"DeKALB – With the help of a $575,000 grant, a group of university librarians and curators hope to have an answer to a growing problem.

Lynne Thomas, curator of rare books and special collections at Northern Illinois University’s Founders Memorial Library, learned in October that NIU, along with four other universities, secured a grant to study the best practices for storing digital data.

The federal National Leadership Grant came from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

“Libraries have been taking on digital objects for the last 10 to 15 years,” she said. “The grant will help us learn how to scale [the process] down for institutions with fewer resources.”

With the passage of time, storage devices can degrade over time, a phenomenon known colloquially as “bit rot.”

Thomas said saving digital objects such as PDFs and video files from bit rot is a problem librarians and archivists have been working to solve for years.

But it’s mostly large, well-funded institutions that can afford today’s archiving systems.

Librarians and curators from Chicago State University, Western Illinois University, Illinois Wesleyan University and Illinois State University are joining NIU in a group called Digital Preserving Digital Objects With Restricted Resources."