Preservation Principles

No single library can achieve robust long-term preservation alone. LOCKSS exists thanks to the power of the library community to lead a joint effort that reinforces their roles as custodians of content. Preservation at LOCKSS follows a few unique principles that we consider vital to successful long-term preservation. Our approach sets us apart from other preservation systems, and has been developed after extensive research into the best practices, and greatest risks, of long-term preservation.

Decentralized and distributed preservation (lots of copies keep stuff safe)

Evidence suggests that human factors (intentional and unintentional) are the greatest cause of loss or corruption to digital materials. Technology failures, economic failures and social failures all pose threats to the protection of digital content. When content is held in a single centralized repository, it is easy for people to tamper with a master copy without detection. A dark archive into which content disappears, only to reappear in a future emergency, does not engender confidence in either its availability or its correctness.

The LOCKSS Program is the only approach that mitigates against the broad set of technical, economic and social threats to the security and long-term preservation of digital content. LOCKSS’s award winning open-source technology is built on a peer-to-peer software infrastructure that preserves trustworthy, authoritative and original scholarly content for long-term access. The result is a cooperative, affordable and decentralized preservation system over a shared library network that relies on lots of copies to keep stuff safe.

The LOCKSS network has the same tamper evident property as print records. In the LOCKSS system, it is nearly impossible for someone to find and tamper with a significant number of the preserved copies without being caught. The copies are geographically distributed and independently held under many different administrations. Tamper-evidence engineering is a unique property of LOCKSS preservation and it is a keystone of our work.

Give libraries local custody and control of their assets

Librarians are charged with preserving access to the scholarly record for future generations. However, instead of owning paper versions of new content, today many libraries rent electronic versions of new content. Leasing access to content puts libraries at risk because it outsources their duties as information stewards into the hands of third parties. A unilateral change of policy by the publisher or third party provider, or a failure to renew a subscription, can result in loss of electronic access to past material.

The LOCKSS program is a library-led community collaboration that gives libraries a way to preserve and control their own purchased collections. Librarians use their local LOCKSS box to take custody of their leased subscription-based digital materials, as well as open access and materials and other digital assets. A LOCKSS box is a library’s “digital stacks.” Our approach is analogous to a library using its own buildings, shelves and staff to obtain, preserve and provide access to paper materials.  The LOCKSS model restores libraries’ ability to build local collections, bringing the traditional purchase-and-own model to electronic materials and strengthening the library’s role in the digital age.

Preserve the publisher’s original authoritative version

As articles become available in more versions on more and more different websites, publishers face increasing competition for readers’ attention and brand consistency. The LOCKSS preservation approach is unique in delivering the publisher’s original article, with the publisher’s original branding and imprimatur. It is also unique in ensuring that publishers see all accesses to their content, whether it is delivered from their Web site, or a library’s LOCKSS Box.

LOCKSS technology preserves the publisher’s original content as of the date of web publication. The “look and feel” of the content, along with the publisher’s branding, is preserved, resulting in an authentic representation of the authoritative source file. The LOCKSS program also preserves the links going into and out of digital content – links that reference other digital objects and provide valuable context to the original work.

Thanks to LOCKSS, publishers and libraries can be confident that their readers will access the most trusted, authoritative and contextually accurate version.

Perpetual access – guaranteed and seamless

Librarians need to be certain that the digital content they acquire today will not disappear when they cancel subscriptions, and that their electronic collections can be preserved and accessed by readers far into the future. With LOCKSS, libraries take custody of authorized subscriptions and open content – the only method that guarantees perpetual community access.

Material stored in a local LOCKSS Box remains available to members of the library’s local community even when the publisher goes away (due to merger, bankruptcy, subscription cancellation, network traffic or for any other reason). The content is always available to the local community, directly from the library, with no need to rely upon third parties. Locally owned collections are the only way to guarantee 100% post cancellation access.

Affordable and Sustainable

One major threat to digital preservation is economic. The less expensive the system is to run, the more content will be saved, and the longer it will survive. Since its founding in 1998, LOCKSS has been focused on keeping participants’ costs low. LOCKSS operates on a sustainable and stable business model.

It is free for publishers to participate in LOCKSS, and libraries pay only a small participation fee that has increased very little since 2004. LOCKSS is affordable to libraries with a limited budget, and utilizes affordable hardware and easy-to-use software. Multiple copies of content at different libraries audit each other and repair any damaged or missing content, eliminating the need for costly back-ups and manual auditing processes. The total system cost never appears on any one single budget and is thus never at risk from a single red pencil.