This always happens. An institution or company thinks of a new and special way to conduct its business but fails to think about the mandate to save it in perpetuity.
On the front page of the New York Times today, Tufts makes the headlines by giving their prospective student the option to include a video in their application. The article fails to mention that the applications of accepted student are considered permanent records of the University that must be kept in perpetuity.
So you might say, "What's the big deal if a few videos are added to the mix? Tufts has a digital repository." The problem isn't so much the digital video, although there are major challenges associated with being able to view a video 10, 20, 30+ years from now. The major problem is that they're doing it through You Tube. While it may be very easy for the admissions office to access videos on You Tube, this opens up a hornets nest of rights issues. Most notably, You Tube makes no guarantees that they will continue to host a video or make it accessible. And they're certainly not at all concerned with FERPA regulations.
Sadly, we were not consulted in the decision to allow video applications. So the best we can do is hope that the students have included another copy of their video on a thumb drive with their application. Most likely, we will be left with the task of trying to extract and tag hundreds videos from You Tube.
Sadder still, this kind of thing happens to archives and records departments all the time. But what can archivists and records managers do? I think the best we can do is try to make preservation part of the decision process of any business activity and become front line consultants at our institution. This way we can outline our needs and concerns. Otherwise, we will continue to become the victims at the end of the line, trying to grab what we can.
For more on what rights you have as a You Tube user, check out what this colorful gentleman has to say about it.
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