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The Library of Congress > Digital Preservation > News Archive > Library Generates Buzz at SXSW
Exterior of the Austin Convention Center.

The exterior of the Austin Convention
Center. Photo credit: Karen Fishman

April 7, 2011 -- "It’s so cool that the Library of Congress is here at the world’s biggest tech show!," gushed a visitor during the 2011 South By Southwest Music and Media Conference (external link). This exclamation echoed sentiments of hundreds of visitors who dropped by the Library trade show booth over the course of a week to ask about copyright issues, grapple with the challenges of preserving digital information and explore ways to share in, and become a part of, the Library’s collections.

SXSW, held in Austin, TX from 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.

Setting up the booth at SXSW 2011.

Crowds during the SXSW Conference.
Photo credit: Flickr user"inuse pictures"

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 attended the SXSW conferences, sharing information at the trade show and moderating a panel discussion during the music conference.

Media scholar Henry Jenkins (external link) popularized the idea of a "convergence culture" of participation where "fans and fan-like activities are absolutely central to the way the culture industries operate." This participatory convergence is a central ethos of the SXSW experience, as the traditional film and music industries have been joined by the broadly defined "interactive" industries (web technologies, gaming and other advanced information services) and a new breed of technology-enabled artist/entrepreneurs in a wide-ranging conversation about the future direction of technology and culture. The Library’s long-term perspective on technology and culture makes it an important participant in these developments.

Setting up the booth at SXSW 2011.

Carol Guglielm and Karen Fisham setting
up the booth.
Photo credit: Butch Lazorchak

More than a mere observer, Library participation in events like SXSW can shape the conversation around the creation, distribution, accessibility and preservation of creative works in the digital world. Much of the output of these industries, especially those controlled by large studios and major record companies, will become part of the Library’s collections through mandatory copyright deposit. But many works by independent musicians, filmmakers and interactive designers may 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, preservation can be a challenge. There are ample opportunities for the Library to enlighten and educate in all these areas.

Carol Guglielm answering copyright questions..

Carol Guglielm answering copyright
questions. Photo credit: Karen Fishman

Karen Fishman, a digital reference specialist in the Recorded Sound Section, Carol Guglielm, a registration specialist in the Copyright Office and Butch Lazorchak, a digital archivist from NDIIPP, did direct outreach at the trade show, answering questions, discussing Library services and make future contacts to advance the mission of the Library. They talked to musicians, producers, programmers, social media developers and music educators from government and the private sector about acquisition, preservation, education and copyright issues, and the presence of the Library at SXSW evoked a consistently positive response.

Butch Lazorchak answering digital preservation questions.

Butch Lazorchak talks about digital
Photo credit: Karen Fishman

The Library’s Music Conference panel, "How to Keep Your Digital Music Flowing," (external link) broadened the engagement, making connections between the shared responsibilities of cultural creators and long-term stewards to ensure that music, especially digitally-produced and -distributed materials, remain accessible over the long-term to support new business models and cultural heritage.

The panel, moderated by Lazorchak, featured industry experts discussing 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. The session included participation from Maureen Droney, the Senior Executive Director, Producers & Engineers Wing, The Recording Academy (external link) (the Grammy people); Andy Leach, the Director of Library and Archives at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (external link); Greg Parkin, the Vice President for Studios and Archives at Capitol Studios and Mastering (external link); and John Spencer from BMS/Chace (external link), who is also the principal investigator on the NDIIPP-funded "Metadata Schema Development for Recorded Sound" project.

>Setting up the booth at SXSW 2011.

Butch Lazorchak and Karen Fishman at
the SXSW 2011 trade show. Photo credit:
Carol Guglielm

SXSW is international in scope, and the Library was able to make arrangements to acquire new music from Germany, Sweden and Great Britain for the collection. Valuable contacts were also made for possible future acquisitions, such as commercial jingles, soundtracks from Paramount Films and manuscript collections of radio personalities. Staff were interviewed and videotaped by the Berklee College of Music for their PULSE program (external link), to be included in a segment which features a song-writing workshop for students from grades 4 to 12, as well as by Japan’s East Entertainment Group (external link) for a documentary on the conference. Staff met with many music educators and directed them to the Library’s Educational Outreach Division. Additional connections were made with researchers exploring ways to make digital information more accessible in a variety of ways.

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.