about web archives working into the normal library work flows…

Q2) Pamela, you commented about permissions framework as possibly vital for IRB considerations for web research… Is that from conversations with your IRB or speculative.

A2) That came from Matt Webber’s comment yesterday on IRB becoming more concerned about web archive-based research. We have been looking for faster processes… But I am always very aware of the ethical concern… People do wonder about ethics and permissions when they see the archive… Interesting to see how we can navigate these challenges going forward…

Q3) Do you use LCSH and are there any issues?

A3) Yes, we do use LCSH for some items and the collections… Luckily someone from our metadata team worked with me. He used Dublin Core, with LCSH within that. He hasn’t indicated issues. Government documents in the US (and at state level) typically use LCSH so no, no issues that I’m aware of.