The idea of running a training workshop focusing on technical matters was formed during the 2014 IIPC General Assembly in Paris. It became apparent that there is so much transferrable experience among the members and that some institutions are more advanced than others in using the key software for web archiving. Having a forum to exchange ideas and discuss common issues would be extremely useful and welcomed.
Consortium of memory organisations
Kristinn Sigurðsson gave an accurate account of how the idea developed from a thought, to exciting sessions of discussion, and eventually a proposal supported by the IIPC Steering Committee in his blog. Staff development and training is one of the key areas of work for the IIPC. As a consortium of memory organisations sharing the mission of preserving the Internet for posterity, there is great advantage to collaborate, help each other and not to reinvent the wheel. The IIPC has an Education and Training Programme and allocates each year a certain amount of funding for the purpose of collective learning and development. The National Library of France for example organised a week-long workshop in 2012, to offer training for organisations planning to embark into web archiving.
The British Library and the National and University Library of Iceland joint training workshop was the first one dedicated to technical issues, covering the three key applications for web archiving: Heritrix, OpenWayback and Solr. The speakers mainly came from both libraries’ capable technical teams, including Kristinn Sigurðsson, Andy Jackson, Roger Coram and Gil Hoggarth. Their expertise was strengthened by Toke Eskildsen of the State and University Library in Denmark, who has worked extensively on the Danish Web Archive’s large-scale Solr index. Toke also reported on his visit to the British Library in his blog, regarding his experience of “being embedded in tech talk with intelligent people for 5 days” as “exhausting and very fulfilling”. The British Library also took advantage of Toke’s presence and picked his brain on performance issues related to Solr, a perfect example of what other good things can come out of putting techies together.
For the future
Evaluation of the workshop indicates overall satisfaction from the attendees. More people seemed to favour the presentations on day one and desired more structure to the hands-on sessions on day two and three, with more real world examples to be solved together. The presence of strong technical expertise and the opportunity to talk to peers were appreciated the most. From the organiser’s perspective, there are a few things we could have done better: software could have been pre-installed to avoid network congestion and save time; and for the catering we will remember for future occasions that brilliant minds need adequate and varied fuels to be kept well-oiled and running up to speed.
Training is vital for any organisation that aims at progressing. It is not a cost but an investment which safeguards our continuous capability of doing our job. It is worth to consider establishing technical training as a fix element of the Education and Training Programme. The British Library’s Web Archiving crew are happy to contribute.
Helen Hockx-Yu, Head of Web Archiving, The British Library, 17th Feb 2015