Living Libraries Salon
12. november 2014
Rachel Dagnall, Althea Greenan, Sveinn Fannar Jóhannsson, Mike Sperlinger
The traditional use of the library is one of compilation, bringing together material into one resource and making it publically available. In the digital age libraries and archives are becoming archived like the very material they seek to preserve. This salon will examine importance of both digital and the non-digital material being produced in the arts sector and how to store this material and keep it constantly alive and available for both present and future generations.
Libraries and archives have traditionally been the knowledge base of societies, found within them books, articles, collections, videos, tapes, ephemera and any number of other materials all bought together in a space that acts as a sacred site of storage for potentially accessible material. Deemed so valuable and at times powerful libraries and their content have been destroyed several times over throughout history as a power body seeks to destroy information that may be at odds with a certain belief system, or may provide the consumer with too many ideas.
Since the start of the digital era libraries and archives have become one of the many resources that have changed dramatically. Information that was once only available through going to the physical place, where the information was held, is now located on the internet, in your living room, work place, bedroom, at the tap of a keyboard. Archives are becoming digitised so that the consumer now need only know the website of the collection they are wishing to look at. This process is happening for many reasons, one of which is the rate that material held in archives is now deteriorating, materials such as slides found in the Woman’s Art Library, have a limited life span. The digital era happened too quickly and now archives must respond to its progress. Daguerreotype, dry plates, celluloid, polaroid, film, pixels, each one out-dating the one before, vinyl, tape, CD, mini-disk, MP3, the same applies to books, magazines, newspapers, each one has changed with history and dramatically so in recent history. Preservation techniques can only extend life, but there comes a point when the material seeking to be preserved can no longer be consumed in its original format as it has come too far in its ageing. The digitalisation of this material is yet another step in the process of keeping the material alive.
Although material is moving increasingly in a digital direction, both for preservation and ease of access, the viewing of the original or re-produced material can be seen as a parallel argument to why it is important to see art work in a gallery, and that is the quality and availability of experience. With a more physical situation you are able to gain tactile qualities, to experience environment, see the material in a more appropriate setting. This rational can be applied time and time again to a whole host of situations that can take us back to the world beyond the computer screen. Nevertheless the digital era poses a threat to many libraries or archives which were once thriving, due to the alternatives presented online.
Libraries, archives and collections are having to find new ways to interact with audiences from all generations. The public library of Oslo (Deichmanske Bibliotek) is a good example of a library reacting, as well as hosting events that you may associate with a place of reading such as story sessions it also has a further cultural outlook hosting events such as the Culture Night party within the library it’s self where attendees can be seen dancing and drinking among the shelves. By opening the door to what a library, archive, collection, can be the physical space and content can be opened up to those beyond the initial presumed consumers. This acts as just one example of how custodians are choosing to animate their content.
The salon event will address questions ranging from the relevance of the library today, what would we lose if there were no library, what can we gain from physical experience, does the library or archive really have to fight, is there room for a digital and non-digital experience, where do we go from here.