Digital Preservation Policy

JMU Libraries is dedicated to the stewardship of a variety of materials, including digital objects, which, without proper care, would be inaccessible to future users. We define digital preservation as the intentional management of digital objects with the goal of supporting long-term access and usability through the utilization of practices and tools designed to ensure the ongoing data security and integrity, functionality, and accuracy of the records. Digital preservation ensures that digital objects will remain viable, usable sources of information and scholarly inspiration well into the future. In alignment with its goal for maintaining balanced collections across disciplines, JMU Libraries develops and implements strategies for persistent, long-term access to curated digital assets. 

Contextual Policies 

JMU Libraries’ collection-related policies set forth high-level priorities and criteria for acquiring content, both in digital and non-digital formats. Digital assets are subject to these same criteria for selection, curation, and preservation: 

JMU Libraries Guiding Principles for Collection Management 

JMU Libraries Special Collections Collection Development Policy 

JMU Scholarly Commons Collection Development & Preservation Policy 

Material Selection 

JMU Libraries prioritizes digital preservation efforts based on assessment of preservation risk, collection value, and available resources. Within the above framework of contextual collection-related policies, the general scope of this policy covers digital items curated by JMU Libraries, digital materials stewarded by JMU Special Collections, and preservation digital copies of physical library-owned material. More specifically, the following are prioritized: 

  • Born-digital library and archival collection materials, including electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs);  
  • Library and archival collection materials with no corresponding physical version, and; 
  • Items or collections from the JMU or consortial community for which JMU Libraries have accepted a curatorial role. 

Preservation Objectives 

The primary objective of all JMU Libraries’ digital preservation activities is to provide long-term access to materials deemed to be within collection scope. The following objectives guide the development, implementation, and management of the digital preservation program: 

  • Provide long-term access to curated digital objects through a defined set of ongoing in-house and hosted activities. 
  • Adhere to professional community standards and effective practices of digital preservation, embedding specific processes and mechanisms in workflows where appropriate. 
  • Leverage our role as memory workers to advocate for social justice and intentionally center and amplify voices that have been historically silenced or ignored. 
  • Sustainably fund current and future digital preservation activities. 

Operating Principles 

In order to achieve JMU Libraries’ digital preservation objectives, specific operating principles include: 

  • Access and Usability: Providing long-term access to selected digital content in a usable form is the primary goal of all preservation activities. 
  • Authenticity: Meeting archival requirements for the provenance, chain of custody, authenticity, and integrity (both bit-level and content) of digital assets. 
  • Copyright and Intellectual Property: Ensuring preservation activities comply with applicable intellectual property policy, copyright law, and licensing agreements. 
  • Social Justice: Ensuring preservation activities prioritize inclusion and equity, support marginalized communities, and do not perpetuate systems of oppression through technology and related means. 
  • Technology: Securely storing digital assets while seeking to maximize technological scalability, flexibility, and reliability. 
  • Transparency and Sustainability: Maintaining accessible, sustainable, and transparent policies and procedures for organizationally-appropriate preservation activities that align with our values, priorities, and reasonable capacity. 

Priorities for Digital Preservation 

The National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA) Levels of Digital Preservation are used to establish priorities for and assess progress with digital preservation activities. Not all digital assets created or stewarded by JMU Libraries will be preserved for the long-term. The following priorities help determine what is considered to be within and without the scope of this policy.  

Priority 1: Born-Digital Materials  

Rigorous effort will be made to ensure the preservation of selected born-digital objects for as long as a preservation commitment can be made. Preservation levels will be determined based on an evaluation of content, including file formats. 

Priority 2: Digitized Materials with No Corresponding Physical Version  

Every reasonable step will be taken to preserve selected materials without a corresponding physical version. This includes materials that were loaned to the institution for digitizing, digital objects where no physical version exists, and digitized materials that have annotations or other value-added features that make them difficult or impossible to recreate. 

Priority 3: Digitized Materials with Available Physical Version 

Reasonable measures will be taken to extend the life of selected digital objects with a readily available physical version. However, the cost of re-digitizing materials as needed will be assessed against the cost of preserving existing digital objects. 

Priority 4: University Digital Assets Created Outside of a Libraries Stewardship Committment  

JMU Libraries is not responsible for the ongoing preservation of University digital assets created without a Libraries stewardship commitment. Digital Assets staff may provide consultation services to JMU faculty, staff, and departments, or workshops and other learning opportunities related to digital preservation for the campus community. 

Priority 5: Commercially Available Digital Assets 

JMU Libraries has responsibility for working externally through licensing agreements, consortial action, etc. to assure that preservation activities are carried out to provide ongoing access to these digital assets. Particular emphasis is given to those materials that exist only in digital form. 

Out of Scope: Ephemeral Items and Other Materials  

No preservation steps will be taken for ephemeral materials such as materials scanned for reserves, e-delivery, interlibrary loan, items that represent a portion of a larger collection, and content that is deemed non-essential to the comprehensive collections. 

Recommended File Formats  

The following table offers recommendations for preferred, acceptable, and problematic file formats when considering long term preservation of digital content. This is intended to be used as a quick reference for researchers, project managers, and anyone involved in stewarding digital assets. For more complete recommendations see the Library of Congress Recommended Formats Statement.  

Audio   Uncompressed:  AIFF WAV     Compressed lossless:  FLAC   Compressed lossy: AAC MP3 
Dataset   Platform independent: CSV TSV     Industry standard: XLSX   Proprietary non-industry standard 
Image   Uncompressed: JPEG2000 TIFF   Compressed lossless: BMP GIF PNG RAW     Compressed lossy: JPEG 
Text   PDF/A TXT XML   DOCX PDF RTF   Older proprietary formats: DOC WPD   
Video   Uncompressed: IMF MKV MOV     Compressed lossless: AVI FFV1 MP4    Compressed lossy: AVI MP4 WMV 

Questions? Use our email form to send us a message. 

Last updated: April 4, 2024