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LOCKSS @ 25: A Model of Excellence in Sustainable Digital Preservation

Black-and-white portrait photograph of Vicky Reich and David S. H. Rosenthal, both smiling

Vicky Reich and David S. H. Rosenthal, founders of the LOCKSS Program at Stanford

Last month, members of the international digital preservation community came together in St. Louis, Missouri for the National Digital Stewardship Alliance’s 2023 DigiPres conference. In addition to dozens of panel sessions and papers, tasty meals, tours of local collections, and networking opportunities, the DigiPres program included the announcement of this year’s NDSA Excellence Awards. We are delighted to share that the founders of the LOCKSS Program, Vicky Reich and David Rosenthal, were honored for their work with the NDSA Sustainability Award. This award recognizes “activities whose goals or outcomes make a significant contribution to operational trustworthiness, monitoring, maintenance, or intervention necessary for sustainable digital preservation stewardship.”

In the 25 years since its founding, Vicky, David, and the LOCKSS Program have been repeatedly recognized for their visionary leadership in the field of digital preservation. With the oldest LOCKSS networks such as the Global LOCKSS Network, CLOCKSS, and MetaArchive now celebrating over 20 years of continuous operation, sustainability is a proven feature of LOCKSS networks as well as a core value of our program. Different LOCKSS networks have taken varied approaches to governance, technology, and financial structures, yet they have each achieved similarly robust results when it comes to long-term viability. The Michigan Digital Preservation Network–the most recently formed LOCKSS network, and the first that will launch all its nodes with the new LOCKSS 2.0 software–benefits from the “low-cost, low-maintenance” model piloted by the Alabama Digital Preservation Network, and builds on it by specifically targeting the kinds of smaller regional historical and cultural institutions whose digital collections are frequently at risk. Each new LOCKSS network, and every new LOCKSS user, therefore benefits from the cumulative effort of our community, and contributes to the sustainability of our stewardship mission.

Preservation is a continuous and rarely glamorous process; the labor of digital preservation, in particular, is largely invisible and under-supported. Endurance and persistence are the measures of its success, and established systems that simply work–and keep working!– tend to receive far less attention than new projects that seek to disrupt or revolutionize. The NDSA Sustainability Award is a welcome reminder that, when it comes to digital stewardship, “still here” is just as newsworthy as “brand new” or “coming soon.” All of us on the LOCKSS Program team are truly proud to join NDSA in celebrating Vicky and David’s accomplishments, and to be carrying on the exemplary work they began a quarter-century ago. Congratulations, Vicky and David!

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