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Digital Archivists: Supply & Demand 2011/08/18

Posted by nydawg in Archives, Digital Archives, Digital Preservation, Electronic Records, Records Management.
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In February 2009, The NYTimes ran an article, “Digital Archivists, Now in Demand“, about digital archivists which caused a good deal of animated discussion among some of us digital archivists.  At the time, it seemed timely, but when I noticed that the article focuses on academic librarian digital archivists, I started to wonder, where are all the jobs for digital archivists and electronic records managers?!

“WHEN the world entered the digital age, a great majority of human historical records did not immediately make the trip.  Literature, film, scientific journals, newspapers, court records, corporate documents and other material, accumulated over centuries, needed to be adapted for computer databases. Once there, it had to be arranged — along with newer, born-digital material — in a way that would let people find what they needed and keep finding it well into the future.

The people entrusted to find a place for this wealth of information are known as digital asset managers, or sometimes as digital archivists and digital preservation officers. Whatever they are called, demand for them is expanding.”

At the time I was working at an animation studio where all our assets were born digital and, as archivist, I had to describe the different types of assets (design files, ProTools sessions, Quicktime formats, H.264 compressions, After Effects Scene Folders, storyboard flash files and flash movies, FinalCutEdits, as well as maintain a photography archive and a media library.  So my impression was that while I was lucky to have such an exciting and challenging job, there would be many, many opportunities out there for digital archivists like me. . . .   Every institution is basically a victim of their IT department’s vision and strategy and, sadly, archivists are left out. . . . .

. . . .”Many work for public institutions, and businesses use them, too, said Deborah Schwarz, chief executive of Library Associates Companies, a consulting and headhunting firm. Especially big employers in this area are law firms, which need experts on digital copyright and other issues tied to the migration of legal documents from filing cabinets to databases.  One comparative advantage of private-sector jobs is the pay. Digital asset managers at public facilities would do well to make $70,000 a year. Salaries for their corporate counterparts are generally higher.

“Compensation varies wildly because it’s an emerging area,” said Keith Gurtzweiler, vice president for recruiting at Library Associates. “Consultants who can make recommendations on systems can make $150 an hour.””

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