We're expounding in a few directions and I'm happy to continue the
dialog, but I'm not sure if we should take this off list, since it's a 2
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Karl Miller
Sent: Friday, May 18, 2007 7:36 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Mass Digitization
"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
I'm no archeologist, but I'm sure a clay pot which was made by hand,
speaks at least to the art, technology, ability, resources & lifestyle
of a culture. Perhaps the same could be said for a piece of music (or
audio), but in reference to times that didn't include a written legacy;
a piece of a pot may hold an encyclopedia full of information about a
culture or a time period.
***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.
I foresee many smaller libraries folding into larger regional ones under
budget cutbacks. Unique materials will be migrated to larger and
possibly more secure institutions. The largest institutions will the get
the funding and the ability to prioritize, digitize, and make accessible
what they can. In the long run, the public may end lose their local
library down the street, but gain the complete state library at their
>>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.
Our culture already devalues esoteric knowledge, in lue of other
qualities like conformity.
***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
>>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.
My guess is that if the Association of Research Libraries budgets cover
books, then the level is internally deemed to be acceptable, since
books, like analog audio are thought to require little upkeep beyond
temp and humidity control. If the Association deals solely with A/V
elements, then 4% is an extremely dismal number.
***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.
It amazing what a well thought out plan with high level buy in can
accomplish. Every library should be using this as an example of what
they themselves could accomplish.
>>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.
Conformity, and steadfastness are rewarded much more than innovation in
most areas outside of the tech and marketing sectors.
***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.
Unfortunately, when you tune in between the major stations, you uncover
noise therein which is actually the combination of all the fragments
that were previously unheard. Meaning: At the niche level, you realize
you're one of thousands of niches, and they are all fighting for the
same, eyes ears, and dollars of the consumer. The long tail theory is
just that. It has relevance, but doesn't mean everything brought to mark
will yield profit.
***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."
Sure, but in 200 years, how many of today's great composers will be put
on the same par as Mozart? (I'll give you a hint, probably the ones who
were most popular of their time or have the most colorful careers.)
>>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?
The creation of art, documents, or whatever hasn't really gotten any
easier or harder. It's just as easy to scribble on a wall thousands of
years ago as it is a piece of paper today. The thing that has changed is
man's thinking on preserving and archiving. We've seemed to placed
"future value" on seemingly everything. We're handing over the right to
make final irreversible decisions, so that future ears, eyes, and minds,
can decide for themselves. Throughout history, species of animals have
died on under Darwinism, and at some point in man's history he came to
believe that we should do what he can to stop that from happening. The
future may prove us wise or foolish, but it's not until the future
arrives that we will know.
***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.
The misconception of non-profits is that are small and under funded
operations. I like to think of the Red Cross, which is a non-profit
which is neither small nor under funded. Tom Fine mentioned fiefdoms,
and I think that he's right, and that we need to overcome that type of
thinking. Non-profits, libraries, and archives do not need to be
subservient, but they must take the time to chose their path, their
allies, and become knowledgeable enough to see themselves through these
>>I will look forward to hearing more.
As do I,
Music from EMI
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