Surveying Community Webs Members’ Digital Preservation Needs

January 18th, 2024

by the Community Programs team

Community Webs members and the Community Programs team gathered in the spring of last year for a virtual meeting, Future Webs, to reflect on the success and achievements of the program and chart next steps in 2024 and beyond. Internet Archive Community Programs staff received member feedback on what members liked about the program, what they wanted to see more of, and how we could sustain the program long into the future.

Community Webs logo

Among the needs program members discussed at the spring meeting was support for digital preservation, particularly in the way of organizational advocacy for training, staff, funding, and technology. To gather more detailed feedback on current organizational activities, capacity, and collection development, Community Programs staff launched a Digital Preservation Needs Survey in the fall of 2023.


Of the 51 members that filled out the survey, 49 (96%) expressed an organizational need or mandate to preserve digital content over the long-term. Out of the 51, respondents the following organization types were represented: public libraries (34), college and university libraries or archives (4), archival repositories (5), museums (5), research institutes (1), and state/local government offices (1). Out of those 51 members, 49 members (96%) expressed an organizational need or mandate to preserve digital content over the long-term. 

Challenges, Training, and Support

The areas member organizations need the most support in to effectively preserve digital content are: Training and expertise (25%), Funding (24%), and Staff (23%), Advocacy (administration, IT) (15%), Hardware/equipment (12%), and 2% indicated other areas such as organizational commitment and preservation storage systems. Organizations experienced the following challenges in descending order: Staffing capacity (paid/volunteer) (22%), Other (19%), Affordability (18%), Expertise (16%), Strategy (13%), Necessary equipment (12%). 

The training topics members expressed a need for were split amongst five topics: Data recovery from damaged or obsolete media (22%), Policy and governance (21%), Introductory training in digital preservation (20%), File format migration (22%), Training in a specific software package or computing environment (16%). 

Formats and Content Type

The content and formats member organizations have in their holdings are as follows: Text/documents (18%), Moving images / video (18%), Audio (17%), Still / 2d images (18%), Websites / blogs / social media (12%), and 17% referred to other formats, including 3d data (e.g. CAD files).

When asked to give a brief description of the digital content survey respondents wanted to preserve long-term they mentioned the following types of content:

  • Digitized photographs, maps, books, manuscripts, news releases, architectural drawings, survey records, genealogical records, business documents, organizational records, postcards, community newspapers, ledgers, record books, diaries, state/local records, and magazines
  • Born-digital images, oral histories
  • Email
  • Websites
  • Analog audiovisual material, like 16mm newsreel footage and audio cassettes
  • Microfilm
  • Art, ephemera, and other artifacts 
Screenshot of Thunder Bay Museum's audiovisual digitization project website

People, Subjects, and Themes

The following people, subjects, and themes representative of the digital content members need to preserve long-term were: 

  • Identity-Based Communities: Indigenous, immigrant, refugee, LGBTQ+, African-American, Jewish, Cuban, Japanese, Hispanic, Asian, campus life
  • Colonization and structural racism: displacement, activism and protests, pioneers, race riots, desegregation, racial equity, gentrification, civic issues, pre-WWII, WWII
  • State, city, and local records and news: civic groups, anniversaries/parades, news footage, newspapers
  • Architecture and Agriculture: urban planning, gentrification, city morgues, architecture
  • Environmental issues and history: natural disasters, Maui wildfires, coastal communities, shipbuilding, logging, agriculture
  • Art and Technology: photographer’s collections, social media
  • Religion: Presbyterian church, missionaries
  • Health: health industries, COVID-19

Organizational Activities

Lastly, members are engaged in the following activities related to digital preservation:

  • Community archive project design
  • Technical metadata extraction
  • Digitization projects
  • Regular backups to storage (tape, digital)
  • Collection development and management
  • Strategic planning and prioritization
  • Policy, procedure, and program design 
  • Research data management
  • Data privacy
  • Use of enterprise digital preservation and asset management systems (Preservica, Argus) 

The information from this survey will be used to further direct work and program strategy in Community Webs in 2024 and beyond, including continued and new access to relevant applications, training, and collection development. Stay tuned for more information coming soon from the program staff about Community Webs!