The following interviews were conducted as a research- and data-collection tool for the Moving Image Specialists in Libraries project. The interviews document the experiences of moving image specialists and other library professionals across the country. Participants, who include both veterans and newcomers to the field, were selected to represent a range of library types and sizes and form a broad cross-section of the profession. Questions focus on the interviewees’ roles and duties at their respective libraries; their background and/or relevant training; the collections they oversee as well and the types of moving image materials found within them; the perceived obstacles to initiating and maintaining moving image preservation programs in libraries, and what facilitates their creation; the status of moving image professionals in libraries and what the respondent thinks needs to be changed.
I think the main challenge continues to be that—and every librarian has this, every archivist has this—people don’t understand what we do. And we are so busy doing it that we don’t spend enough time in marketing what we do. Then people don’t value it.
I think the primary issue is not changing anything relative to the specialists, but creating awareness of the importance of the material itself. We have preservation programs that can easily be expanded to accommodate AV. We have specialists—not enough, should demand grow—but enough to get started with populating the positions. But the lack awareness of the importance of audiovisual materials is the primary hurdle we have to get over.
That we have unique collections is what makes our libraries and our special collections and our archives really "special." It brings additional value to the institutional memory. And I think people take that for granted, and more and more in the electronic age. Everyone just thinks everything is automatically saved, or it will be good forever. That they have it on a tape and it’s sitting on a shelf, and they don’t think that in five years we may not have a machine to play it on.
What’s great is that libraries are taking in these collections [in the first place]. I’ve seen a lot of libraries saying, “We don’t know what to do with it, but we don’t want it to get thrown away.”... We won’t be able to preserve everything, but at least we’re providing a safe haven for these collections....
As a media librarian, you [need] skills in university technology [...] 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?
It takes special skills to handle media collections and people like me who go to a traditional library program don’t have those skills necessarily. So it’s been great having [someone] here to see what you can do with that kind of training and background. It’s been eye opening because I can see the cautious, careful, methodical approach, but I also see that there are some things we don’t have to be as frightened of.
From the very beginning, my approach has been to go beyond preservation to make sure that anything we process and preserve is also available to researchers. I gather that a lot of other archives are preserving but not doing that last step, and that’s been very important to me here.
I think that if libraries were approached about their obligation to preserve, I don’t know any library that would say no, or actively deny that obligation. But that obligation to preserve is really just a big expense. Libraries have a limited amount of money and a limited amount of patience for additional expenses.
The administration [here] has been incredibly supportive. The Libraries have devoted considerable resources to the film collections from countless staff in cataloging, administration and the ALF area, to significant archival can purchases, to A-D strip purchases to equipment including a second Steenbeck and a stand-alone freezer to put all the most advanced vinegar syndrome films in.
I think that many librarians or people leaving an MLIS program could—even if they don’t become media librarians—benefit from more awareness of the issues that media librarians face, like collection development. And that there’s this whole world of media librarianship that they may know little about.
I think every person who works for the libraries is a moving image specialist because they should always be considering media. They may not have the specialized skill-set, but they should always be thinking about AV materials.
I think that the creation of media librarianship positions will have to come from a groundswell of education, advocacy, and awareness of what we do, [and] the emerging role and potential role of audiovisual materials in higher education.
Some people don’t even know archives exist. I mean—it took me a while to figure it out! They don’t know what goes on. And that’s part of the extracurricular activities outside of showing up and getting the work done every day. You’ve got to do enough publicity so people know you exist, and that what you’re doing has value. And sometimes you’re so busy doing the work that has value, it’s hard to get the word out there.
I think [moving image materials are] not seen as primary [materials within libraries]. And for more knowledgeable library administrators, they know how expensive a lot of the equipment and the preservation is. They understand this. And it is not inconsiderable.
To some extent, I think institutions need to realize that they don’t need someone with a library degree to handle this type of work. And that leads to the question of where to situate these positions.
I know there are collections in libraries or archives that need work. [Since starting] the master’s in library science, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a moving image archivist moving towards this library world…. I’m ﬁnding out there are some deﬁnitely bridges to build.
I think archivists have to become media specialists. Or know enough to be able to find out what they need to know ... Because there's a lot to know.
Maybe it is just our nerdy little world who thinks that stuff is interesting...
At some point, I believe, as long as people work sensibly, libraries, archives, or museums with moving image collections that have no staff specifically assigned to them will accept that, “Okay, yeah, we need a moving image archivist."
Basically, when I left dance I kind of thought: “What do you want to do after doing a career like that?” And my thing was I wanted to make sure that this illusive profession did not just disappear.