University Libraries Publications


The State of Affairs with Digital Preservation at ARL Member Libraries: A Survey and Analysis of Policy

Publication Title

Digital Library Perspectives

Publication Date


Document Type





Digital preservation, Digital repositories, Analysis of policy, ARL institutional policy study, Digital preservation framework, Policy review


Archival Science | Library and Information Science | Other Computer Sciences



Digital preservation is a term that is a bit of an enigma to many people both in and out of the digital arena, but it will undoubtedly be important in an increasingly all-digital world. The underlying work relating to digital preservation is essential to the long-term care of digital media, but who is charged with addressing this type of work, and can policy serve to structure and also reflect this complex concept? The main point of interest for this study is to examine existing digital preservation policies at Association of Research Libraries (ARL) institutions and analyze the content of the policies. The purpose will be to determine if these policies are able to provide a robust framework for true digital preservation work at this point in time. First, an introduction is made to provide the structure of the study and background. Next, a literature review is provided, followed by an outline of the methods and results of the study, and finally a conclusion with recommendations for future research.


An analysis of digital preservation policy at ARL institutions is conducted, with recommendations provided for further research.


This study was an attempt to highlight the current state of digital preservation policies, reviewing both the positive elements and the shortcomings of policies at ARL member institutions. The call for policies made for this study resulted in finding that 32 (26 per cent) ARL institutions currently have a digital preservation policy in place, from the institutions that responded (58 per cent response rate). In total, 23/40 institutions without a current policy indicate there is, or will be, work to complete a policy within the coming year (2016-2017). A call can be made at this time for more in-depth research and analysis of the policies for further inquiry. Both effective (University of Houston, University of Florida, York University) and ineffective (Colorado State University, University of Texas, Virginia Tech) digital preservation policies were discovered during the course of the study, with many policies falling somewhere in the middle. Many institutions provided a good template for digital preservation but lacked details for how this work would be addressed and who would be completing such work.