Andy Uhrich: Thanks so much, Monique for doing this [interview]. My name is Andy Uhrich. And I am interviewing Monique Threatt. Did I pronounce your name correctly?
Monique Threatt: [It’s pronounced] Thr-ee-t
AU: All right. [This is] for NYU’s Moving Image Specialists in Libraries project. So Monique, if you could first [tell me] your job title, and your job in general. Let’s start with that, and then we’ll ask more questions.
MT: I am currently the head of Media & Reserve Services here in the Herman B Wells Library at Indiana University. IU Bloomington is the flagship campus of Indiana University’s eight campuses statewide. I am a tenured, associate librarian. I was hired back in April 2001. My position is 100% FTE. I have to laugh because [the questionnaire] asks, “Is this a permanent job?” With the state of finanacial affairs and the economy in disarray, I’m not sure any job is permanent.
AU: Maybe we’ll go straight before [you were hired]. What did you do, and how did you get here? Start with your training, and then what led up to getting your position here.
MT: Absolutely. I was hired by Indiana University’s then-Department of African American Studies‘ Black Film Center Archive. I started out as an office manager/secretary for the Black Film Center Archive, organizing their collection, using an internal cataloging system because the collection was not listed in the OPAC and it’s still not in the OPAC. A lot of the materials were donations by independent American black, Caribbean, and African filmmakers. So for eleven years I worked with the Black Film Center Archive, starting out at the basic level and working myself up through the ranks to become an archivist. I continued my studies here through the SLIS [School of Library and Information Sciences] program, basically taking as many archival and preservation classes that were being offered at the time. The school continues to offer a few of these classes, but not nearly enough to become a certified archivist. But as you know, there are not a lot of schools in this area that focus primarily on archiving and preservation. I think there are more schools in California and maybe New York. So for me, being in this part of the country, it was a matter of trying to take the right classes through SLIS, engaging in hands-on training, and reading articles about what other professionals are doing in the field. I was with Black Film Center Archive for eleven years before accepting my current position. Kristine Brancolini was the former head of this [department], and instrumental in my wanting to become a media librarian. I admired her expertise and had taken some audiovisual classes with her through SLIS. So, I’ve been around media since 1990, and when this position became available, I jumped at the opportunity because I thought it was the dream job to have.
AU: Oh, good
AU: One of the hopes for this project is to figure out how people find those dream jobs, and what you have to do to get there. A couple of questions came up out of what you just said, for clarification. Can you define OPAC briefly?
MT: Sure, [it stands for] Online Public Access Catalog, which for Indiana University is IUCAT, or their online catalog. At the time, the materials in the Black Film Center Archive were cataloged with an internal processing system. However, I do believe the current administrators are working to have that collection integrated into the current OPAC. Technical Services will with the Black Film Center/Archive staff to properly incorporate their holdings into the bigger system for more efficient and greater accessibility.
AU: When it’s [inaudible] gathered up with everything else ….
MT: And the Black Film Center/Archive’s circulation policies, at the time, were not like this library’s. Instructors, researchers, and the general public had to make an appointment to review and use materials for class instruction. It was predominantly faculty/instructors who came to pick up the materials, and students and some researchers had to watch materials on-site—the materials were very restricted in who could check them out.
AU: So one more question about that. Were you working there at the same time that you were getting a master’s at SLIS?
MT: Yes. I was working towards my master’s through SLIS [and] at the same time, holding down a full-time job. I would take one day and one night course, but was able to make up the time at work.
AU: So you were doing both at the same time?
AU: That sounds like a lot of work.
MT: It was a lot of work. And I was also a a young mom at the time. So, two or three hours of sleep a night for about ten years, just trying to get a degree—finishing my undergraduate and then a master’s.
AU: So, when you were working at the Black Film Center Archive, did your job change over time as you got the degree, or as you got more experience working there?
