Trevor Owens | Movers & Shakers 2018 – Digital Developers

Over the past eight years, Trevor Owens has moved from the Library of Congress (LC) to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and back to LC. The common thread that runs through each role, however, is his ability to see the big picture and think strategically about digital materials and the policies surrounding them. Owens “has the rare capacity to convert critical intellectual engagement with the challenges that libraries face into practical guidance that resonates with a wide range of librarians,” says nominator Thomas Padilla, visiting digital research services librarian at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Trevor Owens

CURRENT POSITION

Head of Digital Content Management, Library of Congress, Washington, DC

DEGREE

PhD, Research Methods & Educational Technology, 2014; MA, American History, 2009; both George Mason University

FOLLOW

@tjowens on Twitter; TrevorOwens.org

Photo by Shawn Miller

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Access Forever

Over the past eight years, Trevor Owens has moved from the Library of Congress (LC) to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and back to LC. The common thread that runs through each role, however, is his ability to see the big picture and think strategically about digital materials and the policies surrounding them. Owens “has the rare capacity to convert critical intellectual engagement with the challenges that libraries face into practical guidance that resonates with a wide range of librarians,” says nominator Thomas Padilla, visiting digital research services librarian at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

As digital archivist in LC’s Office of Strategic Initiatives from 2010 to 2015, Owens worked to advance the library’s digital collection development and preservation initiatives, including shaping national policy and strategy for managing digital content across its life cycle. In 2015, he moved to IMLS, a mile and a half west but a world away. Working in an administrative position—first as supervisory senior program officer for the agency’s National Digital Platform and then as acting associate deputy director for libraries—Owens helped establish the agency’s National Digital Platform grants portfolio. By the time he left, IMLS had invested nearly $34 million in 111 individual digital infrastructure projects. “All of those represent well-thought-out collaborations and initiatives,” says Owens, “many of which have gone on to have huge impacts.”

Although he remains deeply proud of his work at IMLS, when the new spot at LC opened up in 2017, Owens knew it was an opportunity to do what he did best: build strategy for digital content. As head of digital content management, he supports the team that manages the library’s digital materials and collections, making sure content is available to the widest possible range of users and planning for its long-term preservation. “We all have had moments where a hard drive fails, or we end up with some old disks that we can’t read,” says Owens. “Those challenges become much harder when you are talking about decades and centuries. My team is focused on doing the work to ensure enduring access.”

Owens continues to write (The Theory and Craft of Digital Preservation, Johns Hopkins, forthcoming) and to teach graduate MLS seminars on digital public history, digital art curation, and digital preservation at the University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies. “Trevor has a keen intellect that bends ever toward the practical,” says Padilla. “It’s a rare trait that enables him to communicate in an accessible manner that empowers librarians throughout the country.”

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