By ERIN ALLEN
In February, the Library became one of the first federal agencies to implement an agency-wide “videophone” system that enables its deaf staff members who use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate with both hearing and deaf individuals. (See related story.)
Roll Call reporter Emily Yehle interviewed Fred Pickering, a technology specialist at the Library who is deaf, using the new system. She observed, “The conversation was fluid. The interpreter switched mid-sentence if Pickering did, relayed ‘hmms’ and ‘ums,’ and so quickly translated speech to Pickering that there was virtually no time lag.”
Mike Gorrell of The Salt Lake Tribune, who also spoke to Pickering for his story, said “Technology has changed so much, from nothing at all to TTY in the ‘70s and now to this today. It’s so immediate. I can have an interview and we can see each other. It’s great. It’s far, far better.”
Also running articles on the subject were Federal Computer Week, Wireless News, Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City), Business Wire, Centre Daily Times (Pennsylvania) and govtech.com.
The Library is also upgrading its outreach to the blind and physically handicapped community. The goal of the Library’s Digital Talking Book initiative is to transfer onto special digital flash drives the 60,000 titles currently available on audiocassettes and give patrons new machines on which to play them.
Christopher Lee of The Washington Post spoke with Judith Dixon of the Library’s National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) in March. “The Library system is here because free public library service is a basic tenet of our society,” she said. “This program is providing access to people who would otherwise not have it.”
Lee noted that the Library has been a leading proponent of “technological revolutions” before—offering audio books on long-play records in 1934, then adding books on cassettes in the late 1960s even though the vinyl era lasted well in the 1980s.
Also running his story were The Star-Ledger (New Jersey), boston.com and philly.com.
Yehle of Roll Call focused on the project’s budgetary angle. Instead of $19.1 million needed for a four-year track, the program received $12.5 million, which will add two more years to the project’s completion.
Whether it takes four years or six years, the transition is moving forward, according to NLS Director Frank Kurt Cylke, who noted that the $12.5 million appropriated for fiscal 2008 is enough to start the manufacture of the digital players and cartridges.
Senior Digest also spoke with Cylke and hailed the NLS Talking Book program as a great service for those unable to physically read a book themselves.
As the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge and creativity, the Library adds approximately 10,000 items to its collections daily. However, the Internet era poses a whole new set of challenges in what the Library can collect. James Rogers of byteandswitch.com covered Storage Networking World, a conference that brought together IT management and professionals. Laura Campbell, head of the Library’s Office of Strategic Initiatives, was a featured presenter.
“We estimate that in the current digital age, the amount of information produced every 15 minutes is equivalent to all the data and information now in the Library of Congress,” she said.
To address the storage and preservation of digital data, the Library has forged partnerships with a variety of governmental and commercial organizations, including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the National Alliance for Content Stewardship, Microsoft and Google. In addition, the Library currently has 500 terabytes of digital data stored within its infrastructure, split across three data centers and several different storage technologies.
The Library made several headlines in The Washington Post throughout March. Reporter Amy Orndorff’s article in the Weekend Section espoused the institution’s accessibility to all Americans. In her story titled “You Don’t Have to be A VIP to Use the LOC,” she wrote, “With its 160-foot-high dome, semicircles of stained glass depicting the seals of 48 states and bronze statues of such luminaries as Shakespeare, Homer and Beethoven perched on the top floor, the Library’s Main Reading Room has long been a refuge for some of the country’s best-known writers. But you don’t have to be a literary giant to get a registration card and spend an afternoon working on your own great American novel or just curling up with the newest John Grisham.”
Also running her story were the Monterey County Herald, The Virginian-Pilot, Arkansas Online and tbo.com (Tampa Bay Online).
Still making the news is the Library’s Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Va. Washington Post reporter Adam Bernstein caught up with Gregory Lukow, chief of the Library’s Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, for an update. According to Lukow, a “wonderfully campy” television special from 1978, “The ‘Star Wars’ Holiday Special,” will be the first tape to be preserved using the new robotic digital videotape preservation system called SAMMA. (See Information Bulletin, July/August 2007.)
On the literacy front, Washington Post reporter Valerie Strauss interviewed the Library’s new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, John Scieszka, who continued to offer words of wisdom. For example, he advises that children be given the freedom to choose what they read, including graphic novels, magazines and audio books.
Scieszka, known by children as the author of “The Stinky Cheese Man,” calls himself “a fan of stupid reading,” reported Strauss.
“Fun is the ticket to getting youngsters to read,” said Scieszka. But while he warns against “demonizing other media,” he asked and answered the question, “Can’t we watch YouTube forever? The answer is no. Because your brain will turn to mush.”
Erin Allen is a writer-editor in the Library’s Public Affairs Office.