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

Entries in Non-Paper Formats (2)


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.


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.