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

Entries in Washington DC (3)


Library of Congress Preservation Series--Optical Scanning Lecture

I love living in the DC area! Archivists have so many great (and free) opportunities!

I attended the Library of Congress Preservation Presentation "Optical Scanning Applied to Recorded Sound Preservation and Access: Status and Prospects." Basic notes follow: (the lecture slides will be available here)


Dr. Haber, experimental physicist specializes in the development of instrumentation and methods for detecting and measuring particles. These techniques led to a partnership with the Library of Congress and other international sound collections for sound restoration through the physics of sound. His team specializes in cylinder, disc, and dictabelt restoration. Currently works at Berkeley with physicists, electrical engineers, and computer science faculty and students.


Project history:

Improvements in IRENE (2-D imaging):

  • Now higher speed camera (takes more pictures of groove, faster)
  • Creates several GB raw file
  • Best for discs because depth of groove is constant, sound is linear

3-D Imaging:

  • Confocal scanning probe
    • Different colors mean different depths in a groove
  • Best for cylinder scanning because depth varies in grooves

Many improvements in software/hardware.

  • Papers available at
  • Creating more samples for better average depth of groove and better sound
  • Also using on discs, now
  • Disc reflectivity does create issues (the light from the scanner gets reflected twice and skews results)

Special Studies (to test limits with more rare recordings and improve techniques):

  • Experimenting with field recordings-ethnographic studies (cylinders)
    • More problems because usually stored in less than ideal conditions
  • Vertical Edison Diamond and Vertical Pathe Discs
  • Berliner Discs
    • 3-D and IRENE tested
  • Early experimental recordings from the mid-1800s
  • Dictation Belts
    • Presidential phone conversations
    • Format is non-archival and has many preservation issues

Very Important Archivist

I am having lunch today at the National Press Club for the Committee for Economic Development's Digitial Connections Council new report release "Harnessing Openness to Improve Research, Teaching, and Learning in Higher Education."

Pretty cool!

I can't wait to see what this special interest group has to say about open access in higher education, and how it will benefit me as an A/V Archivist, especially when it comes to the copyright issues for recordings of performaces of copyrighted works. (That's going to be my biggest obstacle with the School of Music audio recordings.)


It was more about openness in digital repositories and creative commons instead of digital and electronic copyright issues in general. Still very cool, and got me thinking about the development of CUA's Institutional Repository!


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...