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LOCKSS Transitions

Founders of LOCKSS retire, new leadership and grant continue innovative nature of the preservation network.
Victoria Reich and Dr. David S.H. Rosenthal

From Stanford Libraries Newsletter:

Founders of LOCKSS retire, new leadership and grant continue innovative nature of the preservation network

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awards LOCKSS just over $1.2 Million to upgrade its architecture; welcome news to founders Dr. David S.H. Rosenthal and Victoria Reich who will phase out of the organization by early next year.

Victoria (Vicky) Reich and Dr. David S.H. Rosenthal, founders of Stanford’s LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe) Program are stepping down from the organization they founded years ago while walking among the sequoias in 1999. Nicholas Taylor, who previously served as Product and Service Manager for Web Archiving at Stanford Libraries, has assumed a Program Manager role adding oversight for LOCKSS to his Web Archiving responsibilities.

"Key for us is that by stepping back from day-to-day management, now we have time to think more broadly about ways our digital heritage can be collected and preserved at scale," said Reich. "We're looking forward to finding ways to apply our energy and experience to this increasingly urgent problem."

Rosenthal and Reich have been referred to as digital preservation pioneers by the Library of Congress and others in the field. When publications switched from print to digital, Reich, a librarian, grew increasingly concerned about libraries losing custody of the items they purchased. Reich shared her worry with Rosenthal one day while on a hike and soon thereafter a technical framework was born allowing libraries to store and preserve their own collections in their own digital environments.

Reich presented the concept to Stanford’s University Librarian, Michael Keller, who worked with Reich and Rosenthal to turn the concept into an auxiliary of Stanford Libraries and named it LOCKSS, short for Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe. The LOCKSS daemon is an open source technology widely used in formal and informal, private and known, national and petite networks.

"David and Vicky’s idea was a game changer for how libraries managed digital preservation," said Keller, the Ida M. Green University Librarian and Publisher of the Stanford University Press. "The success of LOCKSS since its inception is a result of their hard work, dedication and commitment to maintaining access to licensed and other content."

A wide variety of genres is under preservation control by LOCKSS, including journals, books, government documents, datasets, and library special collections. Its technology powers a number of networks that preserve content from more than a thousand publishers. Any genre or format transmissible by http is susceptible to LOCKSS applications.

Reich came to Stanford in 1986 after running a branch library at the University of Michigan and planning the first electronic reading room under Daniel Boorstin’s leadership at the Library of Congress. Rosenthal had worked on the Andrew project at Carnegie Mellon University, at Sun Microsystems as a distinguished engineer, and started up Nvidia as employee #4.

"When a duo like David and Vicky come in to discuss a solution to an industry-wide problem, you listen," said Keller. "They had a clear vision of LOCKSS, as well as a strategy to raise the necessary money to build a prototype and eventually a production system."

Nearly two decades and countless awards later, LOCKSS has transitioned from a grant-funded operation to a self-sustaining organization with a talented and diverse team – a team that now includes Nicholas Taylor managing LOCKSS program operations, Vivian Wong overseeing the development practice of LOCKSS, and Arthur Pasquinelli, who with Keller started the Preservation and Archiving Special Interest Group (PASIG) in 2007, engaging the LOCKSS community and managing partnerships.

Rosenthal retired in early 2017, and Reich has stepped away from managing the day-to-day operations of LOCKSS and will retire in early 2018. Taylor worked closely with both Rosenthal and Reich before the leadership transition to develop a funding proposal to re-architect the LOCKSS technology into modular components presented via individual web services. "We are excited for what more good LOCKSS technologies may do for digital preservation broadly, with the new potential to integrate it into other contexts," said Taylor.

Earlier this year, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded Stanford University LOCKSS Program the grant to underwrite the re-architecture. In an announcement about the grant, Rosenthal said, "More content is destroyed by people's actions than any other means. The LOCKSS technology secures content against this very real threat and the Mellon Foundation grant enables LOCKSS components to be dis-aggregated into web services for others to use, holding the potential to significantly upgrade preservation treatment levels for a greater amount and a wider variety of content."

According to Taylor, the Mellon funding will allow the team to make LOCKSS a more accessible and flexible tool for digital preservation. "The work we're doing now will unlock the potential of LOCKSS for the better preservation of more and different content, by more institutions."

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