Yale University Library

Digital Conservator, Preservation Department

Position Focus

The Digital Conservator will report to the digital preservation manager in the Yale University Library Preservation Department and ­­will be advised by a Professor Holly Rushmeier of the Computer Science Department.

The primary focus of the role will be to establish best practices and prototype standards for identifying and documenting software, disk images and emulator configurations. The aim of these activities is to enable the preservation and continued use of older software for activities such as accessing software dependent content, validating research results that depend on software, and reproducing software-dependent scientific research. As part of this work, the conservator will be working with the existing emulation infrastructure that Yale University Library has been establishing and is expected to develop comprehensive expertise in this infrastructure (including the Emulation as a Service software framework developed by the University of Freiburg).

The fellow will use science and social science software as the initial examples for testing documentation approaches and will work with partners across Yale and within the wider community (such as the Software Preservation Network) to validate the approaches they have developed.

The digital conservator may also have the opportunity to teach or co-teach a course on software curation or a related topic in the computer science department.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities

1. Establish, document, validate, and share an approach to uniquely identifying and documenting software (both commercial software and custom and/or user-developed software), emulator configurations, and installed environments (i.e. disk images with software installed on them that can be run in an emulator with a particular configuration).

This work will eventually be formalized into a documentation standard in collaboration with the newly forming Software Preservation Network (SPN) and other partners.

2. Work with the digital preservation manager to become an expert user of emulation tools and services to enable their use in preserving of software and software dependent content.

3. Begin to document older scientific software using the developed approach in collaboration with partners at Yale such as representatives from Yale’s Center for Science and Social Science Information (CSSSI) This will require:

a. Working with Yale partners to acquire the software to be documented

b. Establishing and configuring an environment and disk image to run the software in (either emulated, using the Library’s legacy hardware collection, or both)

c. Installing, configuration and running the software in the configured environment

d. Documenting the components of the software, emulator configuration, and disk images (e.g. input and output formats, hardware requirements, etc

4. Create and document (using the approaches in 1 and 2) standard Linux (operating system) environments installed on disk images that can be used in emulators and shared publicly for use in accessing, reproducing and validating software-dependent scientific research.

5. Create and document environments that include the operating systems required to run Docker containers in order to enable the preservation of Docker images as used in computational science

6. Attempt to (algorithmically) analyze the software documentation dataset produced as part of this work to discover novel insights.

7. Share progress on a regular basis with stakeholders within Yale University Library, the wider Yale Community, and other external stakeholders such as the Software Preservation Network.


$70,000 plus benefits


Information on benefits for Yale Postdoctoral fellows is available here: http://postdocs.yale.edu/postdocs/benefits

Guidance and Support

The fellow will have opportunities to draw on a wide range of digital archiving and data curation expertise from across the Yale and the Yale University Library (YUL) system. The fellow will also be able to participate in related groups that YUL is a member of such as the BitCurator Consortium, the National Digital Stewardship Alliance and the Software Preservation Network.

In addition these opportunities the Fellow will be advised by Holly Rushmeier in the Computer Science Department and will be able to participate in departmental activities and networking opportunities.

Required Skills

  1. Demonstrable analytical skills and aptitude for desk-based research including the ability to reason insightfully when presented with a technical problem and present coherent argument for chosen way forward.
  2. Ability to write simple programs/scripts and XML stylesheets and understand basic program code and XML.
  3. Strong team working and communications skills.

Preferred Education, Skills and Experience

  • Experience in preserving software.
  • Experience in metadata creation or cataloguing.
  • Experience in data modelling or systems architecture.
  • Experience with disk imaging and digital forensics software.
  • Experience working with preservation tools such as DROID, JHOVE, Siegfried, and Jpylyzer.
  • Ability to write complex programs and a thorough understanding of at least one programming language e.g. python, java, perl c, c++, etc.
  • Experience of working on digital preservation research projects.
  • An understanding of the ethos and philosophy of collection management.
  • Experience of working in a research library, archive or research data center.
  • Experience in software testing.
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