MT: Both. I was already doing the job, ordering archival and preservation materials to protect the photographs, and the huge boxes for posters and ephemeral works, updating the online web holdings—stuff like that. But I wasn’t getting paid as a professional. So I thought, you know what, I’m doing the work, I really want that degree. And I was able to justify getting a raise and having the job title changed to Archivist after completing the master’s degree.
AU: And did you find that the educational training you were getting in the program—you talked about taking archival classes, and there was maybe an AV class mentioned—did you find that the training in the program referenced AV materials in a way that was useful for you?
MT: Not fully. I think library schools still have a long way to go. It’s predominantly theory and practice. As a student you can apply for graduate assistantships within the libraries systems, but there are no real extended hands-on training. So, I wish there was more of that in library schools, especially for archiving and preservation.
As students we were assigned a personal collection and expected to organize and create subject guides based on that collection, as well as set up a display-case presentations, but that was just one small project. It would have been great if several advanced archival and preservation classes could have been offered, like how to care and handle for 16mm or 35mm film. As I mentioned, [it is mostly textbook readings about what an archival storage environment should be like in theory.] But you are not actually expected to practice or learn within an archival environment and made to work there as part of your learning for a grade.
I wish there were more advanced hands-on training for both media librarianship and archiving and preservation. SLIS did not offer many classes [on audiovisual materials]. Kris taught one or two classes to introduce students to copyright, how to critique films, and write film reviews, and other issues there. (As you know, there is always a gray area with copyright.) So we were exposed to it. But I think a lot more needs to be done as far as training librarians [to work in libraries]. And I don’t even know if it’s the library school’s responsibility. For archiving and preserving materials, it may be more of a museum-type thing. Or at least, maybe they could offer more museum-related classes, and audiovisual courses. Technology changes so much in the AV field, but I don’t think archiving and preservation materials change so quickly.
AU: So you had this great experience at the Black Film Center Archive, and then this job opened up. Could you talk about the change from specialized archive to circulating part of the library?
MT: Absolutely. Any archivist knows that you work alone on many projects. It’s a very quiet job/atmosphere. With archiving and preservation, you are dealing with historical and cultural materials/artifacts primarily within a non-circulating, closed collection. And archival collections tend to be extremely focused in one subject area. You’re trying to identify and catalog materials correctly with the right metadata, and at the Black Film Center/Archive, we weren’t always able to use the AACR cataloging guides, nor were the materials identified and labeled according to Library of Congress call numbers because the materials were auxiliary to the Libraries. The BFC/A was under the auspices of the department, not the library. We didn’t have professional catalogers, so we were just doing the best that we could. And going from a very focused and specialized area—and Black Film Center/Archive was all about films by, for, and about African Americans and Africans in the diaspora—to a very multi-disciplinary collection, was very challenging in a way because with a huge circulating collection, you’re dealing with hundreds of subject areas and trying to meet the needs of a large ethnic and diverse population.
But it was very exciting in a way too, because [with a circulating collection I have the] opportunity to provide a broader audience with greater access to services than I was used to with the focused researchers that came to the Black Film Center/Archive. A lot of Black Film Center/Archive questions were answered via email or over the phone, and on occasion, we’d have a scholar-in-residence or visiting researchers. But in a circulating collection where you’re circulating anywhere between three to five thousand items a month, it’s just a totally different mindset all together. It’s more bureaucratic too: You have to follow a whole different set of library rules and regulations that are different from an archival environment. There is more interaction with faculty, students and researchers whose demands are very different within a library setting.
AU: That’s an interesting position. I hadn’t quite thought of it that way. So, once you came over—that was when? Two thousand and—?
AU: At that point, what was the collection [like]? If you could describe the collection and how it’s used.
MT: Which one?
AU: The one you’re in now.
