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Re: [ARSCLIST] Tape baking question

Wow, Karl, you're a real ray o' sunshine! ;) Seriously, all good points and thanks.

I think that archives, libraries and collections stand a better chance of good results out-sourcing transfer work than metadata and cataloguing. Talk about a specialty! And, it's a specialty that probably needs to be fine-tuned to each collection or institution. I figure, no organization does everything well (look at big business -- the bigger the business, the less it does well), so stick to brass tacks that one would figure would naturally be in-house at a library or archive or collection (ie the skills I assume you get with a degree in libary science or archiving).

You talk very pessimistically about preserving what "needs" to be preserved, and I agree if one casts a very wide net of "needs." I think smarter is to have a more organized system to decide what's "important" or "vital" -- judgement calls, all -- and make that material top-of-pile. I would say that if one were to approach it on a national or "meta-culture" level, it wouldn't be a bad idea to use something like the commission the government used to close obsolete military bases. The good thing about that kind of system is it was streamlined and when the decisions were rendered, they were final. No room for endless debate and delay.

This is all probably too much to hope for and many things that might be of great value to future generations will probably molder away before anyone even knows they're gone.

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- From: "Karl Miller" <lyaa071@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <ARSCLIST@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Tuesday, October 10, 2006 11:23 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Tape baking question

On Tue, 10 Oct 2006, Tom Fine wrote:

I was just addressing migration. Regarding the other points, about properly
 cataloging and preserving once it's been digitized, I have to say that a place
 ill-equipped even to do that probably shouldn't call itself an archive or

From my perspective, most libraries do not have the skill sets or the
infrastructure, equipment or a history of providing salaries appropriate
to the task of digitization.

When one looks at the budgets of large libraries "institutions," the
pecentage of the budget devoted to preservation is usually very small.

While I believe these considerations need to change, I don't see
outsourcing to always be the appropriate answer. I believe that libraries
and archives need to develop the appropriate infrastructure to support
these activities, assuming they plan to continue collecting. With the
availability of low cost recording, non-print materials are likely to
accompany any significant collection. I am reminded of even older
collections like the Erle Stanley Gardner collection here at the
University of Texas at Austin. He loved dictation machines and recorded
phone conversations, story ideas, etc. Sadly, the holding library does not
have a fully active facility with a highly trained technician to preserve
these and other materials.

As for the creation and preservation of metadata...well, libraries
often seem to be outsourcing that as well. They are losing that expertise as well. They
also "outsource" the preservation of both data and metadata by passing
along those responsibilities to their campus computer facilities or
outside vendors.

That place should consider giving its valuable material to a
better-funded/better-staffed place that can handle and preserve it properly.

The Preservation Statistics from the Association of Research Libraries show that the focus of Preservation monies is still directed to things like microfilming, binding, etc. Out of 77 ARL libraries supplying statistics, 58 had full time preservation administrators. These people rarely have any training in non-print materials and are often not a part of digitization activities or the preparation of metadata.

To give you an idea of how backward the situation is consider this quote
from the ARL statistics
"The size of the staff reporting to the preservation administrator is a
key factor in defining a library's level of preservation program
development." For me, this says little. It is the level of training of
staff, their salaries, duties and the overall budget given to these
activities, as well as the infrastructure to support those activities
that's important.


The available preservation monies available from the National Endowment
for the Humanities has fallen from a high of $11,090,547 in 1992-3 to
$6,603,833 in 2003-04. Forget about inflation, the increasing quantity of
material needing attention, cost of salaries, equipment etc. Let's face
it, we are sinking in quicksand.

One statistic I cannot seem to locate is a breakdown of funding to the
various activities of libraries. In most corporations there is some effort
to have cost centered accounting and yet it would not appear, as far as I
can tell, to be such statistics in libraries. However, I would wager that
the monies spent on preservation is very small when compared with the
monies expended on circulation and other activities, keeping
in mind that libraries still consider binding and
microfilming activities central to the preservation and
conservation budgets.

We've had a few people on this list mention either dubs of old tapes or
tape-to-digital dubs that turned out bad that were done inconsistently
and unprofessionally by "student labor" or "volunteers." WHile the spirit of helping was very nice,
the result was useless.

Indeed. I believe that years ago transfer work even at Library of Congress was done by students. At our library, our new director apparently places no value in the skills needed to do proper digitization...nor in the knowledge of discography. With that sort of attitudes, there isn't much hope for libraries.

A much more efficient use of those places' time and money would have been
to have those dubs or transfers done professionally so that a useful product would result. Furthermore,
a higher quality product is a great insurance policy that it will be considered worthy of the cost
of digital preservation over time.

I would agree, but when one finds little appreciation for the skills, what hope is there that a library would be likely to divert funding from what it considers "fundamental" library activities?

I specifically did not address issues like metadata and the like because THAT's the
expertise that should be IN-HOUSE with any sort of an archive or funded collection.

I would agree, but cataloging and metadata preparation is increasing being
outsourced by libraries. However, I believe that the reformatting process
often exposes information that needs to be included in the preparation of
metadata. So, unless the reformatting is done by someone who is informed
in the content and vernacular of the data being reformatted, they might
not be aware of significant information needed to prepare a well informed
metadata record. It is inefficient to have a cataloger listen to an entire
reformatted item in order to prepare the metadata. If the
person doing the reformatting is informed, they can be asked to recognize
significant information during the process of reformatting.

My point was, out-source the
skill that's critical to getting the preservation right -- proper audio
professional expertise --  and keep the library-science work, which is
absolutely key to long-term preservation and making the material useful to people,
in the realm of collections and libraries.
If this strikes a nerve of people fearing for jobs, I wouldn't worry. There is so
much stuff out there to preserve and it's decaying every day. I think it's a
generation-long race to get it all off the decaying analog media.

Indeed there is a significant job to be done, by some estimates, requiring as much as 60M person hours to get it done. It won't be done. Even if we somehow had the skies open up and drop money on all of those libraries and archives...we don't have fully trained people to do the work, an infrasture to provide the training, enough equipment, library adminstrators who would think it worth doing, the available computing infrastructure, informed individuals to handle the preparation of the metadata, a workable, mutually agreed upon efficient metadata structure nor enough trained individuals who would even have the foggiest notion of the significance of what they were preserving. By the time we could get things up and running...well I guess half of what is out there would probably be lost.

We don't even know if the file formats we are using now will be readable
in 50 years, or if those files will survive 50 years without being

With libraries sinking under their own bureaucracy and ineffective use of
technology and mismanagement...well, it seems to me that libraries are
being outsourced to yahoo and google. Unfortunately we are left with the
availability of information subject to the vicissitudes and integrity
found in a market economy.


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