April 19, 2006 Library Holds Strategy Session on "Preserving Creative America"

Workshop Focused on Working with Commercial Sector to Preserve Digital Content

Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217

A recent Library of Congress strategy meeting with leading producers of commercial content in digital formats has revealed that creators of television, radio, music, film, photography, pictorial art and video games are keenly interested in the preservation of their digital materials for archival and other purposes.

“We are faced with the potential disappearance of our cultural heritage if we don’t act soon and act together to preserve digital materials,” said Laura E. Campbell, associate librarian for Strategic Initiatives. “We have learned from our experience that long-term preservation of digital content is dependent on influencing decisions of content providers from the moment of creation.”

According to Campbell, who is also the Library’s chief information officer, it is important to determine simultaneously with creation how a digital item will be preserved, because digital materials are inherently “fragile,” due to their ease of alteration or susceptibility to loss once they are produced. Campbell is leading a national digital preservation program for the Library of Congress, formally called the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) (www.digitalpreservation.gov).

This program is a collaborative effort that seeks to work with other organizations, institutions, libraries and archives – from both the public and private sectors – to collect and preserve the historic and cultural heritage of America, much of which is now being created only in digital form with no analog (physical) equivalent. Through its efforts, NDIIPP is forming a nationwide “digital preservation network” of partners dedicated to preserving digital content and sharing their expertise with other electronic content providers and archives.

The April 7 session, which drew more than 50 attendees from the private sector, focused on potential partnership projects between NDIIPP and the content producers. The Library plans to issue in 2006 a request for expressions of interest from private industry for cooperative projects as a way to catalyze preservation work in the private sector. The Library will provide support for the establishment of preservation activities that span content owners and distributors, as well as technology companies. These projects are intended to benefit the broader community by serving as demonstration models for preservation.

This “Preserving Creative America” initiative will allow the Library to describe for Congress (which periodically receives reports on NDIIPP’s progress), as well as the information community, which types of commercial digital content are most at risk of loss or degradation if they are not now preserved. The initiative will also provide insights into potential business models for preservation. The ultimate goal is that the cooperative projects the Library pursues with private industry will inform the greater population of commercial content owners and cultural heritage institutions in the establishment of such parameters as content formats, metadata standards, system architecture and other technical elements. The projects are also intended to serve as models for collaborative preservation among institutions.


In December 2000 Congress authorized the Library of Congress to develop and execute a congressionally approved plan for a National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program. A $99.8 million congressional appropriation was made to establish the program. According to Conference Report (H. Rept. 106-1033), “The overall plan should set forth a strategy for the Library of Congress, in collaboration with other federal and nonfederal entities, to identify a national network of libraries and other organizations with responsibilities for collecting digital materials that will provide access to and maintain those materials. … In addition to developing this strategy, the plan shall set forth, in concert with the Copyright Office, the policies, protocols and strategies for the long-term preservation of such materials, including the technological infrastructure required at the Library of Congress.”

The legislation mandates that the Library work with federal entities such as the Secretary of Commerce, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Archives and Records Administration, the National Library of Medicine, the National Agricultural Library, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and “other federal, research and private libraries and institutions with expertise in telecommunications technology and electronic commerce policy.” The goal is to build a network of committed partners working through a preservation architecture with defined roles and responsibilities.

The Library of Congress digital strategy is formulated in concert with a study, commissioned by the Librarian of Congress and undertaken by the National Research Council Computer Science and Telecommunications Board. “LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress” was issued July 26, 2000, and made several recommendations, including that the Library, working with other institutions, take the lead in the preservation and archiving of digital materials.

The complete text of “Preserving Our Digital Heritage: Plan for the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program” is available at www.digitalpreservation.gov. This report includes an explanation of how the plan was developed, whom the Library worked with to develop the plan and the key components of the digital preservation infrastructure. Congress approved the plan in January 2003.

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world. Through its National Digital Library (NDL) Program, it is also one of the leading providers of noncommercial intellectual content on the Internet (www.loc.gov). The NDL Program’s flagship American Memory project, in collaboration with other institutions nationwide, makes freely available more than 10 million American historical items.


PR 06-096
ISSN 0731-3527