By Ellen Meltzer, Information Services Manager; Photo: Craig Thompson, Web Producer
Perry Willett arrived at the CDL via a path encompassing diverse specialties and passions, all within the boundaries of librarianship. He’s now a project manager in the Digital Preservation Group, whose other members include Stephen Abrams, Patricia Cruse, Scott Fisher, Erik Hetzner, John Kunze, Margaret Low, David Loy, Mark Reyes, Tracy Seneca, Marisa Strong. Perry started out as a business and economics librarian at SUNY-Binghamton, and morphed into an English and American Literature Librarian (his passion) when offered the opportunity there—heart winning over practicality, perhaps—but a good move in the long run. He then moved to Indiana University and became involved in the Library Electronic Text Resource Service (LETRS) and started the Victorian Women Writers Project. His most recent position before landing at CDL was as head of digital library production at the University of Michigan where he was responsible for both digitizing parts of the library collections and developing software for access.
Perry currently has 3 hefty projects he’s tackling at CDL. First, he’s organizing the 2-day iPres Conference, the 6th in a series of international conferences on the topic of digital preservation planned for October in San Francisco. [Learn more here: http://www.cdlib.org/iPres/ ] Past iPres Conferences have been held in China and England, so we’re lucky to host this one in California. Perry is animated when describing the high quality of the submitted papers, the terrific support from vendors who help keep the conference affordable, and the international range of attendees.
Perry also serves as project manager for Web Arching Service (WAS) development, with his colleague Tracy Seneca as project coordinator, and for Jhove2 development, working closely with Senior Manager for Digital Preservation Technology, Stephan Abrams. Perry sees his role as overseeing these projects, finding ways to communicate about their plans as they move forward, filling in gaps, and bridging disciplines and communities. Perry also hopes to further build connections with UC campuses, to understand their needs and expectations for digital preservation, and to facilitate the building of tools to meet these needs.
Perry has managed collections of electronic texts and digital libraries over the past 15 years; watching the flow from production to delivery. Along the way, Perry co-chaired early efforts in the Digital Library Federation (DLF) community to establish a set of best practices in the humanities electronic text projects. Combined with his existing knowledge, Perry brings a deep awareness of how people use digital libraries and digital information. This understanding helps inform his contributions to digital preservation.
But there are still many challenges for Perry. In his new position he continues to learn, especially about data sets, scientific data and the needs of researchers in the sciences, quite dissimilar from the worlds of humanists. There’s a distinct difference between creating digital collections, he argues, and engaging in digital preservation. Digital preservation is still a young field and he is gaining knowledge about new technologies in the field, surrounded by knowledgeable colleagues.
There is no arguing that his background encompassing experience in public services, collection development, special collections and digital libraries makes Perry an almost perfect match for his current position. His understanding of how people use libraries is at the core anything he engages; in the back of his mind rests the thought of how people use our resources. From past experience as a builder of print collections to his current role in facilitating the archiving of the digital, Perry has all bases covered.