MT: Pretty much the same as it is today. Well, I changed a few things. I extended loan lengths, made the collection more accessible, and added more formats to the collection as supply and demand grew. At the time, we did not have a media browsing collection. That was a gift. Within a year or two after I took this position, the libraries received a gift from Jerry and Phyllis McCullough who ran a local video shop here in town. For whatever reason, they decided to retire and donate around six thousand videos to the IUB Libraries. And we were wondering, what are we going to do with this massive collection? And Jerry was very community-oriented and really believed in the community of Bloomington, and I think one of the stipulations at that time was that the collection would be accessible to all Indiana residents. That was just a tremendous boost for media reserve services. Never before had we had a media browsing area. [Prior to the browsing collection,] all the materials were closed-reserves behind the desk in the teaching and research collection. Faculty could borrow unlimited audiovisual materials for class use for three days, and students could check them out for one day, but it had to be for class use.
Since I’ve been here, we’ve extended the loan length for faculty to seven days. We implemented a mail delivery system—we had not really shipped media out to the departments before. That took off really well, with more work of course—but that took off. We had the media browsing collection and we built upon that. It was predominantly videos at first, but we’ve expanded it to include DVDs and foreign language CDs and foreign languages on SD cards, video games, audio books on CD. We try to keep up with the times and patron demand, and we’re now just getting into digital streaming. Well, we piloted a test back in 2005, I think, and now I’m getting into the licensing with distributors, and that’s becoming a bigger field as well.
AU: So in terms of the collection now, you mentioned VHS, DVDs, and video games. Do you have a sense of how large the collection is?
MT: Absolutely. And I’ll give you all this stuff [later] as well. But for right now, we are looking at—with just DVDs and VHS only—we are looking at about 32,000 titles. But then we also have this huge 16mm collection that was integrated into this department. When the campus was reorganized and President McRobbie wanted to start consolidating and was moving people out of their offices, we inherited the former Instructional Support Services Collection. I don’t know if you’re aware of that; it used to be at Franklin Hall. So that was about thirty thousand 16mm titles, and about seven thousand VHS/-DVDs, which we had to accept. We received those [materials] in 2006, so technical services had to relabel that collection because they too used a different MediaNet internal booking system with their own call number labeling that was not Library of Congress call numbers. [ISS] had their own plans for retrieving and shipping materials in the United States. And it’s only been within these past several years that all those materials have been given LC call numbers and the films were sent to the Auxilary Library Facility (ALF, off-site massive storage facility).
The Libraries recently hired a film archivist, Rachael [Stoeltje], who is better equipped to answer questions about archiving and preserving the film collection. But we had a small collection of the David Bradley films before the ISS film collection came to us, and that was about 3900 titles. Rachael is still working to see which films have vinegar syndrome, shrinkage, and all that entails. I believe Rachael is now overseeing several 16mm and 35mm film collection, which include the former ISS collection, David S. Bradley collection, University Archive film colletion and a few more Lilly Library Film collections.
The David S. Bradley collection was really gifted to the Lilly, but we (Media Services) were the gatekeepers of that collection. And right now Rachael is the gatekeeper. We also have about two thousand audiocassettes. They are not heavily used whatsoever. Spoken word. Some books on cassette. We have about nine hundred CD-ROMS—they’re not used heavily anymore. And again, we have about one hundred audio books on CD. And to me, [audio books belong] more in a public library service. It’s just that, over the years, patrons kept saying, “I want some audio books.” Because primarily, when they go on break, they want something to hear in the car. So I acquiesced, and went ahead and ordered some audio books. So it’s not a very huge collection. And of course, with the department of International Studies being built up, I worked with the other subject area librarians to acquire foreign language tapes for circulation. And those are heavily used. And then we’ve identified about thirty courses with video games. And I thought, if we can’t get the consoles, maybe we can be supportive in at least purchasing video games in the various formats.
AU: That is a lot of different things.
