Job Opening: Senior Developer in the Media Library & Archives

If interested, please apply at and reference Job Requisition # P-0783.

WGBH is looking for a creative and energetic Senior Developer to lead the development of a digital asset management (DAM) preservation system for the WGBH Media Library and Archives.

The Senior Developer will play a leading role in designing and implementing the architecture, workflows, and applications for WGBH MLA digital library services. The system will be based on the Hydra Project technology stack, which includes Ruby on Rails, Blacklight, Apache Solr, and the Fedora Commons repository. In addition, the Senior Developer will work on web based projects for the Media Library and Archives, including the implementation of a website to give scholars and researchers access to material in the WGBH Archive.

Working closely with the Media Library and Archive’s Director, Project Manager, and a WGBH Interactive Designer, the Senior Developer will specify, document and develop the technical architecture of a prototype digital asset management system for digital preservation. They will develop user interfaces to the system. They will also continue to develop the Open Vault website:

Specific duties include:

  • Gather requirements and develop specifications for the digital library architecture; work closely with digital object creators and managers to understand their needs.
  • Working with open-source applications and toolkits, design and implement a multi-purpose repository infrastructure that supports the ingestion, preservation, and delivery of digital objects.
  • Test, evaluate, and recommend potential toolkits and applications for inclusion in the repository architecture.
  • Design and implement workflows to extract, transform and repurpose metadata and digital objects as needed.
  • Customize open source applications to provide front-end interfaces to the repository for end-user delivery.
  • Maintain digital library architecture, troubleshooting issues whenever they arise.
  • Keep abreast of community-wide developments in the realm of digital library software and infrastructure.
  • Contribute to the development of Open Source applications.
  • Write and maintain documentation.
  • May supervise junior programmers.

Please note that this position has the possibility of being extended based upon funding levels.

Responsible for maintaining a working environment that leverages the potential and diversity of the department’s entire staff. Provide direction and leadership in such a way as to nurture, create and maintain an environment that is (1) free from discrimination, intolerance and harassment and (2) provides employees with equal access to opportunities for growth and advancement including professional development whenever possible.

Skills Required:

The ideal candidate:

  • Has experience implementing digital archives, using repository software such as DSpace or Fedora Commons.
  • Is Unix proficient.
  • Has some experience with Blacklight, Hydra, Ruby on Rails and/or Solr.
  • Can demonstrate understanding of Internet technologies including HTML, CSS, JavaScript and XML (particularly XSLT, XPath and RDF).
  • Has worked with web services such as REST, SOAP and/or XML-RPC.
  • Is familiar with one or more RDMS, such as MySQL. Experience integrating with, or extracting data from, FileMaker Pro will also be helpful.
  • Is familiar with online media workflows (from post-production to compression to distribution).

WGBH is a Mac shop, with LAMP servers. Candidates should be prepared to share and discuss code samples.

Educational Requirements:

To perform the required duties, the Senior Developer must possess the skills and qualities required to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, and more than 3 years of work experience developing web applications. Demonstrated interest in library or moving images archive issues preferred.

Department Overview:

WGBH produces the best and most well known television, radio and online programs for public media. The WGBH Media Library and Archives preserves and helps re-purpose WGBH creations into the future. The MLA establishes the policies and procedures for the access, acquisition, intellectual control, and preservation of WGBH’s physical media and digital production and administrative assets. The MLA also offers production organization of archival materials from projects start up to shut down, research services, rights clearances, and licenses WGBH stock footage. This is a full-time, on-site position with benefits, starting as soon as possible. It is funded for 12 months, with the possibility of renewal after that. Moderate travel may be required. We work hard, but believe in work/life balance.

Mapping our internal catalog to Open Vault

For our “Participatory Cataloging” project, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we are planning to post our entire internal library catalog on Open Vault in the coming months. I have the enviable task of mapping our homegrown Filemaker database to the PBCoredata structure that determines the metadata you see here on Open Vault. With the help of my colleagues in the WGBH Library, Archives and Interactive departments, we are working out exactly which piece of data will end up where on this site, and how to translate years of legacy workflows into something we can reproduce and sustain online.

Media Archives Research SystemOur homegrown database is called “MARS.” As librarians we love our acronyms. “MARS” stands for the “Media Archive Research System” and it is used here at WGBH to manage our physical archives. Productions use MARS to conduct research and to find and retrieve tapes. My department, the Media Library & Archives, home of MARS, uses it as a catalog of our physical collection. In addition, it manages circulation, maintains many of our controlled vocabularies, and relates our rights information to our programs. This is a lot to ask of one system, and a lot to ask of one web interface. This is the challenge of putting MARS online.

An additional issue is the historical inconsistency of the data. Over the years, we’ve had varying levels of description and cataloging coming in from our productions as they archive their materials. We rely wholly on the productions to describe the materials they deposit and, if they don’t describe it well, they can’t find it again. In recent years, as our compliance managers have worked hard to set up procedures and tools for our producers, the data has improved substantially. But what to do with all of the older empty fields?

The empty fields are the main motivation for this project. Once we have our catalog online, we will work with our users to see if they can help us fill in the gaps. For example, a researcher watching a videotape will know more about the contents of the tape than our MARS system records. We plan to work with that researcher to incorporate his or her notes into the catalog and improve the accessibility of that tape’s record.

Admittedly, we have a bit of a chicken and egg issue here: how will the researcher find what they need if the tape is not fully described? Well, it’s possible. As shallow as our catalog sometimes is on the details, it is deep on context – if you know how to read it. Our researchers’ archival sleuthing skills, combined with the knowledge of our reference staff will hopefully land them in the right place until we are able to build out the details.

Despite these challenges, as I work with the fields in MARS, a clear picture is emerging of our core data set. As a working corporate archive with a public mission, we sometimes feel a bit of schizophrenia. We are constantly accessioning new materials, adding new records to MARS, and circulating old materials for re-use and re-versioning. With all of these moving pieces, it is very gratifying to see that the core data set and structure holds strong.

I may eat these words when I move on to mapping our multi-layered, multi-modal digital asset management system… stay tuned!

[Chicken courtesy USDA]



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