The survey report “Searching for Sustainability” examines how libraries and cultural organizations address issues of digital sustainability. After reviewing the eight case studies, here are 5 tips that I found to be the most essential to a successful sustainability plan:

  • develop a user-friendly backend system
    • Cornell’s HEARTH archive of home economics literature relies on this key sustainability tactic. Easy backend management is essential for evolving digital projects to ensure that new employees and volunteers can easily add new materials without needing to learn a complicated new skill set
  • market your collection as culturally indispensable
    • Relying on federal grant funds, the Florida Memory project employs a targeted social media and community outreach program to demonstrate that its multimedia folklore and ethnographic collection is an essential element of “the Florida cultural landscape”
  • built support from your target audience
    • most digital collections are subject-specific and some can draw upon their niche target audience for financial support. The Grateful Dead Archive is one example of a digital project that both brings devoted Dead fans together and relies on them to sustain their collect and for financial donations
  • rely on partners who rely on you
    • The Maine Memory Network partners with 270 cultural institutions across the state. These institutions all rely on the platform to scan and host their own digital collections materials, and the Network relies on them for financial support
  • ABOVE ALL: seek out multiple sources of support
    • most if not all digital projects are sustained through numerous channels of financial and labor support. The Vanderbilt Television News Archive, for example, is supported by federal grants, individual subscriptions, and partnerships with other major organizations like the Library of Congress. The Biodiversity Heritage Library is supported through a combination of membership fees, and in-kind and direct support from the larger Smithsonian network. To successfully sustain a digital project, one needs to be flexible and creative when seeking out support.

 

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