The CBC Library and Archives tour was such a big hit with the University of Toronto iSchoolers last year that we knew SLA-Toronto Student Group (TSG) had to organize another one this year.
Fortunately for us, Laura Warner (SLA Toronto Chapter President and Media Librarian in Content Management at CBC) helped us organize another successful tour! We’d like to thank all the wonderful librarians who made the 2012 SLA-TSG CBC Tour another entertaining and informative outing for the lucky iSchool students!
A big thank you to:
Geoffrey Hopkinson (Director of Content Management, Special Programming and Partnerships at CBC)
Lorne Shapiro (Media Librarian, Music Library)
Michele Melady (Manager of Reference, Reference Library)
Janet Muise and Brenda Carroll (Media Librarians, Image Research Library)
Jacqueline Lee (Media Centre Coordinator, Visual Resources) and Rebecca Effrat (Media Librarian, Visual Resources)
Dan Dimopoulos (Media Librarian, Film Library)
Susan Savva (Library Coordinator, Video Tape Recording Library)
Brian Knott (Project Manager, Deep Archive)
Laura Warner, of course!
We learned many exciting facts about the many roles librarians and information professionals play behind the scenes of one of Canada’s most important entertainment and news sources, the CBC!
There are several libraries in the CBC building in Toronto and we were fortunate enough to visit many of them with our guides, Laura Warner and Geoffrey Hopkinson.
The main CBC library space on the second floor used to be a dedicated music library, but now encompasses the reference, music, content management, and visual resources libraries. Librarians and archivists assist production with research, provide information support, archive and catalogue the programs produced daily, and meet all other information needs of the CBC.
We were divided into two groups for the tour and my group’s first visit was to the CBC film library with Dan Dimopoulos. The high-tech film preservation storage facilities house approximately 100,000 film reels dating from 1952 to the late 1980s. The film library houses a large cultural legacy of Canadian television. Film was the medium of choice at the inception of the CBC Television in 1952, but the focus is now on preserving the picture and audio tracks found on the deteriorating film reels. For preservation purposes, most film reels have now been switched to storage canisters that are plastic and “breathable” to avoid acidic buildup. The canisters are different colours for easy identification while the immense storage facility is climate controlled at 3-4°C and 25% relative humidity to combat vinegar syndrome. The storage facility is so precisely designed for preservation that any new film could be preserved for 300 years in that (close to freezing!) vault.
In 1998, a $51 million dollar preservation project was approved by the Board of Directors to be shared by both CBC’s French and English services. The first priority was to preserve the film, including transferring material from film to digital beta and making duplicate tape copies for safekeeping. Much of the material on film has already been transferred to tape.
We journeyed from the past to the present with Brian Knott as we visited the CBC tape library, which holds approximately 180,000 tapes on digital beta tape and SX tape, including HDCam, and HDSR. A lot of tapes hold material transferred from film. The tape library uses a random warehouse-shelving model, which is of interest to us fledgling library students since it means that the tapes are not shelved or stored in numeric sequence. Each shelf has a barcode and each tape has a barcode. When shelving, the barcode on the shelf where the tape is placed and the barcode on the tape are scanned. The information is automatically uploaded into the computer so that there is an up-to-the-minute update on the location of the tape. Considering the size of the tape library, this model is incredibly efficient and no shelf reading is required!
Next, we caught a glimpse of the future with the DIVA Deep Archive. As CBC transitions to fully digital workflows with shooting and editing of materials that are file-based (no longer on tapes or film), the Deep Archive stores materials in digital formats. The Linear Tape-Open (LTO) magnetic tape data storage cartridges are much more affordable compared to film or tape and the LTO5 model can store up to 1.5TB or 66 hours of HD footage on a cartridge akin to the size of a CD case (remember CDs? – exact dimensions are 102.0 × 105.4 × 21.5 mm). All newly shot footage is archived as files (yes, like those on our computers) and all files can be retrieved from the Deep Archive with a fully automated system so that producers and reporters can edit the shoot material and write their scripts right at their computers with instant access to footage literally at their fingertips. The LTO cartridges are stored in the archive and the whole thing is only about 20 feet long and already holds 5 years of files with space to spare! The battle to find shelf space for new tapes is no longer an issue.
