Remember when people thought that putting newspapers on microform meant that they would be preserved forever? This kind of makes me think of that (“At Libraries, Taking the (Really) Long View,” by Andy Guess).
But as libraries shift more of their resources to holdings that either originate as digital or become digital through scanning, it’s become clear that just because something lives in the virtual stacks doesn’t mean it will be around forever. Anyone who’s ever suffered through a hard drive crash (or tried futilely to save a scratched DVD) has faced the inherent physical limitations of digital storage. Now librarians are having to do the same as they determine how digital holdings fit into their central mission: preserving works so that they can be accessed not just today, not just tomorrow, but indefinitely.