Tyler Walters, dean of Virginia Tech’s University Libraries, has been named chair of the coordinating committee for the National Digital Stewardship Alliance, a group dedicated to preserving our nation’s digital resources for the benefit of present and future generations. 

Long-term management and preservation of digital content, especially materials that only exist in digital form, are problems for everyone. The National Digital Stewardship Alliance is an initiative by the Library of Congress’s National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program. This group brings together public and private organizations to work with the Library of Congress to support digital preservation. Members include the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the New York Philharmonic, the Public Broadcasting Service, and many other organizations, such as public, government, and college and university libraries, including Virginia Tech. 

Preserving digital information requires organizations to work together, and the National Digital Stewardship Alliance helps provide tools and guidance to make these partnerships successful. Walters’ expertise in organizational relationships allows the alliance to provide strategic direction for groups looking to work together.

“Tyler challenged us to think about the nature of collaborative relationships. These projects are complicated, and the partner institutions need to see the benefits of their contributions,” Martha Anderson, director of program management for the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program, said.

Online access to material has changed the nature of research. 

“Libraries are called upon to provide access to information that can be mined and analyzed,” Anderson said. “Today, researchers require access to large amounts of data, like the ability to search an entire newspaper collection for trends. These research needs move the library away from the page to a mass of information. You can’t access this kind of information with a point and click interface."

Walters is committed to the preservation and stewardship of digital content. 

“Research libraries are taking up the challenge of ensuring that modern data and information are more than just available, but highly usable and analyzable,” Walters said. “This is what digital stewardship is about — accelerating research and enhancing learning through managing and applying data and information.”

Since arriving at Virginia Tech in 2011, Walters has established an institutional repository, VTechWorks, which is designed to collect, preserve and provide access to the research output of the university. 

“Virginia Tech’s new strategic plan acknowledges the ‘needs and challenges of a data-driven society,’ and at the libraries, we are working to meet and anticipate those needs,” Walters said.  

VTechworks, for example, compliments the libraries’ strong array of digital initiatives. Walters continues to develop the libraries’ digital preservation strategies by working with the Library of Congress-supported MetaArchive Cooperative, one of the first library-based digital preservation networks in the world. 

“Virginia Tech has always been a leader among digital libraries,” Anderson said. “They were out there very early on and are poised to do interesting things today.”