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ARSCLIST  May 2007

ARSCLIST May 2007

Subject:

Re: Mass Digitization

From:

Karl Miller <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 18 May 2007 07:35:52 -0700

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"Andes, Donald" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:    ***Also, most of what Archeoloigists are looking for have wider appeal, since it connect dots in the greater fabric of our existence. 
   
  I would wonder about this. As one who is obsessed with music, I know I cannot have any objective perspective. I must admit that I find it odd to think that some pieces of pottery would have greater appeal to the  public.
   
  ***Not to play the pessimist, but I find Libararies will be following
records stores to their demise, and I question what can be done, so late in the game to change the inevitable.
   
  I guess I believe that our major libraries will remain, but I often wonder if they will not remain due to the unique materials that they may house. It would seem logical that they can assume some museum function. I would like to think of them as our Intellectual History Museums. 
   
  Indeed, it will be most interesting to see how things play out in the next few years. I am reminded of our thriving local CD shop. They do so well because our town has such an active music scene and the owner of the store is most generous to those who produce their own recordings. They have found their niche. As I write this, I am reminded of the days of one of my favorite record stores from the past, Music Masters. You could find the esoteric and people who knew the stuff...and a place to sit down, listen and talk. 

***I believe we COULD preserve it all, however, we (the archival community)need to start putting more time into large scale cohesive planning and lobbying for funding to support it, instead of running around crying that the sky is falling.
   
  While I don't know if we could preserve it all, I do see progress with the National Recordings Preservation Board and the efforts of the Librarian of Congress. I believe it will take some highly articulate and informed marketing. 
   
  Sometimes I think people just don't know. I often give talks to groups of all sorts, mostly retired people. When I describe the situation there is always some offer of support from the audience. Yet, with our new library director abandoning audio preservation, I do not know where these offers of financial assistance should be sent. While my situation may be unique, I find it problematic that if even some of those entrusted with our intellectual history, seem to be so disinterested in preserving it. I know I have written this many times, but I still cannot get over the thought that less than 4%  of the Association of Research Libraries budgets is devoted to preservation...and yes, I realize that most libraries see that their responsibilities reside elsewhere, however...with the public looking elsewhere for it basic information needs, I believe libraries need to exploit their uniqueness.
  
***at Google books is doing. I'm not in 100% agreement with the plan or it's direction, but think of the scale. Think of what they set out to accomplish. Strange, how no one IN the community thinks on this level. 
   
  It is really quite amazing to me, not only the concept but the speed at which they are working and how quickly they went from a concept to the development of an infrastructure to implementation. 
   
  I believe there are those within the community who think in such terms. My best guess as to why no progress is made has to do with the fact that libraries and archives have been, in the past, monopolies. There has been no incentive to innovate. Now there is. I believe we are now seeing in the information biz, what happens in business, the building of a parallel organization within the marketplace. 

***Like Google books, I'm sure those outside the industry will figure this all out for us, whether the solution is fool proof or not. Regardless, it will just verify that our industry is lost and behind the times, and our dismal salaries are in line with what they should be.
   
  I can image the response you might get from much of the archival community, but I will agree with you. 
   
  ***Obviously migrating to avoid permanemt loss is manditory, but digitizing analog reels in stable condition without connecting all the dots seems pointless to me, which is why I advocate against it.
   
  Again, I agree.

***Marketing and PR are taken to be in opposition to public use and non-profit, but the two can actually work had and hand quite nicely. The problem goes back to re-identifying what libraries and archives are, what they could be, and what they should be. When I was a kid, libraries didn't have any direct competition beyond the local bookstore. But now with Wal-Mart, Barnes and Noble, Blockbuster and Virgin Megastores competing in BOTH the brick and motar AND online space it's no wonder the public isn't flocking to libraries. I myself haven't found the need to go in years. 
   
  Amen. And then we have the question, what would bring you into the library? For me, it would be to experience, or access something that I could not get anywhere else...hence I believe some of the future of libraries resides in the past.


*** But I understand, I'm in a niche, of a niche, of a niche. These recordings connect the dots for a few very low key genres but do not register on the radar of the public scope.
   
  Absolutely, but then do we not have a world where there is room for the niche market. When the cost of delivery is reduced (although the cost of the preparation of the product might still be high), can there not be a profit margin for the more esoteric. 
  
***Question: If we could look back in great detail on the times of any ancient civilization, what would be more relivant: the tastes, and likings of the masses (aka the Mozarts, Michalangelos, and
Shakespeares), or the concerns and pickings of the trivial ubergeeks like ourselves (obsure no name, short lived, fringe artists)?
   
  If you had asked that question ten years ago I would have said "the names." However, now I don't know. I am reminded of a seminar where Copland was asked, "are there more great composers living now than in the time of Beethoven?" Copland replied, "well it seems to me that we have more people living today and assuming that per capita there are as many composers living today as in Beethoven's time, it would seem logical  that there are just as many great composers per capita today." 
   
  For me, that says a great deal about information. Are we creating more good stuff? Obviously the converse is like true. But not only do we have more stuff, but it is easier to create stuff, and oddly enough, it is potentially more problematic to keep the stuff long term. How all of this pans out in society is curious to me. Will we be able to identify a "core" of the best known. Or will we have a core of the best known, known by those who have interest in a particular niche?
  
***EMI UK, does have a non-profit historic trust, and donates a wide variety of older reordings and technologies to it. I am currently trying to establish something here in the US along those lines, but cannot discuss it any more than that.

And indeed perhaps there is a great potential there, but then I wonder how non-profit archives would retool to deal with such a potential influx of stuff.
   
  I will look forward to hearing more.
   
  Karl

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