On this page:
- How to approach this module
- Main Goal/Objective
- Part 1: Cultivation of Your Web Archiving Program
- Part 2: Cultivation of the Community Webs Cohort
- Set your own pace
- Go as deep as you want to go!
- We’ve distinguished between required and supplementary readings. The required readings will be the most helpful context for working through the Learning and Doing portions of the module
This module is intended to help you consider how all aspects of your programmatic web archiving work can contribute to sustainability. The goal is a shift in perspective from “sustainability as the last consideration” and/or “sustainability as a question of dollars and cents” to seeing “sustainability as a way of thinking” that we apply towards planning and implementation of all our web archiving program activities.
You will learn:
- ...how all the modules thus far can be seen as different facets of sustainability for your web archiving program
- ...how to address specific questions about program sustainability in your iterative program design
- ...understand the connection between the sustainability of the Community Webs network and the sustainability of your individual web archiving program
- ...revisit and evaluate your previous collection-building work through the lens of sustainability
- ...develop sustainability strategies for each element of your web archiving program
- Katherine Skinner, et al. (2018). Community Cultivation: A Field Guide. Retrieved from https://educopia.org/cultivation/. The Field Guide provides a tool communities can use to assess their development status, identify targeted activities and tools to address their growth needs, and measure progress toward their maturation and sustainability goals. The Field Guide is based on Educopia’s Community Cultivation Framework which consists of four life cycle stages (Formation, Validation, Acceleration, and Transition) and five growth areas (Vision, Infrastructure, Governance, Finance & HR, and Engagement). The Field Guide also offers a snapshot of the tools, resources, and training modules Educopia has developed and regularly uses in its consulting and community-building work.
- Kristin R. Eschenfelder, Kalpana Shankar, Rachel Williams, Allison Lanham, Dorothea Salo, Mei Zhang (2016). “What are we talking about when we talk about sustainability of digital archives, repositories and libraries?” Proceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology. https://doi.org/10.1002/pra2.2016.14505301148. This research looks at discussions about sustainability in digital archives, repositories, and libraries between 2000-2015 by LIS authors, based on English language texts indexed in three major LIS databases. Findings include that “sustainability” as a concept is discussed at a lower level than anticipated, both in terms of how often it appears and at what depth. The authors look at nine manifestations of “sustainability,” including technology, management, relationships, revenues, assessment, disaster planning, and policy.
- Community Toolbox - Chapter 46: Planning for Sustainability
- The Sustainability Mindset
- The Sustainability Mindset: You Gotta Have It
- Lyrasis “It Takes a Village”: Open Source Software Models of Collaboration & Sustainability
- Search for Sustainability: Strategies from Eight Digitized Collections
- Launching a Web Archives Program at a Public University
- Sustainable Thinking: Ensuring Your Library’s Future in an Uncertain World
- Rinehart and Huot (2013), “Overwhelmed to action: digital preservation challenges at the under-resourced institution” OCLC Systems and Services, 30(1). http://bit.ly/2jdkd6C
Sustainability is not a consideration that exists separately from the other components/work of building your web archiving program. Rather, sustainability is a way of thinking about the planning and implementation of all aspects of your web archiving program. This module will revisit previous modules that you’ve completed and help you to think about your products and learning outcomes through the lens of sustainability.
We are going to begin by dispelling a few common sustainability myths - before we jump ahead into developing a shared understanding of sustainability as a way of thinking.
Common myths about sustainability:
- A sustainability mindset or way of thinking is “extra” or a “nice to have”
- BUST: Without a sustainability mindset, anything you build, especially in the digital arena, will be fragile, ephemeral, and at risk. Planning for and documenting roles, responsibilities, processes, and policies for managing what you build is an essential part of the building process.
- Sustainability is just about money
- Social: The way that people and groups relate to each other and the structures that support those ways of relating. This includes activities, workflows, job descriptions, and the level of trust among library staff and between the library and its community members.
- Economic: The material resources that are needed in order to support the activities of the library and the web archiving program. This includes salary lines, professional development support, physical space allocated for specific activities, investment in long-term digital storage as well as discovery tools for end users.
