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The Library Heads SXSW

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Butch Lazorchak of the Library’s National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program brings us this guest post on the Library’s involvement in one of the most important conferences for the creative and technology communities:

The South By Southwest Conference, being held in Austin, Texas, March 11-20, 2011,  has rapidly become one of the most influential gatherings on the planet, bringing together nearly 12,000 registrants for their Music conference and 17,000 more for their Film and Interactive conferences.

For the second year in a row, Library of Congress staff from the Copyright Office, the Recorded Sound Section and the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) will attend the conference, sharing information on Library services at a booth at the week-long trade show, and moderating a panel discussion during the Music conference (more on that in a bit).

Of course, there are lots of big conferences, and the Library can’t participate in them all. So why SXSW?

SXSW brings together creative people engaged in some of the most interesting and innovative work in film, music and the interactive arts (a catchall term that covers emerging technology, gaming and developments on the World Wide Web).

The Library is intensely interested in all of these areas. Many of these creative works, especially those controlled by large studios and major record companies, will become part of the Library’s collections through copyright deposit, but there’s just as many that are created by independent musicians, filmmakers and interactive designers that slip through the cracks due to ignorance, neglect or a misunderstanding of the process.

And while innovative digital technologies enable the ready creation, distribution and accessibility of new digital works, they don’t always ensure their preservation. There are ample opportunities for the Library to enlighten and educate in all these areas.

Even better, participation in events like SXSW amplifies the visibility of the Library. Due to its long-term, responsible stewardship of the nation’s cultural memory, the Library has built a huge reservoir of goodwill in the creative communities, but it’s healthy for the Library to regularly refresh its stock. By aligning itself with innovative activities wherever they occur, and continually reasserting its engagement, the Library remains an active participant in the global creative economy. SXSW is an excellent opportunity for the Library to express this engagement.

More than a mere observer, the Library can shape the conversation around the creation, distribution, accessibility and preservation of creative works in the digital world. Such is the case with the Library’s Music Conference panel, “How to Keep Your Digital Music Flowing.” The panel, moderated by NDIIPP, features industry experts discussing the rapid technological change, proliferating digital content formats, copyright issues and non-standard exchange mechanisms that work against the industry’s ability to easily track its materials in a global marketplace.

Not surprisingly, these same issues are of great concern to the Library and other cultural institutions who are engaged with the issues of format sustainability, stewardship responsibility and the organizational, technical and legal issues around securing the long-term accessibility of digital music for culture, profit and immortal superstardom.

The panel session, happening Wednesday, March 16, at 5 p.m. Central time in room 9 of the Austin Convention Center, also includes Maureen Droney, Senior Executive Director/Producers & Engineers Wing, The Recording Academy (the Grammy people); Andy Leach, the Director of Library and Archives at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum; Greg Parkin, the Vice President for Studios and Archives at Capitol Studios and Mastering; and John Spencer from BMS/Chace, who is the principal investigator on the NDIIPP-funded “Metadata Schema Development for Recorded Sound” project.

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