McGill joins the effort to preserve electronic government information

The McGill Library recently joined the the Canadian Government Information LOCKSS Network, which is a group of eleven institutions across country that have committed to preserving the Canadian government’s electronic publications and safeguarding against their disappearance from the web. LOCKSS (“Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe”) networks operate under the simple assumption that maintaining multiple, redundant copies of electronic documents on geographically scattered servers is the surest way of preventing their loss due to human error, bit rot, or natural disaster. Each institution, including McGill, will maintain a copy of every electronic document in the Government of Canada’s publications catalogue.

The LOCKSS network is designed in such a way that any alteration to the content of a document will be quickly identified and fixed. This protects against natural degradation of electronic files, and – call us paranoid – tampering. Believe it or not, governments have been known to surreptitiously edit documents for political purposes, even here in Canada. If this happens with a document in the LOCKSS network, we’ll know about it.

The LOCKSS network is the natural extension of the library’s role in preserving government documents in print format. McGill has been a member of the Depository Services Program, through which libraries receive and agree to retain Canadian federal documents, since the program’s inception in 1927. Beginning in 2014, the federal government will no longer distribute print publications to libraries. This new initiative allows the library to continue its role as a steward of public documents and ensure they are available to future generations of citizens and scholars.

Leave a Comment