MT: It is. And of course we have ¾-inch Beta [videocassettes]—we have about nine hundred of those, and those are at the ALF. We’re dealing with digital, we’re dealing with video, audio. We have about nine hundred laser discs; those are not heavily used. A professor, Peter Bondanella, from the Department of [French and] Italian, donated a lot of laser discs here. Maybe one or two are used per semester that you just can’t find in any other format. So that’s the beauty of it, even though we’re changing and evolving, there are still some films that you’re not going to find [on another format than what it was initially distributed on]. And I think we still remain one of the largest research educational collections. I like to think … I mean, we’ve been given compliments that we really are a great research library.
AU: Okay, so you just raised a lot issues in that talk about the collection. Can you give us a sense of who uses these materials? Is it all departments? Is it all kinds of students?
MT: Absolutely. All departments use this collection. And we have about twelve or thirteen branch libraries that may have their own specialized teaching media collection. A lot of departments have their own libraries. And a lot of libraries have nice [collections], like the Western European Collection. There are so many film collections on this campus, but we are responsible for placing the mass of media on reserve. Our full-time media coordinator and students still make arrangements to supply upwards of 2,000 DVDs for class use per academic year. (We do our yearly statistics and I can give you that too.) I think we’re still a viable unit, in that when I first got here, maybe six to seven hundred videos were being used for the classroom. And that number just continues to rise a little bit each year. So we’re still providing classroom support and really, the numbers haven’t gone down. So we must be doing something right. It’s just that [with] this new generation of instructors, we need to explore how instructors are teaching and with what tools. They’re pretty much an “on-demand” society, or generation of teachers [rather]. So how do we meet their needs? And that’s where digital streaming comes in, [especially with all] these new AIs who are coming in and saying, “Do you have this on streaming? I want my students to be able to watch this before they even get to class.” I think I may have gone off-topic here ….
AU: No, that’s fine. So, maybe we can talk about that—we can talk about the challenges of [having all these formats]. Because you’ve got laser disc and 3/4-inch, and then you’re having to do streaming [too]. So could you talk about dealing with the digital and how you moved into that world and how it’s changing your job?
MT: Well, it’s changing our jobs in the sense that I’m doing all the streaming for the most part. I try to buy database sets for most films, because still obtaining licensing for most films is hard. But I prefer to purchase rights to stream in perpetuity. There’s two ways that I’m providing streaming. I’m buying bundled databases, or access to databases like Alexander Street Press and Films for the Humanities, which provides access to about six thousand titles. I don’t have statistics on whether people are tapping into all of them, but it’s still a form of streaming that addresses both the “need it now”and “just in case” scenarios. These are bundled databases that faculty use for the most part. Or films that we have purchased in the past, and these databases are providing streaming access. And that’s one facet. And if I can try to get those bundled packages, which are licensed for the entire IUB campus, I’d rather do that.
The other half of licensing comes from e-Reserves, where I’m trying to get streaming rights for documentaries that are not a part of these bundled packages. And those are restricted to classroom-use only. So it is kind of a challenge. We have this discussion all the time at conferences: Who is providing streaming? What platform should they be delivered on? Will they play on this computer? Will they play on that computer? For the most part we try to use files that are Flash compatible for both Macs and PCs. There are so many aspects to streaming files and bandwidth and all this other stuff. So it’s even more complicated and above my head.
I try to find things with perpetual rights if possible, but not all distributors have that. Distributors usually buy films from the filmmaker and then they have their rights and licensing agreements, so not everything can always be [licensed in perpetuity]. It’s mind blowing, the field. Even librarians are complaining about the multi-tiered streaming structure that is place. For example: If I’m already paying $350 for a DVD, why should I turn around and pay another $400 just so it can be streamed? So all those issues come up. I deal with a lot of issues that go on behind the scenes. But of course, the faculty just want the end product. They don’t care what hoops you’re jumping through to get it. And that’s our job—right?
AU: And so that’s the new challenge. For the older formats—video, laser disc—have you ever had to do any preservation work? You mentioned some semi-rare things. Have you had to deal with that?
