Space/Time Directory Engineer

New York City
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Created: June 2, 2015


The New York Public Library is seeking a uniquely qualified individual to join its digital R&D team, NYPL Labs (, in the service of building a historical geospatial data platform for New York City. This project, The New York City Space/Time Directory (, fuses The Library’s collection of maps and historical data with the latest in web mapping technology in order to make them available to the public as a service. (This also taps into our love for time travel metaphors.)

Do you want to change how libraries and other public institutions engage with civic tech, how the public interacts with history, and to give New Yorkers a ubiquitous connection to their city’s past? Are you interested in contributing to a major public knowledge project that could serve as a model for other cities?

If your answer is an enthusiastic “yes” -- and you care about collaboration, curiosity, technical excellence, and continuous improvements -- NYPL Labs is the right place for you.

The Job:

You’ll be designing and building the architecture and infrastructure for a historical geospatial web service. It will look an awful lot like a modern geospatial web service (and may share a lot of the same tools and code). You’ll be using the same processes used for making a modern service such as OpenStreetMap while also applying conflation processes to NYPL’s historical collections and crowdsourced data.

Note: You won't be starting from scratch. Over the past few years, NYPL has developed a workflow for digitizing and geo-rectifying historical maps, and for mining building-level vector data through computational process and crowdsourcing. We've even prototyped a historical gazetteer. We need your help to build upon these foundations to create a true open source, open access search of New York’s historical places.

You will join NYPL Labs’ Product and R&D Group, the band of artists, designers, and technologists behind Building Inspector (, NYPL Digital Collections (, The Stereogranimator (, and more. You’ll be working hand-in-hand with NYPL’s Geospatial Librarian, Labs’ Director, our Interaction Lead, our Metadata team, and a host of other collaborators, internal and external, to craft and build the Space/Time Directory.

As Space/Time Directory Engineer, you will:
  • Build a backend spatial database system supporting the integration of heterogeneous historical and contemporary datasets
  • Design a system to disambiguate, confirm and confer the connections between places and spaces over time using a combination of expert knowledge, crowdsourcing, and consensus computation
  • Design data contribution channels and remediation tools for librarians, archivists, domain experts and members of the public
  • Build easy-to-use and well documented APIs
  • Design and publish reproducible tools, software, and workflows to allow the flourishing of other Space/Time Directories to public, open access repositories
  • Communicate your work to the world through blogging, conferences, and hack events and workshops hosted by NYPL Labs
  • Advocate and facilitate a broader public conversation around this project and and how it fits into the new definition of what libraries can be

Your office will be NYPL’s flagship library and architectural landmark, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 42nd St. (also known as "The One With The Lions", or "The Library From Ghostbusters"). The work is on a roughly 9-5 schedule (flexible), with periodic evening engagement activities, a bit of travel, and the very occasional weekend commitment. But we take the life/work balance very seriously, and the Library provides and excellent benefits and vacation package. It's a great place to work.

This position is supported by a generous grant from the Knight Foundation ( and is guaranteed for two years. There is a strong desire to continue the project beyond that, and the Library has a track record of moving grant-incubated projects into core operations.

  • Comfortable building a large, scalable data infrastructure
  • Extensive expertise in web back-end technologies such as Python, Ruby, PHP, or Node.js, Go
  • Experience collaborating closely with front-end developers and designers
  • Appetite for engagement with a community of contributors, technical and nontechnical alike, beyond the institution's walls
  • Ability to write excellent prose as well as code
  • Aptitude for learning and teaching new technologies
  • Comfortable in both collaborative and self-directed environments

Bonus Points:
  • Contributor on a large open-source project
  • Experience working with some of the following:
  • PostGIS
  • ElasticSearch
  • OpenStreetMap Infrastructure
  • Neo4J or similar graph database
  • Interesting hobbies

Last updated: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 23:41 UTC