For a very long time now, preservationists have been looking for someone to take a leadership role in defining a set of standards for the types of file formats we should be using to keep our collections safe. In the absence of such an authority, many organizations have resorted to developing their own standards (Rutgers, for instances, has its own guidelines for digital preservation outlined on this very site), or deferring to specifications already developed by other institutions or partnerships. As a result, while there is some general consensus about what we should be doing, there are occasionally differences and disagreements here and there.
The Library of Congress, too, has been working on this issue as well, and today they’ve taken some steps by releasing a set of recommended format specifications for a variety of object types. These guidelines are useful in that they provide a baseline to go by, for those who are trying to preserve their content, both in the analog and digital realm.
A blog post discussing the recommendations has also been posted, including an acknowledgement by Ted Westervelt, the head of acquisitions and cataloging for U.S. Serials – Arts, Humanities & Sciences, that the LoC need to ramp up its digital preservation initiatives.
There is no point pretending that the Library is collecting digital content on the scale and scope with which it is collecting analog content. We would like to and the specifications are one step to help get us there, but we are not there yet and it will take some time and effort. However, the specifications are meant to engage with the world outside the Library. And, inside the Library and outside it, no one is under any illusion that digital content and analog content are two separate and unrelated spheres and never the twain shall meet.