MT: We do. One year we printed out [a list from our catalog of] what we thought might be rare materials. I had the students research availability via Inter-Library Loan, commercial rentals, and how many libraries are distributing the item. I set parameters such that if only three or four libraries have [the item], and it was not commercially available at a reasonable price, then we investigated having a service on campus do archival transfers for the libraries. And I think Rachael is doing that too with the 16mm film. She’s going through the same process. So we have converted a lot of things that were old, educational formats that couldn’t be found anywhere, and asked Franklin Hall Production Services to reformat/onto a DVD. There weren’t a lot, but there will still quite a few [titles]. And it was a couple of years ago that we went through the process, and asked, what needs to be preserved? Again, this is a circulating collection—it’s not a museum, it’s not an archive. We have several archives. The University Archives is on the fourth floor; I don’t know if you’ve interviewed them? So, that’s not a huge issue for us, but it is [about] preserving the cultural significance of the film. [But] we’re not going to put it in a glass case somewhere—for us it’s all about access.
AU: And that keeps the [materials] accessible.
AU: So that’s the important part of that. And I think we now have a good sense of the collection. Do you have other job duties or responsibilities that fall outside of [what we’ve just discussed]? Any committees that you’re on?
MT: I do. I also serve as a reference librarian in the East & West Tower on some weekends and evenings. So I still have to keep abreast of all the library databases. I failed to mention that when I was hired it was a fifty-fifty position. [Back then] it was the Undergraduate Library, it’s now the Information Commons and Undergraduate Services. So when I was hired, I was first hired to be fifty percent on the reference desk and fifty percent as media [librarian]. It was only in the past five years that I became full-time media librarian down here in Media & Reserve Services. So the percentages have changed, I’m at least ninety percent here and ten percent in reference. And yes, tenured, and tenured-track librarians, as you may know, must serve on numerous committees. So I do serve on lots of local, state, and national committees. I am currently the Chair of the American Library Association’s (ALA) Video Round Table. So I have to deal with all those issues that come up and be able to work and co-sponsor programs with other units with ALA.
And I think you asked about our daily jobs ... I keep in contact with my media colleagues through the VIDEOLIB listserv, which is handled by Gary Handman at the University of California, Berkeley. And through those lists we discuss issues among media librarians. There is also a VIDEONEWS listserv, where distributors post new materials for sale. So you can keep busy just being on the VIDEOLIB listserv—it gets a little overwhelming sometimes, because people are going back and forth and arguing about important issues facing media librarianship.
AU: And the next question: You talked about having to learn about Flash and all these formats. Can you talk about how you continue your professional development and keep up with new technologies?
MT: Right. We receive free subscriptions to Streaming Media, Campus Technology, and Campus Business magazines, so I am able to peruse what is going on in the technology fields. Also, the only professional journal that I feel is applicable to media libraries is called the CCUMC—Consortium of College and University Media Centers. And they put out a publication four times a year. So I get to peruse through that. We have the Video Librarian, which we subscribe to, and it has all kinds of reviews. And of course there are numerous online conferences we can attend for free, such as Educause, which addresses issues in higher education.
My colleauge Martha Harsanyi goes to the National Media Market. I used to go, but because I go to other conferences, and money is tight, she enjoys going. And they offer professional development classes. And that’s where you literally—I think they have about 110 distributors—and you literally go from room to room and you sit there and you watch documentaries. Not the whole documentary—you have to know immediately, is this something that’s going to be useful and compliment the existing collection? That’s one form of professional development.
Then of course there’s the CCUMC conference, which is held every year and they talk about technology in the classroom. It’s more UITS-oriented [University Information Technology Services] but some media librarians go. So I keep abreast that way. And of course, the ALA has two conferences a year—Midwinter, and Annual, that I attend. And just for my media group, we have programs which address issues facing media librarians and libraries.
