Law Reviews Born Digital Pt. 2: Archiving Considerations

Most of us are in agreement that it's time for law reviews to go online. As a librarian, my biggest concern is archiving. I want to make sure that we do not lose the valuable information that legal scholars create.

From the Durham Statement: "[W]e believe that, if law schools are willing to commit to stable and open digital storage for the journals they publish, there are no longer good reasons for individual libraries to rely on paper copies as the archival format. Agree-upon stable, open, digital formats will ensure that legal scholarship will be preserved long-term."

I've been trying to find best practices for archiving, and I haven't come up with much. What we consider "stable, open, and digital" is constantly changing, and there are no set standards.

From the FAQ's on the Durham Statement's website:

Are there "stable, open, and digital" formats available now for preserving law journals?
We recognize that there is work to be done to determine what counts as agreed-upon "stable, open, and digital" formats before we all rush to implement it. The Statement is aspirational, in the sense that we hope it will spur research, discussion, and eventual agreement on standards for "stable, open, and digital" formats.

In the short history of computing, there has been no truly stable digital format for legal scholarship or anything else. For a permanent record, there still is no competitor to paper. 
It will be sensible for all journals (or the libraries at their schools) to print them out as back-up, archival copies, to be kept in multiple locations in case of a terrible failure in the digital archiving systems, even if a journal moves away from "print runs" in the way we now know them.

Should the law school web page be archiving material?
The web site is probably not the best place to archive the scholarship produced at a law school. An important part of the Statement is its raising the issue of what responsibility law schools have to ensure the preservation of the scholarship they produce.

What we know: 1) there is currently no agreement on what constitutes "stable, open, and digital," and it's been said that it will never exist; 2) we should keep a paper copy in case all digital files break down; and 3) the school's web site should not be used for archiving.

From The Durham Statement Two Years Later: Open Access in the Law School Journal Environment:

The 2005 Legal Information Preservation Alliance report Preserving Legal Materials in Digital Formats  includes a discussion of the risk factors for digital materials. In summary, the factors are:

Storage Media Obsolescence: Because storage media (hardware) for digital materials change quickly, storing digital materials requires an ongoing commitment to moving the data from one storage medium to another. This is known as “refreshing the data.” It can be costly and time consuming, especially for large quantities of data.

Software Obsolescence: Like storage media, the software needed to access stored data also changes. File formats change, and software programs may not be compatible with older files. Proprietary formats may not always have full documentation; licensing agreements are subject to change; restrictions for use and modification may apply. Open formats and systems may be preferable for preservation purposes.

Organizational and Cultural Challenges: Digital preservation is not solely a technical problem. Concerns over the quality of management of digital materials by creators and other caretakers of digital collections highlight other risks posed by high rates of technological change. Materials may be published on the web, then removed and deleted. Publishers cannot assure that their materials will be available in the long term.

Access: The emphasis on digitizing materials to improve electronic access to information may lead librarians and others to focus on access, without addressing issues of preservation. Over time, there will be no access without a focus on preservation

So what can libraries do?

It is time for law librarians to explore alternatives for preserving legal scholarship by working in concert with the other stakeholders, including:

•       Existing efforts to preserve legal information, such as the Legal Information Preservation Alliance (LIPA), which in 2010 established the Legal Information Archive as “a collaborative digital archive . . . to preserve and ensure permanent access to vital legal information currently published in digital formats.”

Legal publishers holding extensive libraries of law journal content in electronic format—LexisNexis and Westlaw, and perhaps primarily HeinOnline, with its extensive retrospective collections. Will their interests in preserving access to law journals for their commercial value mean they will now preserve digital content as libraries have traditionally preserved print content?

Established preservation and electronic archiving programs such as Portico and LOCKSS, which have worked mostly with libraries and publishers outside of law.

The Library of Congress, which already receives copies of all law journals whether published in print or electronic format under the mandatory deposit requirements of the Copyright Act, and works to establish best practices for digital preservation through the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation
Program (NDIIPP).

Institutional repositories,such as Harvard University’s local Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard (DASH), or services such as the bepress Digital Commons, which hosts repositories for a number of law schools and supports law review publication.

Printers of law journals, in order to forge the future role of print for preservation or print-on-demand services for legal scholarship.

2. It is also necessary to promote the use of common standards for formatting the files of the documents. Joe Hodnicki has noted ALA’s and ACRL’s calls for across-the-board format standardization, and the use
of a standard mark-up language (e.g., XML) instead of PDF. Wayne Miller has proposed developing mutually agreed-upon law journal formats for archiving, preservation, and other uses.

3. It is time as well to take the initiative to create opportunities for dialogue with law school deans, law review editors, interested faculty, and legal information vendors on the need for concerted action regarding
access to and preservation of electronically published law journals.


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