Three of the four articles in the current issue address web archiving. Web is not being used here as synonymous with 'digital' or 'Internet' but specifically references material found on what would normally be considered the web, generally viewed via web browsers, and so on. What I found interesting about these articles is that they are not primarily technical in nature, but instead consider the web as a source of material to be studied and archived. Much of the discussion on archiving in recent years has revolved around the challenges of persisting digital data over time, given the assumed rate of technical change. That has been covered in D-Lib Magazine and many other sources over the years and many issues still remain to be solved, although much progress has been made. The issues considered in these articles, on the other hand, are the relative importance of archiving the web, selection policies, organizational strategies, usability of the resulting archives and, in general, how and why to archive the constantly changing flow of the web.
We lead with Stirling, Chevallier, and Illien discussing web archiving at the Bibliothèque national de France (BNF). Archiving the 'French Internet' has been a BNF mission since 2006 and public access to that archive has been in place in an experimental mode since 2008. Use of this facility has proven somewhat limited and a qualitative study was conducted among a small number of researchers to explore their needs and requirements for such an archive. The authors use this somewhat unpromising start (little use, small survey) as a jumping off point for a very interesting analysis of web archiving issues. The size, scope, and dynamic aspects of web content, which now reflects one way or another a considerable percentage of human social and commercial activity, make web archiving a very rich topic.
We follow this with a pair of articles by Jinfang Niu. She surveyed the current state of web archiving while preparing a course on the subject and has recorded her findings in two articles. The first is an overview based on a literature review and the second is a more detailed examination of the functions of existing web archives. Using a functionality check-list including items such as search parameters, usage policies, data mining, and reconstruction of lost web sites, she evaluates ten publicly accessible English-language archives. She finds considerable variability across the ten separate archives, but anticipates a trend towards increased functionality and usability as web archiving continues to grow.
Our fourth and final article, by McMahon et al., addresses social awareness tools in scientific research. The growth of social networking has extended to tools specific to the practice of science, which is by nature a collaborative process. The authors describe these tools, present arguments for their use and propose that libraries and librarians are well placed to be advocates of these tools and contribute to their improvement and increased use.
We wrap up with a conference report on the 7th International Digital Curation Conference held last December in Bristol, UK and, of course, our usual collection of news and events. I hope you find the issue useful.
About the Editor