AU: So you’re busy. So would you say that the technology is moving faster than you can keep up with in all these various ways?
MT: This is a field that still needs a lot of exploration. Especially for media librarians. There are libraries whose budgets [are quite small]; you know, they can’t afford to even convert video to DVD. Streaming is extremely expensive, people may not know. Everybody is used to commercial downloads. But a lot of classes are not using feature films; we’re still using educational documentaries that have not made it to streaming process yet. So there’s a lot of libraries that cannot afford this process. It’s expensive. These databases are like $50,000—it’s crazy. And they think because we’re universities and colleges we have all this money—we don’t! So, it’s a new field and it’s still being explored and there’s so many things to work out just with the distributors themselves. That’s why, I prefer, especially for classroom, I prefer to just buy the DVD and buy the right to stream it. And I have to work with a lot of people to even get the streaming going here. We definitely had to collaborate with DLP (Digital Library Program), [and] the UITS people [for] the technology—how are we going to get this going? So they gave me a small workstation where I can [make the transfers]. And I’m the only person who is doing that right now. And I have a software program where I have to know when the movie stops and starts—it doesn’t cut off automatically, you know. [We’ve got] bare resources just to provide the streaming to the students—but it is very well worth it!
So it’s a new field and not every librarian is on the band wagon: they won’t go streaming; they’ve invested enough in the resources they have. Basically, I think it’s how much money you have to invest in these various formats—it’s kind of sad. I think I’m very lucky to have a budget where I can explore some of these new things; a lot of colleges just can’t even afford to do it.
AU: Well, as a student, and after talking to Rachael, and after talking to you, I certainly appreciate that the university and the library puts funding towards these kinds of things—it makes a big difference. I think it’s fantastic.
Now, you talked about funding being an issue for some libraries. Are the training programs doing enough to get people ready for this new world too?
MT: I don’t think so. As a media librarian, you [need] skills in university technology. I mean, I’m still in the dark about the technological jargon and how the technology pieces fit together. I don’t have a lot of training in technology. This campus has so many departments and staff who do that. The media librarian really has to get in on the conversation and say, we’re doing this, we want to do this, how can you help? Or, how can we help you? But I don’t feel like I have enough training to take over. Maybe that’s not my job, I don’t know. I have enough to do just keeping abreast of what’s circulating and patron needs.
AU: And, you talked about how your position went from half and half, to more full-time. Was that a change in how they considered the position?
MT: I’m not sure, to be honest with you. Maybe they felt like they needed a more [full-time] media librarian position here. We had a person who was fully experienced and capable. But the position was moved to technical services to help with media cataloging because the browsing collection needed back cataloging. And we had a lot more resources coming in. [The work is] really kind of divided. We order materials in this office, but we don’t catalog. We mark the media with the tattle-tape and [a label stating], “This belongs to the Media Reserve.” But it’s very different. There are some media librarians who do the ordering, the acquisition processing, cataloging, etc. We don’t do that. We select; we review; we find; we submit the request to Technical Services for purchasing. And they’re involved in ordering [the items] and cataloging [them] before [they] come back to us.
AU: You mentioned you had to collaborate with other departments to get the streaming going, which sounds like a big project. Are there other changes that you’ve been able to institute here in your time?
MT: Well, just formats alone.... Technical services had to learn how to deal with audio books, how to catalog videogames, and certainly streaming came with a whole set of different authority rules. So we had numerous meetings with Technical Services. I don’t know if [streaming media was] a rule in the AACR book or not, but it was a learning process for them too. How do you catalog streaming [media]? What’s the process? Who does what? And all this other stuff. And I’m not even going into half of it, but we had year-long meetings just trying to figure out who’s responsible for what. And how to make a MARC record. It was crazy. So one thing I’m looking at now is getting foreign language instruction on SD cards. And how do you deal with that format? So I’m trying to keep abreast of what people are using for an MP3 player, but I think it’s a challenge for them. And I’m sure I give them headaches all the time. (laughs) But yeah—they run into issues of how to catalog these new formats that come along. And what do we do with all these old formats? We’re just keeping them until their life expectancy runs out. But we are trying to go forward with immersion technologies, or at least I’m trying to, anyways ....
