2:38 PM, March 24, 2011


AUBURN, Ala. – For Aaron Trehub, assistant dean for technology and technical services at Auburn University Libraries, the possibility that a catastrophe could wipe out large amounts of the world’s digital information is a familiar one. He has been thinking about the long-term preservation of digital content for half a decade. With Trehub’s leadership and some timely grant funding, Auburn University has emerged as a leader in the area of Distributed Digital Preservation (DDP). And in May of 2011, his work in this field will be rewarded when digital preservation experts from around the globe converge on Tallinn, Estonia for the “Aligning National Approaches to Digital Preservation” conference.

Working in the spirit of Auburn University President Jay Gogue’s strategic plan to take the university’s outreach efforts to an international audience and with the backing of the United States Library of Congress, the National Library of Estonia, and the Atlanta-based Educopia Institute, Trehub has put in two years of intense planning and coordinating to bring together leaders in the field of digital preservation to exchange ideas and information.

In 2006, Trehub worked with the Network of Alabama Academic Libraries (NAAL) to obtain a grant to establish the Alabama Digital Preservation Network (ADPNet), the first statewide DDP network in the USA. Auburn University was also one of the six founding members of the Atlanta-based MetaArchive Cooperative, the first multi-state DDP network.  Originally consisting of six southeastern institutions, today MetaArchive has grown to 19 institutions and consortia worldwide.

It was while working on the MetaArchive project that Trehub and Dr. Martin Halbert, formerly at Emory University and now the dean of libraries at the University of North Texas, began to discuss the need to promote international cooperation in digital preservation. It was during one of their brainstorming sessions that Trehub had the idea of holding an international conference in Estonia, a location convenient to all of Europe, accessible to the rest of the world, and with a very advanced information technology infrastructure. Both Trehub and Halbert had personal and professional contacts in Estonia, including Trehub’s longstanding acquaintance with the New Jersey-raised, Columbia University-educated president of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves.

President Ilves embraced the idea and forwarded it to the National Library of Estonia for further action. The Library of Congress joined in the effort and the Educopia Institute signed on to do the lion’s share of coordination for the event.

“Aaron's knowledge, expertise, and contacts – both in Estonia and throughout the international community – are an enormous asset in our planning and production of the ‘Aligning National Approaches to Digital Preservation’ forum,” said Dr. Katherine Skinner, executive director, Educopia Institute. “He has helped us to plan the program (including establishing the panel topics and selecting appropriate panel conveners), establish our venue and logistics and build sponsorship for the event. He is a core member of the program committee, without which, this event honestly would not be able to happen or at least would happen very differently.”

“We hope that this conference will do much to foster international cooperation for the preservation of our collective cultural memory,” said Trehub. “A best-case scenario would see information shared between experts from around the world, give us the opportunity to study promising technical and organizational approaches to digital preservation with an emphasis on interoperable systems, and foster economically sustainable collaborations among institutions and countries. If we can manage that, it will give us the basis to devise an action plan for building collaboration among interested national initiatives, with the ultimate goal being to form an international steering committee for digital preservation. I have great confidence we will accomplish our goals.”

For more information on the “Aligning National Approaches to Digital Preservation” conference, visit  http://www.educopia.org/events/ANADP/.

Auburn University Libraries serves the more than 24,000 students and faculty of Auburn with a collection in excess of 3.2 million volumes. The Special Collections and Archives Department collects, preserves, and houses rare and unique items relating to the histories of Auburn University, the state of Alabama, the southeastern region, the Civil War, Native Americans and aviation. The Auburn University Digital Library develops accessible digital collections of materials that support the teaching and research of Auburn faculty and students, and that, in turn, further the mission of Auburn University.  These collections are made available to educators and students in the state, nation and the world.

Auburn University has provided instruction, research and outreach to benefit the state and nation for more than 150 years, and is among a distinctive group of universities designated as Land, Sea, and Space Grant institutions. Auburn University makes a nearly $5 billion economic contribution to the state each year, has more than 250,000 graduates and provides 130 degree programs to more than 24,000 graduate and undergraduate students.

(Contributed by W. Jayson Hill)

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