May 5, 2010

Moving Image Specialists in Librares is a new research initiative of New York University's Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program. The project is made possible by a grant from the US Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

The goals of the MISL project are to:

  • *Improve staffing for moving image archiving and preservation at libraries and archives

  • *Engage librarians and archivists in discussions about the state of moving image collections, the training and education of moving image caretakers, and the needs of moving image collections in libraries and archives.

  • *Document and analyze data on these topics as well as the impediments to hiring trained moving image preservation specialists in libraries and archives.

  • *Facilitate dialogue and exchange of knowledge around these issues and propose solutions.


Libraries, through both their circulating and archival collections, hold some of our most significant and enduring moving image and sound materials. Personal “papers” in special collections can now include ethnographic recordings, video productions, and home movies; organizational record collections include television/radio coverage, audio interviews with esteemed guests and faculty, and videotaped conference sessions. Also increasingly new media artistic and cultural objects—such as computer hard drives that require proprietary software to run their files—are being added to collections.

These films, tapes and digital media often languish on shelves in special collections, subject to deterioration and machine obsolescence with no clear plan for when or how they will be processed. While there are a number of libraries with preservation departments, very few of these are staffed with specialists versed in the rapidly changing needs of moving image materials. Additionally, staff in library media centers with circulating or research collections typically have no time to evaluate their holdings for preservation, though they know there are unique and irreplaceable works being worn out through the process of access. Unlike traditional library materials, these recordings do no have the luxury of time on their side. Once a film or tape has deteriorated, it is often to late, or too cost prohibitive, to recover the content. And once a format becomes obsolete, the challenges increase.

Moving Image Specialists in Libraries (MISL) seeks to generate awareness of the invaluable audiovisual holdings hidden away in library special collections, archives, and media centers, and the urgent attention that these recordings require if they are to be usable to library patrons over time. The end goal is to improve staffing for moving image archiving and preservation at libraries, thereby increasing the longevity and access of audiovisual holdings currently available.

This website will be the primary platform we will use to gather information and present findings toward this goal. Here you will find:

  • Discussions about the state of moving image collections, the training and eduction of moving image caretakers, and the needs of moving image collections at libraries. We invite you to join in the conversation and share your experiences!

  • Interviews with library staff about their moving image collections, needs, goals and challenges to to improving the state of moving image preservation. If you would like to be interviewed, please let us know

  • Reports from focus groups on these issues that will be conducted at future library association meetings. We'd love for you to join us.

  • News and events information. We'll keep you posted on upcoming conferences that we'll be participating in. And the students and graduates currently in fellowships and internships at libraries will be posting their thoughts and findings.