Library of Congress Names Campus Visionary Larry Carver a ‘Pioneer of Digital Preservation’
By Eileen Conrad
On Nov. 3, election night, almost every television news station and Web news site displayed an interactive map of the United States with real-time voting results.
The maps shared a common feature: geospatial technology analyzing a range of geographic-based coordinates and data. The technology has evolved over the last three decades from specialized academic obscurity to the ultimate form of public acceptance. It is now just another information-age appliance running discreetly in the background and taken for granted in a Google world.
Larry Carver, who recently retired as director of library technologies and digital initiatives at UC Santa Barbara, is among the visionaries who enabled this transformation. For his seminal role in collecting and preserving our digital heritage, the Library of Congress has named Carver a “Pioneer of Digital Preservation.”
“We at the UCSB Library are thrilled that Larry Carver has received this important and well-deserved recognition,” said Brenda Johnson, university librarian. “His tireless and innovative work in the development of the Map and Imagery Lab and the Alexandria Digital Library has brought international attention to our library and has benefited thousands of scholars, students, and members of the public from around the world. We offer him our heartiest congratulations on being named a Library of Congress ‘Pioneer of Digital Preservation.’”
Carver began his career at the library where he helped build an impressive collection of maps, aerial photography, and satellite imagery that led to the development of the Map and Imagery Laboratory (MIL) in 1979. As the MIL collections grew, Carver felt that geospatial data presented a unique challenge to the library. He believed that coordinate-based collections should be managed differently than book-based collections. But not everyone agreed with him.
“It became apparent that handling traditional geospatial content in a typical library context was just not satisfactory and another means to control that data was important,” he said. “It wasn’t as easy as it sounds. I was in a very conservative environment, and they were not easily convinced that this was something a library should do.”
Carver and others spent years developing an exhaustive set of requirements for building a geospatial information management system. The system had a number of innovative ideas. “We included traditional methods of handling metadata but also wanted to search by location on the Earth’s surface,” Carver said.
“The idea was that if you point to a place on the Earth you could ask the question, ‘What information do you have about that space?,’ as opposed to a traditional way of having to know ahead of time who wrote about it.”
An opportunity to develop that system arrived in 1994 when UCSB received funding from the National Science Foundation.