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Harvard Library’s Digital Preservation department provides services and infrastructure that maintain the safety, integrity, and usability of Harvard’s digital collections. Central to the unit is the Digital Repository Service (DRS), which provides secure, monitored storage and preservation services for more than 53 million files in many different digital formats. The DRS is a robust and mature repository that has been in production since 2000 and is used by over 50 Harvard libraries, archives, and museums. The DRS technology is maintained by Harvard’s Library and Technology Services (LTS) department.

Throughout 2014, a group of Harvard library directors, archivists, and librarians met with Preservation Services to consider proposed plans for the Digital Preservation Program. Reviewing a list of potential services that could be offered, the group agreed that the Program should prioritize making depositing content into the DRS easier.  Some of the suggestions included: the provision of easy DRS deposit tools and some DRS depositing services.

In October 2015, a Digital Preservation Analyst was hired to lead a year-long strategic project to make it easier for Harvard curators, archivists, and reformatting specialists to deposit materials into the DRS. By interviewing and shadowing curators, archivists, developers, and reformatting specialists across Harvard libraries, the project is expected to result in simpler and more efficient workflows with easier, more automated tasks. The overall anticipated outcome is to encourage more digital material to be deposited into the DRS. Click here to see an outline of the project plan.

Phase One


The following are a list of depositors that have been interviewed during the project. Final profiles of DRS use and challenges for the depositors can be viewed for those that are linked.

Date Interviewed
Imaging ServicesMaggie Hale, Todd Bachmann, Hilary Kline, Ming Zhao11/3-4/2015
Law School LibrarySteve Chapman, Paul Deschner, Jessica Farrell11/17/2015, 1/8/2016
Baker LibraryChristine Riggle, Ben Johnson


Fine Arts LibraryVanessa Venti12/4/2015
Graduate School of DesignAlix Reiskind, Ines Zalduendo12/8/2015
Harvard Art MuseumKatie Kujala12/9/2015
Villa I TattiLukas Klic12/10/2015
JudaicaViolet Radnofsky1/12/2016
Media Preservation ServicesBruce Gordon, Dave Ackerman2/25/2016
Office for Scholarly Communication/DASHBen Steinberg1/27/2016
Schlesinger LibraryJoanne Donovan, Amy Benson1/13/2016
Botany LibraryChris Robson, Lisa DeCesare, Keiko Nishimoto2/5/2016
Tibetan Buddhist Resource CenterChris Tomlinson


Harvard ArchivesRobin McElheny, Jennifer Pelose, Kate Bowers, Amanda Sherman3/16/2016


Click here to read a summary of initial recommendations made at the close of the Phase One interviews.


Between Tuesday, June 14, 2016 and Monday, June 20, 2016, an online survey was distributed to project participants to gauge level of interest and priorities among the previously determined recommendations. Click here to read the summary of the survey results.

Phase Two

Functional Requirements for a New Deposit Tool

The results of Phase One interviews, surveys, and meetings with DRS users exposed the need for a revamped deposit tool. Further discussion with participants helped clarify priorities for developers, and a list of functional requirements has been created for DRS developers to begin working. This document is a current incarnation that is likely to endure further edits and drafts.

For a better idea of the new deposit workflow, in juxtaposition with the existing workflow, explore this diagrammatic representation.

Depositing Service

Another apparent need exposed by the interviews and surveys is the provision of a deposit-only service, one which does not first rely on the use of Imaging Services for reformatting. For users with born-digital material or materials reformatted in-house or by a third-party vendor, which the user does not have the resources to themselves deposit, a deposit-only service is being explored as a potential alternative. You can read a needs report for this service here, which includes some functional requirements and use cases.

Community Forum

Many DRS users expressed the desire to more easily share discussions, templates, and ideas. To this end, an appropriate space for a forum of some sort to better facilitate open sharing between users is being explored.

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