- Environmental: Increasingly, there are very real concerns about the ways that our reliance on digital technologies impacts the natural environment, not only in the broader world but within the field of cultural preservation. However, we might also think about the environment as the broader context in which our organizations are operating.
- BUST: Sustainability is often referred to as a three-legged stool comprising economic, social, and environmental legs. We might translate this a bit for our organizational and web archiving program context to be:
- Sustainability is an end in itself
- BUST: Sustainability is an action undertaken in order to achieve a goal or have an impact. Sustainability is not about making something persist forever; it is about responsible planning around how a resource (or project, program, or other entity) should be managed over time. To that end, every sustainability plan needs to include information not only about how to manage transitions and ensure persistence, but also about how and when the resource might be discontinued and sunset.
- Everyone understands what we mean when we talk about sustainability
- BUST: Sustainability is a very broad term, and its meaning depends heavily on the context in which it is used. For example, the term “sustainability” is often used to consider and plan for economic success is one common reference
- Eschenfelder, et all write: “Sustainability is a multi‐faceted concept. The complexity of the concept is indicative of its importance, but makes it more difficult to define it or develop methodologies to investigate it. Because of sustainability's multifaceted nature, when two people talk about it, they may be speaking about very different things.”
Let’s build our own shared understanding of what sustainability means:
- Eschenfelder, et all write “...the continued operation of a collection, service, or organization related to digital libraries, archives, and repositories over time and in relation to ongoing challenges”
- ITAV Guidebook: “ensuring that commitment and resources will be available at levels sufficient for the [program] to remain viable and effective as long as it is needed.”
- Sustainability is the active process of establishing your initiative - not merely continuing your program, but developing relationships, practices, and procedures that become a lasting part of the community.
- Sustainability means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs in terms of environmental, social, and economic resources.
Community Cultivation Framework
Let’s look at Educopia’s Community Cultivation Framework to elaborate further on our shared, multidimensional understanding of sustainability:
- The Community Cultivation Framework thinks about organizations, networks, and other groups in terms of lifecycle stages and growth areas.
- Lifecycle stages describe what we, at Educopia, have observed (over the last decade of working with collaborative groups of all shapes and sizes), as the key stages of maturity and transition that entire networks and even specific organizational programs experience over and over through the course of their existence. Lifecycle stages include:
- Formation: A program outlines explicit goals, desired outcomes, and initial resourcing - and is launched. The program begins developing services, tools, or resources needed to accomplish the program objectives.
- Validation: Program stakeholders (internal and external) validate the need/benefits of the program, broadening its visibility and possibly, its scope.
- Acceleration: A program scales its services, tools, and/or resources in order to grow, demonstrating its stability both internal to the library and externally to the broader community, partners, funders, and others. Programs in this stage sometimes grow fast; they can also fail fast and be forced to recalibrate.
- Transition: A program evaluates its users/constituents' changing needs and adapts/recalibrates accordingly. The evaluation centers on how things are changing within the organization (e.g., staff turnover, budget cutbacks, influx of new funding) as well as how the world around the library is changing (e.g., global/national crises, local changes to neighborhoods/demographic shifts within the community) in order to determine the best ways to remain vibrant and relevant. In the “Transition” stage, web archiving programs may
- merge (multiple branches pool resources to hire a web librarian/archivist or determine that a digital librarian/digital archivist role is needed and 50% of their job is web archiving), or
- be distributed (steps in the workflow are owned by different people), or
- the collecting focus could change, etc.
- Each of these five growth areas occurs in every lifecycle stage, albeit the activities undertaken in each stage look a little different. The Part I: Cultivation of Your Web Archiving Program will review the growth areas in greater detail. The list of growth areas includes:
- Finance & HR
At this point in the module, we are going to break the community cultivation discussion into two parts. Part I: Cultivation of Your Web Archiving Program is aimed at understanding how to apply the community cultivation framework to the sustainability of your web archiving program.
Part 2: Cultivation of the Community Webs Cohort is aimed at understanding how to apply the community cultivation framework to the sustainability of the Community Webs Network as a whole.
