Center for Archival Resources On Legislatures (CAROL)
Foundations: Formats and Standards
Choosing appropriate formats and standards for your current and future needs will increase the odds of maintaining access and preservation over time.
To assist with choosing appropriate formats and standards, evaluate your immediate and long-term goals. Use formats and standards that have solid foundations and have remained stable over time. Guidance can be gained by studying how comparable organizations made these decisions and understanding what worked or didn't work for them.
Advances in technology are constant; understand that the landscape is always changing. The best you can do is make decisions on what you know and be aware of changes or advancements as they relate to you. Choose formats and use standards that best position your organization for ongoing access and use, and long-term preservation.
The following information is provided on various topics to assist with making decisions about what formats or standards to use. (The information was current as of 2009-2011.)
To assist with determining the appropriate format, use format registries to learn about the properties and long-term sustainability of formats. Descriptions and links to common format registries are provided here.
Many organizations are moving to non-paper environments for various reasons. This means that organizations need to be thinking about the long-term management of electronic records. Standards for audio and video files and for digitization of files were of specific interest to NDIIPP partners. More information on these topics can be found here.
The use of metadata will help you describe your files which, in turn, increases access and long-term preservation options. Learn more about metadata, metadata crosswalks, and metadata schemas here.
XML is a hardware- and software-independent structured language and format designed to structure, store, transport, and facilitate presentation of data. XML is a tool used for data transmissions between a variety of applications. The following page summarizes the characteristics of XML and links to additional resources.
Access to collections and/or data is often done via the Internet. It is important to understand and follow standards specifically associated with web access. More information can be found here.
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Links to the main sections of CAROL are provided below.
February 15 , 2012; links verified March 29, 2013.