The Library of Congress Junior Fellows Program is an annual summer internship program that enables undergraduate and graduate students to experience the integrated analog and digital collections and services of the world’s largest, all-inclusive library. Working under the direction of Library curators and specialists in various divisions, fellows explore digital initiatives and increase access to the institution’s unparalleled collections and resources. Fellows are exposed to a broad spectrum of library work: copyright, preservation, reference, access, and information technology. In the past, summer fellows have identified hundreds of historical, literary, artistic, cinematic and musical gems representing the Library’s rich cultural, creative and intellectual assets. One of the Library’s most recent Junior Fellows was Sabrina Gunn, a student from San Jose University, who, upon the end of her recent summer, wrote the following.
2023 Library of Congress Junior Fellow Sabrina Gunn on Gaining the Full AAPB Digital Preservation Experience at the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center
Bright-eyed and full of enthusiasm, nothing could have prepared me for the experience of walking up to the Library of Congress’ National Audio-Visual Conservation Center (NAVCC) in Culpeper, VA for the first time. Covered in ivy and surrounded by trees, the NAVCC is a truly magical place, and I was lucky enough to spend my summer here as one of the 2023 Library of Congress Junior Fellows.
The awe-inspiring entrance to the Library of Congress’ Packard Campus of the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, VA. Photo Courtesy of Sabrina Gunn.
Assigned to the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) Digital Preservation Project, I had the incredible opportunity to explore and implement digital preservation workflows and methodologies for moving image and recorded sound materials within the AAPB collection onsite at the NAVCC. As a Master of Library and Information Science graduate student at San José State University, I have found myself primarily drawn to courses on digitization, digital preservation, and digital curation, and focused the majority of my assignments on audio-visual materials and the unique challenges faced when attempting to archive and preserve such complex materials. Funnily enough, I created an extensive presentation about the PBCore Metadata Standard (managed and overseen by GBH since 2013) and cataloged DVDs using PBCore for my metadata course, which makes my selection for Library of Congress Junior Fellows AAPB digital preservation project feel like an entirely full-circle moment.
Learning and Implementing Digital Preservation Workflows
Upon my arrival at the NAVCC, my project mentor, Rachel Curtis, began walking me through the digital preservation workflows utilized by the Library for the vast array of AAPB materials it receives. These processes included preparing digital files for ingestion into the Library’s Archive, verifying checksums, generating and cleaning metadata, and editing and running Python scripts to handle batch record creation and updating. It was fascinating to directly apply my knowledge of audio-visual file formats, metadata, and digital preservation best practices to collections capturing such politically, socially, and culturally significant public broadcasting programming, and typically at a much larger scale than I had encountered thus far.
Many of the collections I processed were derived from the work completed by AAPB Public Broadcasting Preservation Fellowship (PBPF) Fellows, including materials from the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), North Carolina Public Radio-WUNC, and Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB). It was wonderful to contribute to the final steps in the digital preservation workflow for these materials, especially considering the hard work done by the PBPF Fellows to inventory, digitize, catalog, and process such wide-ranging and at-risk audio-visual public media materials in underserved areas. That full-circle moment feeling was also further solidified owing to my prior interest in the PBPF program offered through San José State University, whose faculty advisor is a beloved professor of mine who gave me such a solid foundation in digital curation, digitization, and digital preservation!
Despite focusing almost exclusively on digital files throughout my internship, I also spent some time in the NAVCC’s vaults assisting Meghan Holly, one of the NAVCC’s vault technicians, with pulling 2-inch tape from the National Educational Television (NET)/Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) collection for digitization by a third-party vendor. Vault work was an enjoyable way to see and touch the analog media that would eventually be processed using the same digital preservation workflows I was implementing on previously digitized materials this summer, and the climate-controlled colder temperatures in the vault were a welcome reprieve from the Virginian summer heat and humidity!
One of the NAVCC’s temperature and humidity-controlled vaults that stores 2-inch tape from the NET/PBS collection. Photo Courtesy of Sabrina Gunn.