While the distinction between program and Network sustainability is useful for understanding how community cultivation activities are implemented differently in each context, it is important to note that the sustainability of individual programs and the broader network are very closely intertwined. We’ll discuss the relationship between individual programs and the broader network in greater detail in Part 2: Cultivation of the Community Webs Cohort.
Some of you are here because you have recently formed or are in the pre-formation stage of starting a web archiving program. When a program is in the process of Formation, it is concentrated on defining the scope of the program: determining the goals of the program, topical priorities, initial stakeholders/partners, and initial staff or volunteer activities and/or services.
In this Formation stage, the activities you undertake in each growth area might look something like this:
- Vision: documenting the goals of your web archiving program and ways of measuring progress towards those goals, understanding how the goals of the web archiving program align with organizational missions and goals, determining the vision for roll out of services
- Finances and HR: establishing the administrative costs (overhead) of the program, evaluating program staffing and/or training needs, and creating a financial plan to support the program
- Governance: determine how decisions will be made regarding the growth and scope of the web archiving program; determine who will oversee the program and ensure that program goals are met and that there is accountability to stakeholder groups
- Engagement: identify key stakeholders within the organization and broader community, understand the motivations and potential use cases for stakeholder groups, determine initial outreach plan to introduce web archives to stakeholders and engage them in determining collecting priorities
- Infrastructure: document an initial web archiving workflow for your organization that clearly describes which members of the staff and other stakeholders will be involved at key points in the workflow
The reality is that most programs, organizations, and other collaborative initiatives are usually straddling different lifecycle stages. Adapted from p.11 of the Community Cultivation Field Guide:
A [program] may experience more than one lifecycle stage simultaneously for different key growth areas. For example, if a [program] is in the "Formation" lifecycle stage in its “Finances and HR” growth area, it will focus on establishing its operating costs, evaluating its staffing needs... At that same moment, it may be in the "Validation" lifecycle stage for its "Vision" growth area, externally articulating and testing the veracity of [program] goals and services.
Some of your libraries may have very advanced community outreach programs and you can work with your community liaisons, outreach librarians, and/or volunteers to incorporate web archives into broader discussions of collecting and representation. In other words, you most likely do not need to start from scratch when it comes to partnering with organizations and groups to document the varied experiences of your community via the Internet. Similarly, your web archiving program may be housed under a “digital initiatives” or “media” department or another clear entity, and this may help to make clear who will ultimately be responsible for the tracking of progress towards program goals.
Questions to ask as you embark on your program:
- (Vision) What is the nature of our web archiving program? How does this program complement our existing collections and documentation initiatives? How will this program serve our community? What are the goals of the web archiving program? How will we know we’ve accomplished those goals?
- (Engagement) What is our plan for engaging internal and external stakeholders in understanding, participating in, and reusing web archives?
- (Finance & HR) How is our web archiving program staffed? Who will track and oversee the implementation and assessment of the program? Is our budget sufficient to cover expected costs of running the program both now and in the future?
- (Infrastructure) How do we do web archiving? What are the steps involved, who is involved during each step?
- (Governance) Which stakeholder groups is this program accountable to, and how are those different stakeholders involved in decisions pertaining to scope and activities of the program?
We ask that you revisit your work from each of the preceding modules and complete the following:
- (Vision) Module 1. Collection Building
- Ask 3-4 colleagues that work on other programs in your library to review your Web Archiving Collection Development Plan and reflect on how the Web Archiving program could contribute to or complement the goals of their programs.
- Reflect on ways that this complementarity of Web Archiving goals to other program goals in your library might contribute to program sustainability.
- (Vision) Module 3. Reviewing & Quality Assurance
- Determine how you might communicate the significance of your host and seed reports to the person(s) responsible for evaluating the program’s success and advocating for its continued support.
- Brainstorm 3-5 ways that host and seed reports can help you to refine and recalibrate the overall vision and goals of the web archiving program.
- In what ways do qualitative and quantitative measures of success contribute to program sustainability?
