Manager of Library Software Engineering
Given ever-accelerating growth in the number, size, complexity, and diversity of digital collections; increasing demands placed on finite institutional human, budgetary, and technical resources; and new imperatives regarding environmental sustainability, it is important to continually evolve perspectives on how best to steward collective digital cultural heritage responsibly. This session explores Harvard Library’s effort to confront these contemporary challenges by reconceptualizing its digital preservation ecosystem. The timely confluence of storage abstractions, standards, practices, and tools affords the opportunity for a new infrastructural paradigm that provides increased preservation assurance and operational flexibility while realizing significant cost and environmental impact reductions. By transitioning from Portable Operating System Interface (POSIX) to object storage, standardizing on the Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) application programming interface (API), and structuring its digital objects according to the Oxford Common File Layout (OCFL) specification, the Library has created a uniform and highly portable vendor-, platform-, and media-agnostic storage fabric through which community-based tools and services can interact with its collections. Automated policy-directed storage orchestration enforces content replication conforming to dynamic curatorial (re)assessment of risk, value, and pattern of use, ensuring appropriate alignment of preservation intention, effort, expectation, and outcome. Having undergone this foundational storage and structural transformation, the Library is now envisioning a future-facing approach to enabling preservation, management, and access to collections across the range of existing, emerging, and anticipated services supporting the University’s research, teaching, and learning mission as well as its efficient administrative operation.