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Musings of a librarian, former archivist, musician, bibliophile, and tech-obsessed.



What are the prerequisites for going to library school and getting your MLIS?

1) Cardigans
Different styles, different colors, different closures. Yes, these are all mine. No, these are not all the ones I own.

2) Glasses
Preferably chunky!

3) A Sense of Humor
My favorite blog: Cake Wrecks

4) The ability to rock all three!
(Archivist, Records Manager, and a Librarian)

*Cat(s) are optional, though preferred (or prefurred)!
Meet Aslan!


Audio Visual? A disclaimer...

My title is "Audio Visual Archivist." What is meant by "Audio Visual?"

It depends...

I work at a small university, where the Archives has a professional staff of 4.5, one (life-saving) paraprofessional, one full-time graduate library professional, and five part-time graduate student workers (history and library science).

My duties include: solicit, accession, manage, process, preserve, serve as reference archivist, and request manager for all non-paper formats except microfilm, but only if the microfilm is a preservation format of a manuscript or university collection (because those fall under their respective larger categories.

I am also the in-house go-to person for any technical questions including computer, hardware, software, and digital formats, though not specifically surrogates or born-digital audio visual formats (even though the main library has computer tech support). I also manage and train students in audio visual knowledge.

Most of my day is spent doing photo requests (corresponding, reference, searching, scanning, metadata). I rarely do anything with audio or moving image media, due to our lack of equipment.

This is my job.

Every Audio Visual Archivist I talk to has a unique experience, and different duties. Every job is defined differently. If you want to be work with any kind of non-paper format, ask a lot of questions first.


Jon Stewart on Archives

I usually love your commentary, Jon Stewart, but this short clip just reinforces my post from yesterday: normal people do not understand the Archives profession, especially the A/V Archives profession! I'm angry they didn't do their research first before making fun of this position, but I can't really blame them. The combination of DeadHead and archivist do go against most societal norms. Despite that, I know quite a few archivists that have applied for this position since it appeared on the ARSC listserv on Monday!

"A Masters in Archives Management? What does that even mean?"

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
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Political Humor
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Defining Your MLIS

What can you do with an MLIS? Librarian, Archivist, Records Manager, and if you tweak it just right, Curator. You've decided which direction you want to go based on your specialization, but how do you explain this to the world? That's they first step in explaining yourself to anyone else, making it sound like library and information science is an actual career (not a career to be snubbed), or even keeping your job.

When most people think "librarian" they think of the little old lady with a tight, gray bun, a cardigan sweater, and sensible shoes. There's also the hot librarian. I think we have all seen the "She blinded me with library science" T-shirt (from TopatoCo), which has been posted and re-posted on so many library-related blogs:

And then there's The Librarian, my own personal hero:

(Don't forget that there are three movies now!!! )
People know you work with books, can help them research papers, and if their knowledge is a little broader, they'll know you can help them with databases, new research technologies, and media far beyond books.
And if you're a curator or archeologist professor, there is Indiana Jones to live up to, but people know you work with old objects and create exhibits.
Archivists aren't as lucky to have a sterotype or "hero" so that obviously means no one has heard of us. I live in Washington, DC, the city where what you do is more important than your name. When I introduce myself, I say, "Hi, I'm Robin. I'm an Audio Visual Archivist."
They answer, "A what?"
"An Archivist."
"A Librarian, for old stuff."
My boyfriend is an aspiring politician who works for the government affairs office of a defense contractor so I meet A LOT of people and have had this conversation MANY times. Only one person I've met outside of my field has known what an archivist is, and that's because he was a guy in politics that volunteered for his local museum.
When no one knows what you are, how do you define yourself (without boring someone and killing the conversation)?
Step 1. Start with a reference point of something they know (librarian), and explain what you do as an archivist within that context. It's easier if they know history, which they should if they're in politics, or if they work for a corporation, they understand records management. It sounds too simple, but if you really break things down into overall concepts, it's a lot easier for most people to grasp.
Step 2. Please act normal (not like a normal anti-social archivist).
And you're in. Conversation flows from there. Just don't get into metadata...



The World of A/V Archives

I am an audio visual archivist. During grad school I had the option of taking a beginning course for computer literacy, basic digital preservation, and a course in moving image and sound archives that briefly covered digital formats. I loved a/v formats, but I barely felt prepared to deal with them. I thought, "I'll get on-the-job training from a mentor at my first job to cover the major gaps!"

When I completed grad school in August 2007, I landed a job where I was expected to troubleshoot, and research all of the technological problems, having little idea how to do so. I was lucky that the recession hit when it did and our budget remained the same so the Archives couldn't try to invest in new technology. I wasn't ready to lead.

It's nearly two years later and now that I'm ready to lead, I'm frustrated that I haven't been able to make progress. I still don't feel very prepared to deal with all the formats, digitization, digital preservation, and all that metadata! I haven't found a mentor, and I struggle daily to try and justify what I'm doing (or not doing) to people who don't understand what I'm capable of doing with the resources I have (a problem far too common).

I attend conferences and workshops. I try to learn what I didn't know before so I can quickly learn all the new things, like the only manufacturer of CD-R Golds is in England, and there's only one American distributor (so if those were your preservation copy, good luck getting your hands on them affordably)! At the ARSC Annual Conference this year I learned that being an a/v archivist is different than an a/v engineer, so I don't feel so bad about what I thought were my inadequacies, though that doesn't make excuses for them. I also learned that there is no set program for people who want to be a/v archivists. We come from a variety of backgrounds--librarians, archivists, engineers, musicians, techies--and have a variety of experience and training. Nothing is consistent.

This blog contains knowledge I've picked up that would have been useful two years ago, so hopefully, people who want to do as I do, don't feel like they've been lost as long.

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