After visiting the past (film), present (tape), and future (fully digitized world and workflow) of CBC, we went to see Jacqueline Lee and Rebecca Effrat, librarians embedded in the CBC newsroom. The visual resources librarians all participate in both cataloging and reference (research desk) duties and they explained that knowing both positions helps them perform better at both sets of tasks (one catalogues better if one understands how one usually performs research, and one can research better if one understands how materials are catalogued). These embedded librarians circulate approximately 500-600 tapes every week (both tape and digital files) as materials are requested. They also digitize approximately 60 hours of tape per day. In the past, librarians were at the end of the media production process, in charge of only organizing finished products. Nowadays, the librarians are involved from the early stages and help research, provide access to materials, anticipate information needs by preemptively digitizing visuals, and providing a folder structure with materials relating to important daily news items (think complex LibGuides updated daily!), set up naming conventions, and work closely with producers so files can be found, used, and stored in manners that facilitate future retrieval.
We left the newsroom and went back to visit Michele Melady in the main library space where she explained that CBC Toronto staffs five reference librarians. These five librarians are on shift from 8am-8pm and fulfill the research needs for all CBC offices across Canada! The reference librarians provide informational research services to journalists and producers working in all the different divisions (radio, television, and online). The CBC reference librarians engage in chase producing (e.g.,locating experts, victims, supporters of a cause, for interviews and opinions), ensure materials offer balanced perspectives, as well as find and check facts for all topics. They obtain documents and statistics that are difficult to locate using commercial databases like Factiva, LexisNexis, and Eureka. Reference librarians also produce subject packages providing background and pertinent information on various topics. They answer reference questions over the phone, in person, and via email, with email making up 90% of the reference requests. The reference library also plays an archival role for CBC history with a collections development policy of purchasing materials about the CBC or written by CBC employees; therefore, the reference library holds documents dating back to 1936 from the founding of the Corporation.
Sharing a space with the reference library in the redesigned area is the CBC music library where we met Lorne Shapiro. Whereas CDs used to fill the walls and shelves, only the year’s most recent music is now kept physically in CDs running along the length of one side of the library walls. Most music is now available through the Virtual Music Library (VML) accessible to CBC offices across the nation. The music library still holds a collection of print reference materials related to music and a collection of scores. The vinyl collection has not been fully digitized yet due to cost, but is made available on the VML by demand (oh yes, the music desk deals with reference requests from specific songs and scores to sound effects!) A new Media Asset Management System is underway to make all library and archival materials available with appropriate metadata so music, video, and other files can be accessed “self-serve” by CBC staff.
Last but not least, we glimpsed at the wonderful treasures at the photo and image library with Janet Muise and Brenda Carroll. All the images found in the library serve to inform graphic design, costumes, and set decorations. The library encompasses royalty free stock footage of graphics etc. on CDs, historical photos (such as images from CBC productions), and digital images purchased for use by all departments (the last need arose with digital graphics design starting in the 1990s). Janet and Brenda are also in charge of assisting staff with obtaining materials from other companies, as well as reference requests for images (always ensuring that copyright is carefully considered and researched for each image used). The library has a still photo collection of approximately 1.5 million images (all CBC-owned material) datingback to 1936, with the inception of CBC radio. Most of these prints, negatives, and slides are in the process of being digitized and catalogued for the web and are available online at the CBC Still Photo Collection.
The CBC libraries and archives is a unique environment, as it demonstrates the variety of roles, duties, and responsibilities Information Professionals occupy in special libraries, as well as in the archives. I agree with my fellow iSchoolers who said the CBC libraries opened their eyes to the possibilities beyond academic and public libraries. It is also especially valuable for us as students to see how the research, interpersonal, and technical skills (everything from reference, collections development, preservation issues, and cataloging) from our courses translates and can be applied to so many types of information work in such an interesting, vibrant environment. It was inspiring to see the solutions CBC is employing to solve preservation and storage issues as well as the innovative technologies used for research, cataloging, and to provide efficient access to information.
We learned so much thanks to all the librarians who opened their doors and shared their expertise and experiences with us. Thank you!
— Farah Chung
Reference Intern at Dorothy H. Hoover Library at the Ontario College of Art & Design