Summary Report of the Needs Assessment Page: 1
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Summary Report of the Needs Assessment
The Web-at-Risk project is a three-year collaborative effort of the California Digital Library,
the University of North Texas, and New York University funded in 2004 by the Library of
Congress under the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program.
The project is developing a Web Archiving Service (WAS) to enable curators to build, store,
and manage collections of web-published materials in web archives. The content of the
collections will be captured largely from US federal and state government agency web sites,
but will also include web-published political policy documents, campaign literature, and
information related to political movements and labor unions.
In 2005 the project's 22 curators who will build collections of web-published materials using
the WAS, as well as 43 librarians and archivists who primarily work in academic libraries,
seven university researchers, and seven content providers participated in needs assessment
activities that included an online survey, focus groups, and interviews. The purpose of these
activities was to elicit the needs and issues librarians, curators, end users, and content
providers have in relation to web archives. The key findings of these assessment activities
are briefly described in this summary.
The Current Climate
Librarians are facing many challenges as they continue to work in the familiar world of print
materials while increasingly accepting responsibilities in the ever-growing world of web-
published materials. While interested in embracing the challenges inherent in web-published
materials, librarians often lack the technical expertise, the resources, or both. Most
acknowledge that collection development models for print materials transfer only at great
expense to web-published materials, which are expensive to select, capture, and catalog. In
a climate of uncertainty and funding constraints, university libraries find the scope of the
preservation effort beyond the capabilities of their IT infrastructures and staffs.
Librarians generally agree that the organization or individual responsible for producing web-
published materials ought to take responsibility for preserving them. In practice, however,
librarians perceive these content producers as either unaware of the need to preserve their
web-published materials or unable or unwilling to accept the challenge. Libraries have
traditionally accepted preservation responsibility for print publications, but they lack the
resources to extend this practice to web-published materials. On the other hand, most
content providers interviewed share a view of a web archive as a safe repository for specific
web-published materials of historical value that are beyond the purview of providers' own
retention mandates or beyond their resource ability to preserve.
With the continuing shift from print documents to web-published materials, some major
research libraries are not certain they can either wait for or rely solely upon federal
government preservation efforts. Librarians express concerns regarding the sustainability of
government programs in future funding cycles. This uncertainty drives these libraries to
assess their need for local preservation programs.
Responsibility for preserving state government publications is often unclear or non-existent
and many publications are simply disappearing. State libraries are in a logical position to
preserve state government publications but are often understaffed and resource-
constrained, resulting in hit-and-miss efforts in regard to preserving the web-published
materials of state agencies. The concern for preservation and access to web-published
Kathleen Murray June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
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Murray, Kathleen R. & Hsieh, Inga K. Summary Report of the Needs Assessment, report, June 18, 2006; (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc33128/m1/4/: accessed April 21, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; .