Digital Preservation Policy

The library recognises that digital objects need to be preserved indefinitely in the same way as paper documents. This policy outlines the principles that guide the University of Sussex Library’s digital preservation activities.

1. Overview and Purpose

1.1 Background and context

The University of Sussex Library holds a unique and growing collection of digital content including archives and research data. The increase represents an opportunity to reach and engage with new audiences whilst presenting challenges in the management and maintenance of resources.

This publicly available document informs all library stakeholders of the library’s commitment to preserve and provide access to its digital content.

The policy ensures the appropriate preservation of digital archives so that they remain accessible in the long term and authentic by archival standards.

The policy supports decision making and reinforces accountability for digital preservation processes. It provides a framework to build appropriate systems and processes to preserve digital content.

1.2 Retention

The library acquires and creates digital content with the intention to retain it in perpetuity or for as long as is necessary in-line with local retention schedules. 

1.3 Access

The purpose of preserving digital content is to make it accessible for research, exhibition and for the public good. 

1.4 Legislation

Relevant legislation such as the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and the Data Protection Act (2018) mean that digital archives may need to be embargoed for specified periods after acquisition. 

2. Scope

This policy applies to the digital collections held by the library, including:

  • Legacy digital archives either born digital or as digital surrogates
  • Deposits of private collections or organisational archives which may be wholly or in part digital
  • Transferral of official University of Sussex digital records from University Schools, Departments and Professional Services according to the University of Sussex Records Management Policy
  • Digitised content produced from library Special Collections’ physical archive collections through internal or external digitisation projects
  • Deposits of born digital or digitised research data from University of Sussex research projects
  • Descriptive, technical and preservation metadata important to the management and discovery of resources
  • Digital content that Special Collections has identified for preservation

The policy does not apply to any digital archives of journals and databases purchased by the library on behalf of the University of Sussex.

3. Responsibilities

3.1 Library

The library has responsibility for the preservation of its digital content. The library will:

  • Design and implement the technical environment needed to administer digital content
  • Liaise with third party service providers and University of Sussex IT Services in support of the technical environment and ensure that the third parties comply with this policy
  • Define and regularly revise the scope of the digital content covered in this policy as required
  • Clearly state and define terms and conditions for the deposit of digital content in a deposit agreement
  • Ensure that digital preservation activities are carried out in line with key University of Sussex strategies and with professional archival standards
  • Make key decisions about future developments in digital preservation strategy through the library's Digital Preservation Steering Group
  • Collaborate, where appropriate, with partners at The Keep when developing digital preservation systems

3.2 IT Services

As appropriate, IT Services have responsibility for supporting University owned on-campus hardware relating to digital preservation within the library and University owned software applications that the library uses for digital preservation purposes.

4. Policy

4.1 Consequences / impacts of non-compliance

Digitised and born digital content are at risk of the effects of technological obsolescence. A principle challenge of digital preservation is to mitigate against these risks. The library recognises the following as being consequences or impacts of non-compliance:

  • The library’s born digital content is at risk of becoming unreadable and inaccessible due to bit rot, file format obsolescence and other recognised threats
  • Appropriate software, operating systems and hardware may not be available in the future to render the information contained in digital content
  • Digital content held on storage media such as external hard drives and other optical media are susceptible to damage and decay in the short term
  • Existing technologies are at high risk of becoming obsolete within 5-10 years
  • The library’s digital collections are increasing in number meaning that the percentage of our collections at risk will only increase
  • Digital content will not be freely accessible online and will therefore be at risk of being forgotten

4.2 Integrity 

The library will:

  • Ensure the integrity of digital content so it remains unchanged  
  • Store digital content in an appropriate repository
  • Employ systems to monitor the completeness of digital content
  • Monitor digital content for intentional or unintentional changes
  • Facilitate detection of changes to digital content and rectify them
  • Employ standards compliant secure systems and transfer records using secure encrypted protocols

4.3 Reliability

The library will ensure the reliability of digital content by documenting contextual information about an object in its metadata, which will be saved with it in the repository. We will make this metadata available to researchers who access the digital content.  

4.4 Provenance

The library will keep a permanent record of the provenance of digital content. Standard submissions processes will be used to gain control of new digital content and the lifecycle of digital content will be captured and stored in its metadata.

4.5 Active management of digital objects

Due to the rapid development of the digital preservation landscape, the library will implement an iterative approach to developing digital preservation practices.

To ensure against technical obsolescence, the library will migrate preservation software and hardware when necessary, or digitally preserve software and hardware if this is impractical.

The library will carry out preservation activities manually or automatically according to a planned and fixed schedule.

We acknowledge that data loss will always be technically possible.  We therefore have standard procedures in place to mitigate against the possibility of data loss and to recover data if there is a data loss event.

4.6 National and international relationships

The library will maintain professional relationships with the wider digital preservation community in the UK and internationally to ensure preservation activities are informed by new research and current best practice. 

4.7 Standards

The library will:

  • Use current digital preservation standards to guide digital preservation practices
  • Monitor the emergence of new standards and consider adopting them where appropriate and useful
  • In the absence of formal standards, draw on best practice guidelines where appropriate and useful
  • Apply standards for digital preservation which reference and support The Keep’s TNA accreditation

4.8 Access

The library will control access to certain digital content to comply with the Data Protection Act (2018) and any other relevant legislation.

Free public access to digital content will be provided online where possible, or in controlled conditions in The Keep reading room when appropriate. 

Date of issue


Date renewed/revised

05/2020, 04/2021, 04/2022, 04/2023

Policy owner

Collections Senior Manager

Lead contact / author

Research Data and Digital Preservation Technologist

Related policies and plans

Next review due