Quality Control and Online Reading Room Review
Quality control is an essential component of the AAPB digital preservation workflow to verify the quality, accuracy, and consistency of the digitized materials, and one which I was able to gain hands-on experience in during my junior fellowship. Considering the scale of the AAPB’s mass digitization projects, I only evaluated a sampled subset of files by comparing audio and video playback to the vendor’s technical and transfer notes, such as video dropout, discoloration, or contrast issues. Although my internship did not involve digitizing materials myself, it was fascinating to see some of the common issues encountered when digitizing audio-visual materials, some of which I knew about from my experience as a digitization intern for the Center for Sacramento History this past spring.
Following quality control and record creation, digitized materials must then go through a rigorous Online Reading Room (ORR) Review before they can be made accessible on the AAPB website. Using the AAPB’s process for assessing and clearing materials as a guide, I reviewed and rated materials based on the AAPB bucket classification system to determine the manner and extent of public access, ranging from fully available online, on-site at the Library of Congress and GBH in Boston, or restricted to viewing at the Library’s reading rooms only. After learning about the complexities of copyright protections in my Digitization and Digital Preservation course last semester, the ORR Review process enhanced my comprehension of how organizations assess materials for potential account contract limitations, privacy concerns, and copyright considerations when determining the appropriate way to make materials accessible (or not) to the public and how difficult this process can be. Completing the ORR Review process additionally allowed me to explore a variety of AAPB materials, several of which were the result of the work done by the 2022–2023 PBPF Fellows.
Creating Special Collections
One of my favorite sections of the AAPB website is the Special Collections, featured selections of curated materials grouped by theme, program, or station. During my junior fellowship, I had the opportunity to learn more about what goes into creating special collections. After thoroughly exploring the materials available on the AAPB website, I wrote proposals for four special collections centered on art programming, consumer affairs, crime and incarceration, and higher education. These Special Collections should be available on the AAPB website in the near future.
Images from the top: “Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein,” USA: Artists, National Educational Television & Radio Center, 1966, AAPB. | Image 2: “Nutrition,” Consumer Survivor Kit, Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting, 1988, AAPB. | Image 3: “The Criminal,” The Criminal Man, National Educational Television & Radio Center, 1958, AAPB. | Image 4: “Women’s and Gender Studies,” Higher Education Today, Steven Roy Goodman, 2017, AAPB.
Lasting Impressions and Expressions of Gratitude
Just as I was completely awe-struck as I walked up to the NAVCC on my first day, I am finding myself at a loss for words when trying to express how much my AAPB junior fellowship at the NAVCC means to me. Being able to work on the AAPB digital preservation project onsite at the NAVCC provided me with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gain practical digital preservation experience at a state-of-the-art audio-visual facility. I would like to express my distinct gratitude to my project mentor, Rachel Curtis. Her unwavering enthusiasm, expertise, and support was an inspiration to me, and I feel unbelievably fortunate to have learned from her. I would also like to thank Miranda Villesvik and Casey Davis from GBH for guiding me through the ORR Review and Special Collection creation processes. Finally, to the entire NAVCC staff: thank you for welcoming me with open arms, showing me the ropes, answering my countless questions and curiosities, chatting about movies with me, lending career advice as I near the completion of my MLIS, sharing countless laughs, and ultimately making this summer one of the best I have ever had. This has been a transformative experience, both personally and professionally, and one which I will cherish forever.
Sabrina Gunn is a graduate student earning her Master of Library and Information Science degree from San José State University, focusing her coursework primarily on information organization, digital preservation, and digital curation. While she is typically based in Sacramento, CA, Sabrina spent this summer working as a 2023 Library of Congress Junior Fellow onsite at the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, VA. Following her graduation this fall, Sabrina plans to pursue a career in audio-visual preservation at an archive, special collection, academic library, or museum.
For more information related to this blog or any Library of Congress holdings, please see Ask a Librarian, and if you plan to come in to view or listen to any collection items, please reach out to our reference staff in the Moving Image Research Center and the Recorded Sound Research Center.