Digital Archive Directions (DADs) Workshop

(A part of the ISO Archiving Workshop Series)


Position Paper

Digital Archive Directions (DADs) Workshop

DATE: June 22-26, 1998

HOST: The National Archives and Records Administration
Archives II
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001



1. Identification of Proposed Topic [Required]

1.1 Title

Developing a Preservation Plan for USDA Digital Publications

1.2 Contributor(s)

National Agricultural Library (NAL), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Prime Point of Contact:
Evelyn Frangakis
Preservation Officer
National Agricultural Library
10301 Baltimore Ave.
Beltsville, MD 20705-2351
voice: (301) 504-6503
fax: (301) 504-7593

1.3 Description of Proposed Project

In March 1997 NAL, with the Economic Research Service of the USDA, the Government Printing Office, Cornell University, and the Farm Foundation took the first step in a cooperative venture by convening a 2-day national meeting to begin to identify the major elements and requirements of such a plan. As a result of this meeting, an initial preservation plan, Framework for the Preservation of and Permanent Public Access to USDA Digital Publications, was developed for discussion within the Department of Agriculture. It identifies the principal USDA agencies involved, resources required, and steps to be taken in the near term as well as over an extended period of time. The Framework calls for the organization of a steering committee to oversee implementation of the preservation plan. The steering committee will have three task groups under it, the: Task Group on Inventory and Life-Cycle Management, Task Group on Technical Requirements and Task Group on User Access and Retrieval. The Framework addresses: the management framework and related institutional roles and responsibilities, both inside the Department and externally, in the long-term preservation of digital USDA publications; the underlying technological infrastructure and technical document management requirements; the development of long-term retention criteria and processes for digital USDA publications; and the main issues in long-term user access to and retrieval of those digital publications. The Framework for the Preservation of and Permanent Public Access to USDA Digital Publications has been endorsed by the Department of Agriculture. It is being distributed to participants of the National Conference on Creating an Action Plan for Preserving USDA Digital Publications. A steering committee, chaired by the NAL Director and including representatives throughout the USDA as well as external stakeholders will be established to oversee implementation of the Framework. The Framework will be made widely available to external stakeholders for endorsement. A budget request to USDA will be developed to initiate key aspects of the plan. Funding will be requested for a pilot project to apply the Framework to a microcosm of USDA digital publications. Discussions will continue with key stakeholders such as GPO, NARA, and NSF to gather information on proceeding with a digital publications preservation pilot. As a result of initial discussions with these groups, several USDA agencies have already emerged as possible sites for implementation of the digital publications preservation pilot project.

1.4 Justification

Today the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is increasingly, and in some instances exclusively, publishing information in electronic form. USDA digital publications produced need to be systematically identified, prioritized, preserved, and archived. While important, sometimes these electronic publications are extremely transitory. For example, NAL's attempts to locate, catalog and provide access to the annual issues of USDA's Agriculture Fact Book in electronic form illustrate why it is important to develop a plan to ensure continued access to data representing earlier editions. When the 1995 edition of the Agriculture Fact Book was made available electronically, its preceding electronic edition was removed from its location on a remote computer to make space for the new edition. NAL had entered a record for the electronic editions but had no means to ensure continued access to the complete set of electronic versions. Solutions to the problems of maintaining the entire body of electronic publications and making them available for as long as needed call for cooperative efforts. NAL is partnering with USDA agencies, related federal agencies and other stakeholders to capture and preserve these important electronic agricultural resources.

Given that a number of USDA agencies have begun publishing exclusively in electronic form, the NAL and other key stakeholders and responsible parties are working to develop a preservation plan for digital USDA publications. This plan is being developed together with the Department's Chief Information Officer and key representatives of all USDA agencies, other responsible Federal government entities, and other non-governmental institutions and groups in the agricultural community.

1.5 Definitions of Concepts and Special Terms

The procedure of identifying and selecting a data or information product for retention or deselection. The appraisal procedure applies a set of content and technical criteria for determining the current and long-term value of the data or information product.
Measurements, observations, or facts that can be represented by numbers, symbols, tables, graphs, models, or text, and that can be used for further reasoning.
A decision to remove a data or information product from a collection of publications, based on a formal appraisal process.
Electronic, computer-readable data or information, usually presented in a binary form.
Data that have become meaningful as a result of processing and interpretation, in light of some hypothesis.
The act of permanently maintaining and making available data or information, with all original content intact.
Data or information restricted in dissemination or use because of national security, individual privacy, intellectual property (i.e., patent, trademark, copyright, or other intellectual property right), or other statutory or judicial requirement.
A data or information product that is intended to be disseminated and that may be made available to the public.
"[Federal] records includes all books, papers, maps, photographs, machine readable materials, or other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by an agency of the United States Government under Federal law or in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved or appropriate for preservation by that agency or its legitimate successor as evidence of the organization, function, policies, decisions, procedures, operations, or other activities of the Government or because of the informational value of the data in them" (44 U.S.C. 3301).
A decision to keep a data or information product in a collection of publications, either for a specified period of time or permanently, based on a formal appraisal process.

