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Program Digital Collections Management Compendium

Managing External Media and Digital Content

This guidance identifies the Library's approach to managing digital collection content stored on or received on external media storage devices. The general guideline is to copy this content from external media and ensure that it is appropriately ingested into the Library's managed storage systems.

To address the risks associated with digital content stored on external media, the Library takes appropriate preservation actions to move such content into approved inventory systems and place content under inventory control. External media includes any physical carrier of digital content that is not networked or managed by the Library’s approved inventory systems. Examples include legacy media, such as hard drives, thumb drives, floppy disks, or other items received with donations, optical discs contained within books or software acquired by the library, or data stored on data tapes that are not part of the Library’s storage systems. This content is at risk if left on external media carriers, which are subject to physical damage, prevent active content integrity monitoring, and difficult if not impossible to serve to readers.

Therefore, custodial units within the Library take steps to copy digital content from external media to the Library’s managed digital storage. Units should work proactively to address any buildup of content on external media, whether through prioritization or re-appraisal, keeping in mind the value of the content, the risks of deterioration associated with the given media, and potential alternate sources of the content or overlap with other collections. Any new acquisitions on tangible media should be given consideration for the resources and effort necessary to transfer the content and place it under inventory control. When data exists on media that can be overwritten, the Library uses write-blockers or other practices to maintain the integrity of the original content. Following verification of an accurate copy process, and any additional processing or packaging required, content is managed by the Library’s approved inventory systems.

Although not the norm, in some cases digital storage media and legacy carriers may be deemed appropriate for long-term preservation as artifacts within the Library’s collections. For example, content received on custom USB drives, or content on unique items that form part of a larger design set, such as video game cartridges. As physical objects, these carriers may have interest or value as artifacts and as such may require preservation and conservation care, which can be negotiated with or provided by other units within the Library but are outside the scope of this guidance.

The Digital Reformatting Section within the Collections Digitization Division (CDD) provides various services within the Library that can aid the implementation of this guidance. Among these services are the maintenance of hardware and software to extract and copy content from external media formats. The Digital Content Management section can assist divisions in managing external media or initiating new reformatting projects, with CDD consultation.