SIDEBAR 3-9 Denver Earth Resources Library

The Denver Earth Resources Library (DERL) is a private collection of petroleum industry–related documents, records, books, and maps, organized and stored in 11,000 square feet of commercial space in downtown Denver, Colorado. Records and documents kept at DERL are largely materials donated by major and independent oil companies and individuals. Data include geophysical surveys (seismic), well records, and completion cards. Access to the library data and materials is by membership, with annual dues, as well as with user fees charged to non-members. Student access for academic purposes is generally at no charge. On a typical day about 30 people use the facilities at the DERL.

DERL is a successful, low-tech example of preservation of geoscience data. Data and records generally remain in the format in which they were donated (paper, film, microfiche, or digital). DERL’s consistent use implies a commercial niche in the Denver area for storage and access of regional geologic data of high quality and strategic value.

Committee Conclusions of Best Practices: (1) active, steady clientele support; (2) good regional holdings of paper, fiche, and other physical records.

The committee visited DERL in June 2001.

SOURCE: Kay Waller and Laura Mercer, DERL, personal communication, 2001.

value4 of these materials and determine how long they should be kept beyond the agency’s immediate use. If the materials are permanently valuable, NARA will specify a transfer date and an archival repository. Federal documentary materials may not be destroyed, donated to other repositories, or maintained permanently by the originating agency without the approval of NARA (Yvonne Wilson, NARA, personal communication, 2002). Other representative government-housed collections are discussed in Sidebar 3-8.

In addition to field notes, photographs, and maps, other types of data within the other data category include scout tickets (written descriptions of individual drill holes, including whether they produced hydrocarbons or not) and completion records (descriptions of the engineering characteristics of a given well). These kinds of data traditionally have been kept in paper or microfiche (see Sidebar 3-9), but increasingly are being collected and retained digitally.


Geoscience data and collections are archived in a variety of settings around the country, and are collected by many entities within the government, academic, and private sectors, as well as by individuals. They are retained predominantly because they remain useful, or have potential for being useful. These collections can be bulky, particularly cores, which presents a challenge for retaining materials in general and rescuing those that remain valuable but are at risk. There is no federal government-wide coordination of standards for archiving, accession, or deaccession of federal geoscience materials. Yet there are several examples of difficulty in caring for federal collections with current funding levels. Commonly, the success stories the committee encountered were partnerships that had been established between various sectors. Less often, commercial viability led to archiving some geoscience data and collections. There are no set formulas for partners in successful collaborations: successful partnerships occur between the private and public sectors, between state and federal government, and between academia and government. A common element among all these partnerships is a broad user community sharing a common goal—to preserve and make available useful geoscience data and collections.


There is some very broad and general guidance on the appraisal of scientific records in Category 15a, “Scientific and Technical Data” of NARA (2002a). For example, category 15a states, “Generally data selected for permanent retention are unique, accurate, comprehensive, and complete, and they are actually or potentially applicable to a wide variety of research problems.” Because these published criteria are so broad in scope, NARA usually works with individual agencies on a case-by-case basis to appraise their scientific records to determine their disposition (Larry Baume, NARA, personal communication, 2002). Additional guidelines on appraisal are outlined in NARA (2002b).

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