The National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program is a national strategic program being led by the Library of Congress to preserve digital content. The program was mandated in 2000 by the U.S. Congress, and the Library is forming a national network of committed partners with defined roles and responsibilities that are dedicated to preserving specific types of digital content that is at risk of loss if it is not now preserved.
The preservation of digital content has become a major challenge for society, especially for libraries and archives whose mission is to preserve the intellectual and cultural heritage of the nation. Thus, in 1998 the Library of Congress began to develop a digital strategy with a group of senior managers who were charged with assessing the roles and responsibilities of the Library in the digital age. This oversight group was headed by the Associate Librarian for Strategic Initiatives, the Associate Librarian for Library Services, and the Register of Copyrights. This group held several planning meetings to assess the current state of digital archiving and preservation.
Develop a national strategy to collect, archive and preserve the burgeoning amounts of digital content, especially materials that are created only in digital formats, for current and future generations.
At the same time, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington commissioned the National Research Council Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to evaluate the Library's readiness to meet the challenges of the rapidly evolving digital world. The NAS report, LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress, recommended that the Library, working with other federal and non-federal institutions, take the lead in a national, cooperative effort to archive and preserve digital information.
In December 2000, Congress appropriated $100 million (rescinded to $99.8 million) for a national digital-strategy effort, to be led by the Library of Congress. The Library was chosen not only because of its mission to "sustain and preserve a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future generations," but also because of its role as one of the leading providers of high-quality content on the Internet.
The Library of Congress has been a pioneer in the field of digital information. Even before there was a World Wide Web, the Library was digitizing and making selected items from its collections available in electronic form. The program was called American Memory, and it began as a pilot in 1990. American Memory was originally a CD-ROM project, in which discs were distributed to 44 schools and libraries across the country to determine whether there was any interest in being able to access important materials relating to American history from the Library's collections. By the time the pilot concluded in 1994, there was ample evidence that many people wanted these materials and they wanted more of them.
When the public Web became widely available in 1994, the materials that were distributed on CD-ROM could now be accessed much more widely with this emerging distribution tool. American Memory debuted on the Web on Oct. 13, 1994.
American Memory helped fulfill the goal of Dr. Billington, who came to the Library in 1987 with the objective of making the riches of the Library accessible to all Americans, not just those who could come to Washington. As of 2007, more than 11 million items from the collections of the Library and other repositories are available from American Memory, and the Library's Web site is one of the most popular in the federal government.
The Library continues to digitize its collections for distribution on the Web and it has since developed several other Web sites, including Thomas, a congressional database; America's Library, a site for kids and families; the Wise Guide, a monthly magazine; Exhibitions, which offers online versions of major Library exhibitions; and Global Gateway, which features the international collections of the Library and its partners. The sites are all accessible at www.loc.gov.
The U.S. Congress has asked the Library of Congress to lead a collaborative project, called the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program. In December 2000, Congress passed special legislation (Public Law 106-554) in recognition of the importance of preserving digital content for future generations, appropriating $100 million to the Library of Congress to lead this effort. (A government-wide rescission of .22 percent in late December 2000 reduced this special appropriation to $99.8 million.)
This effort falls within the Library's mission, which is "to make its resources available and useful to Congress and the American people and to sustain and preserve a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future generations." This mission extends to materials in electronic formats as well. In addition, the Library is the home of the U.S. Copyright Office and is thus already engaged in issues relating to copyright in a digital environment.
The National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program is a cooperative effort. The Library is working closely with partners to assess considerations for shared responsibilities. Federal legislation calls for the Library to work jointly with the Secretary of Commerce, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the National Archives and Records Administration. The legislation also directs the Library to seek the participation of "other federal, research and private libraries and institutions with expertise in the collection and maintenance of archives of digital materials," including the National Library of Medicine, the National Agricultural Library, the Research Libraries Group, the Online Computer Library Center and the Council on Library and Information Resources.
The Library is also working with the non-federal sector. The overall strategy is being executed in cooperation with the library, creative, publishing, technology and copyright communities. In early 2001 the Library established a National Digital Strategy Advisory Board to help guide it through the planning process. This board is made up of experts from the technology, publishing, Internet, library and intellectual-property communities as well as government.
The Library has also established a working group to look at ways that current copyright law can address how libraries and archives handle digital materials when preserving them and making them available to users.
The availability of electronic information is today taken for granted. With the rapid growth of the Internet and the World Wide Web, millions of people have grown accustomed to using these tools as resources to acquire information — from a Ph.D. candidate conducting research for a dissertation to a teacher who might not be able to take a class on a field trip to see historical artifacts to a lifelong learner.
Digital has become the principal medium to create, distribute and store content, from text to motion pictures to recorded sound. Digital content now embodies much of the nation's intellectual, social and cultural history. Because digital materials can be so easily altered, corrupted or even lost, these materials must be saved now if they are to remain available to today's and tomorrow's generations.
The Digital Preservation Program is providing a national focus on important policy, standards and technical components necessary to preserve digital content. Investments in modeling and testing various options and technical solutions will take place over several years, resulting in recommendations to the U.S. Congress about the most viable and sustainable options for long-term preservation.
Included in the 67 partners (as of March 2007) are eight
consortial partnerships comprising 33 institutions that are
selecting, collecting and preserving specific types of digital
Dot Com Archive
International Internet Preservation Consortium
National Geospatial Digital Archive
North Carolina Geospatial Data Archiving Project
Preserving Digital Public Television
Web at Risk