Community Input for Web Archiving at Small and Rural Libraries

This week’s post was written by Grace McGann (Moran), Teen Librarian, Tipp City Public Library.

Before I begin, I want to acknowledge that Tipp City Public Library is on the unceded lands of the Kaskaskia, Shawnee, Hopewell, and Myaamia.

The Tipp City Public Library has been open for nearly a century now, in a town rich with history. We are located in the downtown historic district of a city whose population falls just below 10,000. Because we are such an ingrained part of the community, it is difficult to work here and not notice how our patrons care about our city’s history. This blog post briefly examines the importance of involving our respective communities in the collection development process.

My previous experience in web archiving at the University of Illinois drove me to apply to the Community Webs program at the Internet Archive. This program was built for small cultural heritage institutions to create a diverse web history while using Archive-it technology at zero cost.

Having never built a web archive from the ground up, one of the first questions I faced was: where to start? I find that with any collection, the problem isn’t necessarily struggling to find materials, it is choosing a specific policy of selection and collection. In a previous blog post, I made an argument for separate collection development policies for web archiving. Having one in place makes evaluating websites simpler, especially when the discovery process relies on outside entities such as community members.

After joining Community Webs just a few months ago, I had a curated list of websites for capture. However, these only came from my cursory searches around the internet. In order to move beyond those first websites and create a more representative archive, I leveraged the local network. First, I reached out to a sociology professor at the University of Dayton, Dr. Leslie Picca. I knew that she was doing research on race and could possibly have connections to colleagues in the digital humanities. She led me to Dr. Todd Uhlman of the history department at UD.

Connecting with Dr. Uhlman changed my thinking about how to build this web archive. In learning about the digital humanities work he is doing in the Greater Dayton Area, I found valuable websites to be captured and preserved.

After speaking to Dr. Uhlman and agreeing to capture his content, I was contacted by community members who wanted websites to be preserved. After evaluating and capturing the websites, I created a community input form. While I am still waiting for this form to gain more traction, my theory is that community input is crucial for web archiving at small cultural heritage institutions.

I am not alone in this assertion. Papers about community archival practices demonstrate an urgent need for this sort of involvement. Zavala et. al. (2017)(though speaking more about physical archives) shared this:

There is no reason why government or university archives could not engender post-custodial practice, foster community autonomy and promote shared governance, if only they are willing to share power and authority with the communities they have historically left out.

By changing the way we engage in collection development, we challenge the systems of oppression that have been institutionalized within record-keeping institutions (whether we are aware of them or not).

I have a lot left to say about web archiving, but I want to drive this point home. Archives, whatever form they take, provide cultural value. Culture does not exist without community. Therefore, it’s actually pretty simple: communities should help create archives.

One thought on “Community Input for Web Archiving at Small and Rural Libraries

  1. Pingback: Archive-It Blog – Archive-It Partner News, December 2021

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