Tour Recap: Media Commons Lecture & Cold Storage Tour

Last week, the SLA-TSG hosted a tour of the Robarts Library Media Commons and Cold Storage Facility. While the Media Commons and its holdings are open to the public, to researchers, students, and faculty, the Cold Storage Facility is restricted to Media Commons staff. Apart from those who work at the Media Commons and/or have studied with Brock Silversides, few people appear know of the facility’s existence. But more on that later…

The third SLA-TSG tour of 2008/2009 began in the Media Commons, where we were treated to a candid and insightful discussion by Brock Silversides, Department Head and AV/Media Specialist. Throughout the evening, Brock discussed the digitization of non-textual documents, Media collections development, long-term storage methods required for AV materials, and the importance of capturing and archiving our ephemeral day-to-day pop culture.

In this informal, yet informative session, students were able to ask questions and address issues outside the scope of traditional library practice (and instruction, for that matter). All in all, the lecture/Q&A was a real eye-opener, and a fabulous introduction to the field of Special Media Collections Development and Preservation.

Following the discussion, Brock treated us to a ‘Behind the Scenes’ tour of the Media Commons, and showed us the equipment room. Reel-to-reel machines, beta (yes, BETA) and VHS players, CD-rom and DVD burners, and a host of equipment that I had never seen before was explained to us by the resident AV technician, aka McGyver.

Next, we proceeded to the Cold Storage Facility, where materials once belonging to Lions Gate Films, Alliance Atlantis, and several record labels are kept on ice (ok, not really on ‘ice’, but chilled to 5c). The facility is over 5,000 sq feet — it’s size rivals vaults belonging to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Library & Archives Canada (Gatineau) — and utilizes 15 different chillers as it preserves films, videos, audio tapes, photographs and paper memorabilia. During the tour, preservation measures and logistics were discussed; AV materials are fragile, and not ‘built to last’, which is why special treatment and care is required.

For those students who might be interested: the iSchool summer session course, Special Topics in Information Studies: Managing Audio Visual Material runs the duration of the term and is taught by Brock Silversides. Be warned, it fills up VERY fast and is one of the highly coveted, ‘waiting-list’ courses.

–Carolyn

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