AU:Sounds like a lot. From the beginning of media to the future.
MT: Yes, definitely. But I think it’d be nice to have somebody who is a technology person down here because a lot of people want to convert their old stuff but don’t have the equipment to convert, [for instance], VHS to DVD. I think media production is a big thing. Students are making their own films. I wish we had those kinds of facilities down here.
AU: So there’s always room to grow?
MT: Oh yeah. I would love to have a big gaming console, with some Wiis, and the old Nintendos, and stuff like that down here. We put these two tables here within the past two months because telecommunications offer a lot of board games, and so,in the fall we’ll start circulating board games. So that’s another format we have to add to the mix, which I think is exciting. I’ve always thought we should do this. Some students say it doesn’t matter what it looks like, it’s still access to information. And it’s still for class and pedagogical reasons and why not?
AU: Great. Maybe this is a little harder to answer. Can you talk about challenges that you face in this department in the library?
MT: The first thing that comes to mind is not being able to have another professional media librarian to bounce ideas off of. Sometimes you’re expected to always come up with something new and exciting and invigorating and sometimes I don’t know if I’m there already. I mean, I don’t know what comes after streaming. How many ways can you promote a collection other than true and applied methods? I am trying to work with the director of the IU cinema, Jon Vickers; I have a meeting with him. I am meeting with Michael Martin, who is the head of the Black Film Center Archive. There are so many great media resources on this campus. I almost have to do back flips to try to get the students’ attention, especially with the new cinema opening. I mean, that is just so wonderful and marvelous. And where does that put you as a person in the library, you know? We have this series of international films that we show that have never been to the theaters, but they’ve been to film festivals—they’re award winning films, and we don’t get any real audience. So I don’t know, with media, where do we fit in? What should we be doing differently? The library doesn’t have money to invest in production rooms ... I just wish I had a in-house mentor; another media librarian that I could share some ideas with. Those are my challenges.
AU: Those are varied. I never would have thought that there’s almost too much success here at Bloomington. There’s almost too much going on. All these different departments doing stuff that it splits people’s attention.
One of the questions is, what needs to be changed about the status of moving image preservation specialists in libraries and what is working well?
MT: Which one is that?
AU: It’s near the end.
MT: What needs to be changed ...?
MT: Again, I am not really a preservation specialist ... I’m more of a person who has to maintain a circulating collection—open access. And I want the patrons to be able check out our resources. I want them to be able to use these resources through inter-library loan. We have a great inter-library loan system here that is used quite heavily and that’s Rita Roger’s department though. But what needs to be changed ...? I feel like that’s not a question for me ...
AU: Well, let’s take the word “preservation” out and let’s say “moving image specialists,” which definitely applies to you.
MT: Right. I wish there was more money to go to training programs that are more focused and specialized in moving images. We can’t really get away that much from here ... maybe a week at the most. But a really intense training program would be marvelous—just to see what’s happening in the other fields. I mean, we have our library conferences, but that’s not really an issue that’s dealt with much—the status of moving image specialists. Some people look at media as non-viable piece of the universe. Sometimes, to be honest with you, media is looked at as more entertainment. And it would benefit from being taken more seriously. And it’s fully supported here, I think you already know that. I feel like with Rachael being here, and our great collections, I think that we have a tremendous amount of support here. I’m not sure what needs to be changed about the status ... maybe just more respect in libraries. Give us more money to do what we need to do. [For instance,] we don’t have disc cleaners. Here at our libraries they separate the supplies budget from the materials budget. So materials [money] is limited to buying DVDs, videos, CDs, audiocassettes. And I wish they would allow some flexibility to take that money and buy that RTI disc cleaner—because discs get dirty if you circulating four to five thousand discs a month.
