By Tom Gilson (Associate Editor, Against the Grain) and Katina Strauch (Editor, Against the Grain)
Against the Grain v34#3
ATG: Alicia, you’ve had a diverse and successful career in our industry. So why is being the Executive Director of CLOCKSS the right fit for you now? What made you say “yes” when you were offered the position?
AW: Thank you, Tom and Katina! CLOCKSS is such a good fit. It’s a collaboration between libraries and publishers, the people best placed to look after and provide access to the scholarly record for the very long term. CLOCKSS is highly international, preserving scholarship written around the globe, in centers of preservation excellence around the globe, with a community of support around the globe. It’s a changing organization too — it’s officially 13 years old right now and teenage years are always exciting!
ATG: When you accepted the position, you remarked that CLOCKSS was “a profoundly important service.” For those unfamiliar with CLOCKSS and its mission, can you tell us why it’s so important? What essential services does CLOCKSS offer to those in the world of scholarly communications? Is there anything unique about those services?
AW: The mission of the CLOCKSS archive is to ensure the scholarly record remains available for humanity. Scholars have worked so hard to advance knowledge, and their hard work is important to us all and especially to those scholars who will build on this foundation in the future. Digital preservation is too big a job for any single organization, and even were it possible, it’s too important a job to entrust to any single organization, and so the community approach of CLOCKSS along with, and more broadly, LOCKSS is inspiring.
At CLOCKSS we focus on electronic publications. Initially this meant books and journals, but now it means books, journals, and much more. We are preserving all the rich resources that underpin articles and books (think data, protocols, software, visualizations), and entirely new forms of scholarship too (think scholar-led, interactive humanities resources published by academics or libraries).
CLOCKSS is a dark archive which means the content entrusted to us is made accessible only after the original or successor creators and publishers are no longer able to look after it. When CLOCKSS provides access to the content, it becomes open access to everyone in perpetuity.
ATG: You also noted, after receiving the appointment, that it was “an honour to be entrusted with the next phase of CLOCKSS development.” Can you share your vision for the next phase of that development? What role do you see for CLOCKSS in the overall infrastructure of academic scholarship?
AW: We’re working on our 3-year strategy now, so I can’t say too much just yet but what an environment we are working in. Digital content of all kinds and at all stages in the research lifecycle has context and meaning. The scholarly record is rapidly changing and diversifying and includes everything from lab notebooks to preprints to dynamic databases, interactive resources, knowledge graphs and more. How do you preserve an entire online global ecosystem in which scholars collaborate, discover, and share new knowledge?
ATG: We understand that CLOCKSS is jointly governed and funded by libraries and publishers. Since organizational success requires collaboration between the stakeholders, can you give us examples of how the libraries and publishers in the CLOCKSS community work together to ensure success?
AW: Absolutely! One example is that there is a virtuous pull from libraries on publishers. By championing the importance of long-term preservation, and including requirements in agreements with publishers for deposit of content in archives such as CLOCKSS, libraries initiate digital preservation in many ways. Publishers do the heavy lifting of supporting authors and ensuring the content they publish is formatted well, richly linked with other objects in the scholarly ecosystem, and described through metadata. Publishers ensure this content is backed up, and they also deposit the content with archives such as CLOCKSS or open up a pathway for us to harvest this. The library and publishing communities come together to fund the preservation services we provide, and to jointly govern the CLOCKSS archive. Library expertise then delivers the long-term digital preservation services at the heart of our operation. It’s far more affordable and efficient to collaborate than for any library, consortium, or publisher to do all of this themselves.
ATG: Alicia, you recently celebrated your first year as CLOCKSS’ Executive Director. Can you share your impressions so far? Are there specific organizational strengths that can be built on? Have you detected any weaknesses that need to be addressed? Did anything surprise you during this first year?
AW: My predecessors, Vicky Reich, Randy Kiefer, and Craig Van Dyck, left the organization in a strong state and the technical team at Stanford is really innovative and impressive. We’ve got a dedicated community of supporting libraries and participating publishers. There are some incredible strengths on which to build. We need to communicate and engage more, particularly with libraries, with book publishers, and with stakeholders in the global south. We’ve got some exciting new projects now underway with partners, for example looking at ways to systematize the preservation of open access content and to better align with the changing nature of digital scholarship. We need to do more with copyright issues and the long-term preservation of eBooks: authors are essential stakeholders and perhaps not always aware of the steps taken to preserve their works for posterity. Archiving practices need constant reflection too, and particular challenges at present include increased global tension and also the climate crisis.
ATG: This first year with CLOCKSS must have been both exciting and very hectic. But everyone needs to decompress and get recharged. Are there any favorite activities that you particularly enjoy? Are there any special hobbies that provide both fun and relaxation?
AW: Ha! I’ve gone a little crazy on this front since the Covid lockdowns. My son says I’m doing all of the side quests. I experimented with the Appalachian dulcimer and really love playing it, but am finding it lonely as I’ve got no one to play with so my newest thing is a beginner’s singing class. We are practicing “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis to start. I’m aiming to try singing improv for the first time later in the year, but would frighten foxes away just at the minute. There’s definite room for improvement!