Shira here. Since we recently passed the halfway point of our residencies I thought I’d write about some of my biggest takeaways from my NDSR project so far. Without further ado, they are (in no particular order):
1. Understand the root issue
The first step in my project was to understand how the organization’s digital assets are created, used, and stored. To do this, I spent the first several months of my residency interviewing staff throughout Carnegie Hall to better understand what their day-to-day interactions with digital media are like. Although my project objectives are ultimately focused on developing preservation and sustainability policies for this born-digital media, these conversations quickly helped me identify the root issue my NDSR project was designed to address: that up to now there hasn’t been a streamlined process at Carnegie Hall for staff to push digital assets and their associated metadata upstream.
It was essential for me to understand that the overarching goal of my project would be to help fix this problem going forward. Developing policies for sustainable preservation is an important part of the solution, but designing these policies without recognizing and addressing the underlying issues would have resulted in failure. In this case, having a solid understanding of the root issue enabled me to develop a slightly different (and ultimately much more successful) strategy than I had originally planned to take.
2. Ask questions.
Don’t refrain from asking questions for fear of being wrong. If you have doubts about something, speak up.
3. Anticipate delays.
Delays both small and large tend to occur in most large scale projects, not least in those with a lot of moving parts. I expected as much going into my residency, but what I did not expect was the fact that the pace of work at Carnegie Hall can be dictated, to a large degree, by where we are in the concert season. So while some delays might be unforeseeable, I’ve learned to anticipate the times of the year when my colleagues will be busiest, and to adjust my timeline accordingly.
4. Make time to read.
Staying abreast of what’s happening in our field is crucial. I try to set aside some time every week just to read articles, conference roundups, or even threads on Twitter about digital preservation. When I do this I’m frequently surprised at how much material there is out there that’s directly relevant to my project in some way.
5. The Devil is in the details.
Truly. Whether it’s a minor task such as writing an email, or a more significant one such as preparing a report or giving a presentation, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to check, double check, and triple check. If you’re still in doubt, ask someone to check your work for a fourth time. The NDSR cohort has been essential in this vein. I couldn’t have asked for a better or more supportive group of professionals, and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity NDSR-NY has given me to learn from them.