MT: With job security [on the line], I know a lot of media librarians are being asked to integrate their current media into the book stacks. And I don’t want to see that happen. Can you imagine videos being in with books? I mean, books go missing. I can’t even imagine how you would maintain your media collection or keep your eye on it. You can’t put just media up in the books. They would get stolen all the time. And who is going to [take care of the] security cases and unlock them and stuff like that?
I don’t want to misspeak, but I think [there’s an assumption] that anyone can do a media librarian’s job. I don’t think that’s right. I think we go to school for a reason—to learn how to ask the right questions, to help faculty find certain [materials], to create finding aids, and teaching tools for students and faculty. We suggest ways for incorporating media into, [for instance], the English classes. We’re professionals. We were taught to do these things in library school. And I don’t know if that’s valid anymore. A lot of students are using GoogleScholar and Wikipedia. Are they getting the right answers—? I don’t know.
But I think we are still needed to help bring that professional element to the game. We know how to go the catalog and say what’s appropriate [for particular classes]. We try to order materials things that are appropriate for teaching, learning and research. I hope they’re not trying to integrate media librarians and say, “Your job is not valid anymore.” But I know other reference librarians— and not just media librarians—[who are also oftentimes asked] to justify their existence in the library. And they’re questioning whether we really even need libraries anymore.
AU: And to wrap up, do you have to justify and show use of the collection? Is that part of your job?
MT: Every year. We all have to write annual reviews to say what improvements, if any, we have made to the collections. Collection managers also must submit budget reports to the Head of collection development to justify an increase or decrease in funds. What have you done differently? One media librarian [I know used to say]: “Are you a person or are you a robot?” Basically, what are you doing [at all times]? But there’s only so much you can do sometimes. You can try to find ways to improve services. We try to conduct an annual survey to find out student needs versus student wants. Sometimes students expect us to be more like a public library with open browsing, especially with our cataloging. We still use Library of Congress call numbers for the most part. But they want us to separate drama from romance, from action and adventure, [for instance]. And we’re an academic library; we don’t really buy children’s videos. And we get asked why we don’t buy more. But I always point them to the Education Library, which has numerous children’s videos because of the teaching aspect.
I think we do a great job of meeting patron needs. I mean, that’s what we’re here for, right? There are some challenges beyond our control. There’s a lot of things that can be improved and done. But we’re always being challenged with budget projects, and how can you reduce the budget…again?
AU: But it sounds like you’re doing a lot: bringing in digital and at the same time keeping forty-year-old media objects.
MT: And don’t forget, we are serving this new generation of instructors while also meeting the needs of those instructors who don’t want anything to do with technology, so you still have to keep some of these old formats.
AU: So a lot of user needs are contradictory.
MT: Absolutely. People still want their old books—they don’t want to put articles on eReserve. That’s another thing we deal with—putting books on reserve. And that number hasn’t gone down either. We tried to look at a study about two years ago: Is reserve needed? Yes, it is, believe it or not. We still put out about one thousand books on reserve each semester.
AU: To wrap up, is there anything I didn’t ask you that we should talk about briefly?
MT: Well, also, we’re in charge of distributing digital equipment. We have digital Canon camcorders, Flip Ultra digital cameras, digital voice recorders, analog audiocassette players, and iPod Touch for circulation to all IUB students. And that equipment creates a whole other set of circulation policies and issues with bills and fines when students don’t bring materials back. There is early talk to pilot the use of iPads, Kindles, and Nooks. So that may be another set of equipment to be circulated from Media Reserve Services.
MT: I know.
AU: I did not expect that.
MT: Media has many facets, I think.
AU: Thanks for your time. I think your experience of training, both in the field and educationally is impressive, and it’s really great what you all are doing down here.
MT: Thank you very much, Andy.