|Cornell University Library has announced that it will explore the idea
of creating permanent digital archives for scholarly journals, with the
goal of setting up a pilot archive of agricultural journals. The effortócalled
"Project Harvest"óis funded with a $150,000, 1-year planning grant from
the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and follows in the footsteps of Project
a Mellon-funded venture by Cornell and Duke University in the online publication
of math journals.
"One of the things that libraries do is make sure that the literature
of the present is available for the future," said Peter Hirtle, co-director
of the Cornell Institute for Digital Collections. "We want to investigate
how to preserve literature that is now being distributed in electronic
form." Hirtle will serve as the project coordinator. Sarah Thomas, the
Carl A. Kroch University Librarian, will be principal investigator. A full-time
employee will be hired by the project to negotiate agreements with journal
publishers for the inclusion of their journals in the archive. "We hope
that the negotiations will lead to the development of a model agreement
that other publishers could readily accept," said Thomas.
The planning will consist mostly of answering a long list of questions,
including the following:
Cornell will draw on its already extensive experience in creating and preserving
digital documents. The library has digitized and made available to scholars
a wide variety of historical documents and is engaged in research on preserving
digital information. It also has completed several projects involving negotiations
with scholarly publishers, including TEEAL (The Essential Electronic Agricultural
Library), which makes agricultural journals available to Third World scholars
on CD-ROM. Project Harvest will create a development team with representatives
from a small pilot group of interested publishers. Later, other publishers
will be invited to participate.
Will the collection be a "living archive" that scholars can access or a
"dark archive" that simply preserves journals against the possibility that
they are needed in the future?
Will the scholarly community feel sure the archive will be available in
the future? Should there be a procedure for "certification" of an archive
to assure users itís reliable?
Should everything be converted to one standard format, or should the formats
used by individual publishers be retained? Tentatively, the project plans
call for one copy in each journalís usual format, plus another copy in
a commonly supported format.
How do librarians ensure that stored material will be readable as technology
evolves? Itís now a given that some sort of "migration" procedure must
be built in so that documents are copied from old formats to new ones when
the old formats start to become obsolete.
What assurances are there that digital texts will not be altered? Publishers
of electronic material have the right to change what they have online,
but librarians want to preserve the original content, just as they do with
Should there be multiple copies in different locations? Cornell is a partner
with Stanford University and HighWire Press in a program called LOCKSS
(Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe) that other land-grant universities might
use to mirror a Cornell archive. Another alternative is for various universities
to maintain different parts of an archive, spreading the workload.
Who will pay for long-term maintenance of the archive? Do publishers pay
to be included? Do users pay for access?
Next year, Cornell hopes to secure further funding to purchase hardware
and create the actual archive. By that time, said Thomas, "We will have
modeled the architecture for a long-term repository based on the best thinking
in the digital preservation community, tempered by the realities of what
our publisher/partners are willing to accept."
Source: Cornell University Library, Ithaca, NY, 607/255-7164; http://library.cornell.edu.