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June 14, 2006

Digital preservation award granted to Stanford

The Library of Congress will provide approximately $700,000 over three years to Stanford in support of CLOCKSS, a collaborative initiative between publishers, librarians and universities to create a large-scale archive that will serve as a fail-safe repository for published digital scholarly content.

The CLOCKSS (Controlled LOCKSS) initiative is an effort to provide assurance to the research community that a disaster will not obstruct access to journal content. The initiative will create a "dark" archive, accessible to users only after the occurrence of certain defined trigger events.

CLOCKSS is based on the technology of LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe), an open-source software project begun by Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources in 1999 to create a cost-effective, accessible tool to enable libraries to build local collections that preserve intellectual, cultural and historical digital output.

Unlike paper copies, which can last for centuries, digital information is fragile, said Victoria Reich, the director of LOCKSS and a former assistant director of HighWire Press. As scientific journals began to publish journals in digital form only, it became apparent that libraries would be faced with the urgent problem of creating online collections that are as well preserved as traditional hard copies, she said.

The burning of the library at Alexandria taught the lesson that copies of books should be kept in more than one place, Reich said. More recently, the character of Winston Smith, who rewrote history in George Orwell's novel 1984, illustrated the danger of relying solely on a centrally administered storage system where changes are automatically propagated throughout a system, she said.

The technology of the two initiatives is exactly the same, she said. Both are founded on the assumption that libraries are needed to support a democratic society and libraries must build local collections as memory organizations, she added.

The governance and administration structure of CLOCKSS are distributed to ensure that no single organization controls the archive or has the power to compromise the content's long-term safety or integrity. Access to archived content will be granted in response to a trigger event (for example, when content is orphaned or abandoned by its owner or subject to long-term business interruption), reviewed by a group of people working on behalf of the broader community. Any content that is made accessible after a trigger event will be made available to all.

Funding is being provided by the congressionally mandated National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP), which focuses on the long-term preservation of culturally important digitally created materials.

As part of the NDIIPP cooperative agreement, Stanford will work with the Library of Congress to explore the potential applicability of its LOCKSS/CLOCKSS technologies to a variety of initiatives and projects that support the overall goals of NDIIPP. The Library of Congress award will be matched dollar-for-dollar by Stanford.



Barbara Palmer, News Service: (650) 724-6184,


Andrew Herkovic, Stanford University Libraries: (650) 725-1877,

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