- (Infrastructure, Finance & HR) Modules 2, 3, 4. Selection, Scoping, and Crawling; Reviewing & Quality Assurance; Access & Description
- For each of the three major workflow stages described in Modules 2, 3, and 4:
- Determine which staff members might be in a position, based on their current roles and areas of expertise, to contribute to each phase.
- Determine what training or additional documentation might be required to involve additional staff in discrete workflow steps.
- Reflect on ways that distributing key tasks in the web archiving program may contribute to program sustainability.
- (Engagement) Module 5. Reuse of Web Archives
- Reflect on the library user groups that are active in your library. (Do you have a large number of genealogists that use library space and services? Do you have a large number of young adult patrons?) What are the different ways that the pandemic has impacted the use of the library by these specific user groups?
- How can web archives help to address some of the needs and interests of these user groups - e.g., in a way that acknowledges the constraints and possibilities introduced by the pandemic?
- In what ways does aligning existing user needs to web archiving engagement strategies contribute to program sustainability?
Based on your community cultivation activities above, what are three specific actions or strategies that you want to focus on over the next year in order to support the sustainability of your web archiving program?
As mentioned in the overview, the sustainability of individual programs and the broader network are very closely intertwined. Both academic research and the lived experiences of practitioners in our field support the case for forming robust communities of practice around professional challenges shared by multiple institutions in the same sector -- challenges that are often too large and complex in scale for any single organization to address on their own. Multiple initiatives have shown the benefits of group-based applied learning when developing skills in digital stewardship. For example, the Digital POWRR project noted that “forming a community of support is key to meeting the challenges of [digital preservation]... seeking collaborations helps to overcome these challenges, particularly if the collaborations are regional or multi-institutional (Rhinehart, 2013, See supplementary resources).” Educopia’s Affiliated Communities program is also rooted in this understanding, and is designed to support libraries’ (and other cultural heritage organizations) shared commitment to provide equitable access to trustworthy information at low cost.
The Community Webs Network is a collaborative community made of public libraries that stretch across the United States and Canada. Archiving primary sources from the web is an increasingly important activity of cultural stewards, and the Community Webs cohort is redefining the role of public libraries in preserving the lives and activities of their communities. All participating libraries can amplify the impact of their individual web archiving programs by pooling lessons learned, policies, workflows, and other resources.
For the sustainability of the cohort/network as a whole, each community cultivation growth area needs to focus on a similar but distinct set of activities:
- Vision: documenting the shared purpose of all cohort participants, understanding how the goals of the Community Webs program aligns with organizational missions and goals of cohort member organizations and the Internet Archive; setting initial goals and assessment measures for the cohort as a whole
- Finances and HR: determining the staffing needed to support the ongoing development of the cohort and its member organizations, determine initial pricing and business model for Community Webs services beyond the grant-funded period
- Governance: determine how decisions will be made regarding the growth and scope of the Community Webs program; determine the role that cohort members and other stakeholders will play in shaping the strategic directions of the program
- Engagement: foster relationships between cohort members; determine regular meeting and event schedules; create a community code of conduct
- Infrastructure: document cohort processes - ways of generating knowledge together, engagement formats, and processes for addressing cohort needs and ideas; create a cohort directory with contact information, roles, specializations/interests, and locations of all cohort members to share; streamline new cohort member onboarding process; evaluate platforms and tools
Respond to this brief questionnaire. The questions are listed below for your review prior to submitting your responses. All responses will be used to inform the cultivation of the Community Webs Network and sustainability of the Community Webs program.
- What aspects of web archiving and the Community Webs program specifically are most important to you?
- What is the relationship of web archiving to other work that you are responsible for within the library? Where and how does web archiving or community digital history show up in your daily practice at the library?
- What are your personal stakes in the success of the Community Webs program? What do you gain if the Community Webs program grows? What do you lose if it does not advance after its grant-funded period?
- What are your organization’s stakes in the success of the Community Webs program? What does your organization have to gain if the Community Webs program keeps growing? What does it have to lose if the Community Webs program does not advance past the grant-funded period?
- What will enable your organization to dedicate time, energy, and other resources to supporting this work past the grant-funded period?
- What do you see as the most exciting possibilities for a national cohort of public libraries collectively and individually engaged in web archiving?