Recorded Sound in Peril
Recorded sound exists on a variety of fragile mediawax cylinders, cassette tapes, lacquer disksthat pose urgent physical preservation problems. The challenges to preserving recorded sound collections, however, extend far beyond the fragility of formats. The media depend on playback hardware that goes quickly out of use. Basic intellectual controls over these collections, including essential inventory control and cataloging records, are lacking. The complex network of intellectual property rights inherent in recorded performances make identifying the copyright status of a work difficult and, at times, impossible. Finally, there is no funding to address these problems systematically.
This year, CLIR worked with the American Folklore Society and the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress to raise awareness of these problems and to develop an agenda for preserving sound collections. In December 2000, the three organizations convened a meeting to examine in depth the problems facing one set of recordings: folk heritage. The meeting, Folk Heritage Collections in Crisis, brought together folklorists, technologists, preservation experts, librarians and archivists, recording company executives, and intellectual property lawyers to describe the current state of these collections, to develop strategies for solving problems shared by so many distinct communities, and to form working groups that would take next steps. CLIR published a report of the discussions and recommendations in May 2001.
The State of Preservation Programs in American College and Research Libraries
There is an urgent need to reformulate the preservation agenda in light of a changing information environment. But it is nearly impossible to frame a new agenda without understanding what is happening now. In January 2001, CLIR convened a planning group to consider the scope and duration of a major study on preservation as outlined in a white paper prepared by CLIR’s staff. Participants agreed there was a need to reevaluate our underlying assumptions and called for a national study of the state of preservation across the full spectrum of college and research libraries.
In fall 2001, CLIR will initiate such a study, with the assistance of the Association of Research Libraries, the University Libraries Group, and the Regional Alliance for Preservation, and with representation from the Oberlin Group, land-grant institutions, preservation educators, and the American Library Association. As part of the study, CLIR will also begin working with the library community to develop a long-term preservation agenda.