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  Preservation Procedure Policy: Usability
Related Guidance Policy
Definition/ Description The organisation should describe how it wants to ensure the usability of the preserved digital collection.
The organisation needs to know which rendering tools or environments offer the best “performance” for the digital object, performance is defined by the organization, for example “original look and feel” . In order to be able to do this, the organisation need to have a clear view on the characteristics (also called significant properties) of the digital objects. 
This knowledge is related to
                        the file format (s) of the digital object,
                        the characteristics of the digital object
                        the software/hardware needed to render the digital object and
                         the identified designated community and their respective requirements.
Knowledge about file formats can be gained by identifying the digital objects in the collection. Not only the file format but also the environment is important for faithful rendering  (for example the browser environment for websites) this knowledge is important to register as Representation Information.
Knowing the file formats, the organization will need to investigate  rendering tools , making decisions which ones to support and keep this knowledge up to date.

Organisations might decide to offer the User Community the availability of dedicated (sometimes in-house)  tools to best represent the digital material. The organisation could also rely on software in the User Community environment, but this should then be stated clearly and be adapted to changing habits. This information should be monitored regularly (Preservation Watch) as the requirements of the User Community can change over time.
Risks in relation to access should be part of risk management procedures. The information about the risks can be derived from various sources, for example the access system will send error messages when users are unable to find the requested digital objects and the organisation need to have a process to deal with this.
Related to the usability are availability times ( for example 24*7) and accessibility restrictions (for example on site versus online), or material that is under embargo for a certain period of time
Why Digital preservation includes making the digital information accessible over time. As not only file formats but also rendering tools change over time, it is important that an organisation has a clear approach in safekeeping the environment in which the digital objects can be rendered faithfully.
Risks If no information is available about the rendering of the file format(s), the digital object might not be accessible for the intended users and the organisation will not meet its goals.
As giving access to the preserved collection is a core functionality of the repository, all risks related to not being able to achieve these goals are endangering the continuity of the organisation
Life cycle stage Curate and Preserve, Community Watch and Participation
Appraise and select, Preservation Action, Access, Use and Reuse, Description and Representation Information
Stakeholder Consumer: needs to be informed
Information Management: will realise the policies
Collection Management (non Shaman): support management from point of view related to the content to preserve
Cross Reference File format checks at Ingest
Preservation Planning
Metadata -> Representation Information
Preservation Watch – Technology Watch to monitor  the changes in the communities
Designated Community
Examples Boston University Libraries: “The Libraries will take reasonable steps to ensure the usability of the digital objects.”  Source:,
Control Policy Once the significant properties and access conditions have been established, these can form the basis of control policies.
An example for a collection of MPEG2 files, the following control policies might set some of the significant properties and access conditions:
  • File format MUST be MPEG2
  • The height of the video track >= 586
  • Image width of the video >= 720
  • Video bitrate >= 6000
  • Number of tools available to render the file >= 3
  • Number of free tools available >=2
  • Format MUST have no license costsWhereas an example for a collection of digitized newspapers might include:
  • Colour model preserved MUST be TRUE
  • Compression type MUST be NONE_ _
Questions to foster discussions
  • Does your organisation need information about the “environment” to perform the digital object?
  • Does your organisation want to offer the user information about the “best environment”?
  • Does your organisation want to offer the user the tools to access the digital objects?
  • Does your organisation want to support different environments in their user groups?
  • Does your organisation want to offer only tools that support all the characteristics of the digital object?
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