Email Task Force Report

In early FY19 an Email Archiving task force was convened by the Born Digital Archives Working Group (BDAWG) to explore the topic of email archiving at Yale.  The task force included archivists and librarians from throughout the Yale University Libraries and Museums (YUL/M) and produced the Born Digital Archives Working Group (BDAWG)Email Archiving Task Force: Final Report.  This product aims to provide an analysis of current tools and workflows around email archiving practices from throughout the field, identify requirements, and explore workflow and tool combinations for use by units at Yale.  Of specific interest has been determining which, from the current landscape of existing tools and approaches, could be adopted by units within YUL/M to readily integrate with existing tools and services.

With a focus on the areas of pre-acquisition, acquisitions, accessioning, and preservation, the task force began the process of gathering information about current tools and processes via an environmental scan.  The scan included interviews with those currently involved with email archiving, both from within and outside of the institution. The gathered information highlighted a diverse set of tools with a subset, of the most commonly used, emerging from across the responses.  The need for well-documented and iterative testing of such tools was also expressed.

The elicitation of core requirements began with the creation of user stories, outlining the actions of key personas in each area of focus.  Through discussion around these predicted tasks and summary of user interactions, the group identified 30 in-scope core requirements across the categories of pre-acquisition, acquisitions, accessioning, preservation, and general requirements.  With the requirements in hand, we turned to the formation of actionable workflows to satisfy each.

Parallel to the requirements elicitation process, and building on the product of the environmental scan,  a summary examination of tools suited for performing various aspects of email archiving was compiled. With a base knowledge of the existing tools and their functionality, each was assessed against the group’s core requirements with the goal of identifying tools that would allow for the full set of requirements to be satisfied, and be subject to in-depth testing.

A small working group was charged with further evaluating the ePADD, Forensic Toolkit (FTK), and Aid4Mail applications.  These tools were identified for testing based on the workflows observed via the environmental scan as being well-suited to handle the flow of data through each stage of the process.  Following additional testing the group formulated process workflow diagrams, modeling how a staff member might undertake the processes of pre-acquisition, acquisitions, accessioning, and preservation in a manner that adheres to the core requirements.

To best facilitate the testing of identified tools and processes, the task force will continue to meet to discuss real-world examples from within the institution’s collections.  Towards providing a consistent and accessible set of tools, work on the creation of a centrally supported suite of software for staff working on born-digital collections has commenced with task force members and LibraryIT.  The full details of our processes and findings are available in the full report.


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