Building Relationships Project Update 2007
In the digital age, what is the best way to build and sustain data archives? Collaborating with other archives could improve how they operate and grow, but building relationships consumes time and scarce resources. Is it worth the effort? Six major digital archives are exploring this issue through a partnership funded by the Library of Congress Infrastructure and Preservation Program. This partnership a federated approach to data archives require building relationships at the producer, administrative, and program application development levels. Now two years into its development, this alliance has accomplished a number of important objectives in each of these realms. This paper highlights the experiences of two alliance members, the ICPSR and the Odum Institute. Our interactions and accomplishments lead us to believe that the benefits of partnerships such as this one far exceed the costs they entail. More particularly, establishing collaborative relationships between archives achieves four objectives, as follows: (1) It facilitates communications between archiving professionals, enhancing efficiency by creating a common pool of knowledge and a framework for ongoing interactions and education; (2) It improves our relationships with data providers by enabling us to provide a better and more durable quality of service; (3) It allows archivists to build networks of relationships with software developers, increasing the probability of identifying, developing, and adopting broadly functional applications serving a multiplicity of needs and audiences; and (4) In promoting development and adoption of common standards, it dramatically improves the probability of effectively networked collections and diminishing the costs involved in creating them. While our focus is social science data, the approach would work in many fields.