June 18, 2018

Trevor Owens | Movers & Shakers 2018 – Digital Developers

Trevor Owens


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


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


@tjowens on Twitter; TrevorOwens.org

Photo by Shawn Miller


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.”

This article was published in Library Journal's March 15, 2018 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Maker Workshop
In this two-week online course, you’ll create a maker program that aligns with your budget and community needs, with personal coaching from maker experts—from libraries and beyond—May 23 & June 6, 2018.
Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  4. Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media, per our Terms of Use.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind