Everyday Digital Archives Q&A: Sheila McAlister

The SGA Outreach Managers are excited to bring you the inaugural Q&A blog post for our Everyday Digital Archives campaign. Our first post features the reflections and thoughts of Sheila McAlister, Director of the Digital Library of Georgia.

What digital archives-related resources do you read–blogs, social media, articles, journals, listservs, etc.?
I subscribe to the Digital Preservation listserv (DIGITAL-PRESERVATION@JISCMAIL.AC.UK), ALA’s digipres, and SAA’s preservation listserv. I follow what’s happening with SAA, NDIIPP, the DLF, and the NDSA and read D-Lib. Chris Prom also has a really useful blog, Practical E-Records. It’s always good to keep an eye on what’s going on in New Zealand and Australia; their national archives have made really important progress with digital preservation. For those interested in personal archiving, I strongly recommend LC’s page on Personal Digital Archiving, http://digitalpreservation.gov/personalarchiving/

What advice would you give to an archivist who is nervous to start tackling digital archives? 
Dive in! I find that my network of colleagues is incredibly helpful. Don’t be afraid to ask how and what others are doing. No one person can be an expert in everything; what you need to know is who to ask and where to look for guidance.

Do you actively curate or archive your own personal digital materials? If so, how?
Somewhat—surprisingly, I’m a bit of a Luddite; most of what I value personally isn’t in digital form.Of course, professionally it’s a different matter. I am a “digital pack rat,” but do a minimum of appraisal, use meaningful filenames, back up, and use series of meaningful directories.

Do your personal digital archives exist outside of the virtual/online environment? In what form?
Yes, really important documents, I will print out and file. We also back up to hard drives.

“Won’t personal digital archiving solve itself as the digital generation comes of age?” Your thoughts?
[To give credit where credit is due, this question is taken from Catherine Marshall’s “Rethinking Personal Digital Archiving, Part 1”: http://www.dlib.org/dlib/march08/marshall/03marshall-pt1.html]
Digital files can’t really support “benign neglect.” We really should be thinking about stewardship as we create digital files.

What can we do as archivists to change the culture of “benign neglect” that people so often have in regards to their personal digital records?
Education and outreach–working with faculty and students at our home institutions (for those who are in academia); public programming.

How do you see people accessing personal digital records/archives in the future? 10 years? 20 years?
I really don’t know. I expect that we’ll be seeing more cloud-based storage, but beyond that my crystal ball is pretty cloudy.

Thanks to Sheila for sharing her insights! Want to volunteer to be interviewed for our Q&A blog posts? Know a digital records steward we should interview? Let us know: outreach [at] soga [dot] org.

–Cathy Miller, SGA Assistant Outreach Manager