Sunday, April 22, 2012

Portraits in Preservation SE – Rebecca Frank

Portraits in Preservation Student Edition, Preservation Week 2012

Rebecca D. Frank is a second year MSI student at the University of Michigan’s School of Information (graduating April 2012) and a University Library Associate at the University of Michigan’s Art, Architecture and Engineering Library.  She is particularly interested in digital preservation and curation, with a focus on sustainability and the development and implementation of standards, cyberinfrastructure, and disaster planning for digital repositories.  For more information, or to contact her directly, please visit:

What experience or person has greatly influenced your desire to pursue preservation?

My decision to pursue preservation academically and professionally has been influenced primarily by three individuals – Paul Conway, Elizabeth Yakel, and Shannon Zachary.  Early in my career as a student in the master’s program at the University of Michigan’s School of Information (SI) I had the opportunity to take a preservation course with Shannon Zachary, who is also the head of Preservation and Conservation at the University Library.  This class led to an internship with Shannon creating and implementing disaster plans for the libraries at the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan, and that project led me to the topic of my Master’s Thesis – disaster planning for digital repositories.  As my advisors at SI, Beth Yakel and Paul Conway have been supportive and encouraging of my academic and professional projects, in particular providing guidance and mentorship for my thesis.  It has been gratifying for me to be a part of a strong and supportive academic and professional community and I credit Paul, Beth, and Shannon for helping me to find my place as a member of that community.

What has been a particularly rewarding experience in your preservation training?

The most rewarding part of my preservation training has been the opportunity to continually bring my academic experience to the Library (I am currently a University Library Associate at the University of Michigan’s Art, Architecture and Engineering Library), and vice versa.  From small projects such as calibration of digitization equipment to large projects such as the disaster planning mentioned above, it has been incredibly rewarding to be able to further preservation efforts at my own library.  The lessons I have learned through these projects have also informed my experience in the classroom, helping me to become a more engaged and active participant in the program.

What are you looking forward to personally contributing to the larger preservation world?

I am interested in the development and implementation of standards for preservation, and in particular standards for digital preservation and trusted digital repositories.  I look forward to the opportunity to a career that will allow me to contribute to our understanding of standards and their implementation through both professional activities and original research. 

What do you see is a pressing issue facing the preservation world?

Data!  I think that the management, curation, and preservation of research data is a tremendous issue for the preservation world.  I think that the new requirements from organizations such as the NSF regarding data management have helped to bring attention and urgency to an issue that the preservation community has been facing for a long time.  Particularly for large research institutions such as the University of Michigan, there exists a tremendous opportunity to both help researchers manage their own data and also to take on the responsibility of managing that data ourselves. 

Bonus question (optional) - What do you want to preserve and why?

In a perfect world, I would want to preserve everything.  Practically speaking, I think that I’m interested in current efforts to preserve and curate collections of both analog and digital items around political and social events.  Finding ways to fit the traditional models of preservation and access to these new, unusual collections – or finding ways to update and change the way that we approach preservation in order to handle these new collections – is incredibly fascinating to me.  From an academic perspective, I’m following the conversations around efforts to preserve artifacts from these events.  And professionally I’m excited to be at an institution that is grappling with these issues as well.  It’s an exciting time to be a preservation professional.

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