1.6 Expected Relationship with OAIS Reference Model

Expected relationships with the OAIS reference model are: 1) administration, 2) access and dissemination, 3) ingest, and 4) data management.



2. Scope of Proposed Standard [Desired]

This plan, developed by the National Agricultural Library in conjunction with the USDA Office of the Chief Information Officer, all other Departmental agencies, and representatives of key stakeholder and customer groups, addresses the preservation of all publications in digital form that are not restricted in their public distribution, that are created by or under the auspices of the Department of Agriculture, and that meet the retention criteria established under this plan. The plan also provides guidelines and procedures for addressing the technical requirements and user access and retrieval needs for the Department's digital publications that are made available through the NAL.

2.1 Recommended Scope of Standard

The recommended scope is presently under consideration.

2.2 Existing Practice in Area of Proposed Standard

NAL will have primary responsibility for implementing and coordinating the key provisions of this plan. The plan's implementation will be based on a management model with the following attributes:

  • a customer orientation;
  • distributed responsibilities with minimized levels of bureaucracy and improved leveraging of resources;
  • procedural and technical standardization; and
  • cost minimization.

Specific Organizational Actions

Several organizational actions are being taken by the NAL in consultation with the other stakeholders and customers identified in the plan:

a) Complete the formal review and adoption of the plan by all stakeholders within the Department and obtain the endorsement by representatives of key external constituent groups;

b) Create a Steering Committee for the implementation of the plan, chaired by the NAL Director, and including representatives from the USDA Office of the Chief Information Officer, other Departmental Agencies, and key external stakeholders. The purpose of the Steering Committee will be to:

(i) Fully define the management structure and organizational relationships and responsibilities, both within the Department and externally; (ii) Recommend to the Secretary how the preservation and public distribution of all USDA digital publications should be funded on a permanent basis, taking into account the need to minimize the costs of access and retrieval to the users of that information; (iii) Identify any legislative or administrative actions or policies required to implement the provisions of this plan; (iv) Establish any task groups, pilot projects, and programs that may be required; and (v) Conduct periodic assessments of the status of the implementation of this plan, and of the plan itself.

As soon as possible following the formal approval of this plan, the Steering Committee will establish three task groups: Task Group on Inventory and Life-Cycle Management, Task Group on Technical Requirements and the Task Group on User Access and Retrieval, all chaired by the NAL. Within a specified period established by the Steering Committee, each task group will develop a comprehensive plan for addressing the stated requirements, together with an estimate of resources necessary to fully implement those functions, and present it to the Steering Committee for approval. The activities of all task groups should be coordinated with the activities under the Information Systems Technology Architecture (ISTA) process currently under development by the Office of the Chief Information Officer, as well as with each other.

Inventory and Life-Cycle Management

This task group, to be created by the Steering Committee, will conduct a comprehensive inventory of all Departmental digital information products and how they are being managed. This task group, chaired by the National Agricultural Library and including representatives of the USDA Office of the Chief Information Officer and all USDA Agencies, also will recommend a system for tracking the creation of each new USDA digital information product that is intended for public distribution.

Following the completion of the Department-wide inventory of digital publications, the task group should develop a comprehensive set of selection and retention criteria for all categories of publications to be covered under this plan. These criteria and the process for applying them should be established in consultation with representatives from the principal creators and users of these publications, including depositories.

Technical Requirements

This plan is consistent with the Information Systems Technology Architecture (ISTA) currently under development by the USDA Office of the Chief Information Officer. However, there are several technical functions specific to the preservation and distribution of digital publications that need to be explicitly addressed, consistent with the ISTA process currently underway:

(a) Identification of acceptable document formats and media, and related standards, for long-term retention; (b) Development of processes for transferring all digital publications from old storage media to new media; (c) Establishment of one or more separate back-up facilities for all digital publications; (d) Review and establishment of system security protocols; (e) Review and establishment of system interoperability requirements; and (f) Identification and review of other permanent digital preservation and access initiatives.

User Access and Retrieval

The following requirements for user access and retrieval of USDA digital publications should be followed consistent with the need to maintain a customer orientation:

(a) Provide equitable access and retrieval services to all potential users; (b) Minimize technical, regulatory, and cost barriers to access and retrieval; (c) Assure the integrity of the information that is made publicly available; (d) Make the information as easy to find and use as possible, with directories and documentation (metadata), consistent with the Government Information Locator System, while protecting confidential or proprietary information; and (e) Establish a means for users to provide feedback and a mechanism for responding to user feedback.

2.3 Expected Stability of Proposed Standard with Respect to Current and Potential Technological Advances

Not known at this time.

Wider Views

Overview of the DADs Workshop
Overview of US Effort
Overview of International Effort


A service of NOST at NSSDC. Access statistics for this web are available. Comments and suggestion are always welcome.

Author: Evelyn Frangakis ( +1.301.504.6503
Curator: John Garrett ( +1.301.286.3575
Responsible Official: Code 633.2 / Don Sawyer ( +1.301.286.2748
Last Revised: (June 12, 1998, John Garrett)