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Packard Campus Extends Library's A/V Reach

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Have you ever thought about what it might be like to try to walk through all of the shelves at the Library of Congress? Maybe not, but we LOC people love to mull over the sheer magnitude of this place.

You might have seen statistics here or there that have referred to somewhere in the vicinity of 530 miles of shelves at the Library. But our collections keep growing (at the rate of some 10,000 items per day) and, with them, the shelves keep getting longer.

The Library of Congress has begun bringing online new high-density storage modules at Ft. Meade, Md., that continue to add to that total. But an even more recent addition?the subject of this post?has also increased that mileage, bringing our current estimate to a whopping 615 miles of shelves.

So getting back to my original question: If you were to try to walk 615 miles, you could start in Washington, D.C., heading west until you stopped in Chicago. Then you might want to grab a drink of water, because you?ll have to walk another roughly 20 miles west of Chicago until you reach Aurora, Ill., home of the fictional Wayne and Garth of ?Wayne?s World? fame.

The Packard Campus of the Library of Congress in Culpeper, Va.Image of the Packard Campus courtesy of the Library of Congress?s Motion Picture, Broadcast and Recorded Sound division

The Library of Congress?s other major, new addition comes in the guise of the Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation. The Packard Campus represents a historic and remarkable gift to the government and the taxpayers, with a private cost by the Packard Humanities Institute to build the facility of more than $150 million. The Congress has generously provided $82.1 million in operations, staffing and other start-up costs. Some 5.7 million items, the vast majority of the Library?s collection of audio-visual materials, will be housed at the Packard Campus in Culpeper, Va., about 75 miles southwest of D.C.

More important than just acquiring and storing the items, the Packard Campus offers an opportunity, unparalleled in the world, to preserve the holdings (most of them digitally) for future generations.

The link to the press release above gives you just a hint of the cutting-edge technologies that will help our experts do just that. (This Washington Post story also does a good job of summing things up.)

So the next time you see a newly restored, resplendent movie on on of those classic film channels, you might just be seeing the loving product of Library of Congress staff, who are preserving America?s unrivaled body of audio-visual creativity.

Comments (9)

  1. Matt – Does the LOC ever get rid of items? I read a book called “Double-Fold,” in which the author claimed that the LOC microfilmed volumes of newspapers and then sold or tossed the bound volumes. When books are published, I believe the LOC requires that a copy be sent to them as part of copyright registration. Are these books saved? If so, for how long? Is there some sort of schedule for regular deaccessioning?

  2. In the most recent PRs, I notice that the earlier and oft-used name – “National Audio-Visual Conservation Center,” otherwise frequently reduced to NAVCC, has disappeared. Is that intentional? If so, why? Are you re-branding (awkwardly)?

  3. I’ve read a bit about the new Culpepper facility and it looks very exciting. I am curious about what impact this digitization effort will have on access. The LC’s online digital motion pictures items are really quite tiny and from another era in web time. Seeing the amazing steps that LC is taking in digital preservation I am very curious to hear about plans for the access side of things, especially in light of the recent NARA/Amazon announcement.

    I’ve done some work getting footage for freelance documentary makers, who usually have shoe string budgets and short deadlines. I usually tell my clients that unless they have both money and time to generally avoid trying to get material from LC and try NARA instead if possible. Having material in digital form opens up the possibility of instantaneous copying at zero incremental cost.

    So, I guess my question boils down to, will I be able to walk into the DC reading room with a 1TB hard drive and walk out with it filled with preservation quality public domain motion picture material? If not what are the barriers to enabling that? I’d like to point out that this is currently possible with still picture material held by LC.

  4. Mary, not all items that come to the Library ultimately stay here. About half the items that come in are selected for retention. Items are acquired “through exchange with libraries in this country and abroad, gifts, materials received from local, state and federal agencies as well as foreign governments, purchase, and copyright deposits. Materials are added to the collections of the Library at a rate of 10,000 items per working day. Selection officers review materials and decide which should be kept and added to the permanent collections. Copyright deposits make up the core of the collections, particularly those in the map, music, motion picture, and prints and photographs divisions.”

    As for mandatory copyright deposits, that is required not by the Library but by the Copyright Act of 1970.

    I don’t know the selection and retention policies of the Serial and Government Publications Division. If you are really interested, you might try the Ask A Librarian feature of our Web site.

  5. If I was going to walk 615 miles, I think I would start in beautiful british columbia and then walk 500 miles to Calgary Alberta then I would continue the other 115 miles to newfoundland because I can’t count and liked the song too much.

  6. Matt wondering something from your response. How many selection officers does LOC employ just to keep ahead of the 10,000 items per day. I really don’t want to guess because I don’t want to offend anyone (daily work rate issue).

  7. It is a great architecture of the Library of Congress’s.

  8. Trying to find on website job opportunities at the Culpepper facility. Can someone help….saw site at for D.C. but where is Culpepper employment

  9. Dale, you can find all current LOC job postings here.

    There are no jobs currently posted at Culpeper, but I’m told there should be several more in the near future, so keep watching.


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