Brian Schottlaender, ALCTS President 2003-2004

brian schottlaender

ALCTS President’s Program

World Enough, and Time: Libraries as Agents of Cultural Memory

Conference-goers who made the trek to the Ritz-Carlton for the ALCTS President's Program, "World Enough, and Time: Libraries as Agents of Cultural Memory" found their journey well worth the effort. Inspired by Stewart Brand's Clock of the Long Now, and generously supported by Harrassowitz, the program explored the challenges of collecting and preserving cultural heritage in an era with a "pathologically short attention span" that may compromise a long-term perspective. It featured presentations by Douglas Greenberg, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, and Bill Ivey, Director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University. Abby Smith, Director of Programs at the Council on Library and Information Resources, facilitated a discussion of the presentations that included several questions from the audience.

Douglas Greenberg's talk offered what he termed "pedestrian rather than theoretical" perspectives gleaned from the Shoah Foundation's efforts to record Holocaust survivors' testimonies on video. Noting that some of the Foundation's original recordings are in Betamax format, one he deems "the rare books of our time," Greenberg explored the preservation and access issues posed by three types of media: those "born analog," those "born digital," and those converted from analog to digital. He gave special attention to intellectual property issues, observing that an obsession with them can prove a formidable barrier to users. Greenberg's presentation concluded with a call for respect for both the physical and metaphysical aspects of collecting cultural memory

Bill Ivey's talk reflected his current position along with his former roles as director of the Country Music Foundation in Nashville, TN and Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts during the Clinton administration. He focused on the private sector's role in shaping cultural memory. Ivey pointed out, for example, that the rights to many of the 20th century's "intangible artifacts" (e.g., feature films and broadcast media recordings) reside with the corporations that made them rather than individual performers. Furthermore, as a result of corporate mergers, many of these rights are now controlled by just a few corporations owned outside of the United States. Ivey argued for a much wider view of what constitutes cultural policy in this country, one that incorporates areas such as copyright and trade practices.

Report written by Genevieve S. Owens, Williamsburg Regional Library

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