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Library of Congress Plan Goes On the Record

Washington — Sounds like a plan.

The Library of Congress shared its National Recording Preservation Plan on this week, outlining its strategy for safeguarding America’s sound recordings for future generations of listeners.

The congressionally mandated plan arrives after more than a decade of cooperation between the library and its National Recording Preservation Board, which includes composers, musicians, archivists, librarians, musicologists and others.

“As a nation, we have good reason to be proud of our record of creativity in the sound-recording arts and sciences,” James H. Billington, librarian of Congress, said in a statement. “However, our collective energy in creating and consuming sound recordings has not been matched by an equal level of interest in preserving them for posterity.”

The library’s plan makes 32 recommendations toward preserving the nation’s endangered audio heritage. It calls for a publicly accessible directory of sound collections; a national policy for collecting, cataloguing and preserving neglected recordings; the implementation of best practices for preserving digital audio files; and more.

The National Recording Preservation Act of 2000 called on the library to not only protect America’s recordings — from fragile cylinder records to vintage sportscasts to hit pop songs — but to make them accessible to the public.

In 2002, the library launched its National Recording Registry, a collection of recordings deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” to be preserved for all time.

The plan announced Wednesday continues that conservation effort while fighting the popular misconception that all of America’s recorded culture will someday magically appear on YouTube.

“Everybody sort of assumes that . . . if it’s not on the Internet now, it soon will be,” says Patrick Loughney, chief of the library-affiliated Packard Campus of the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center. “The facts are exactly the opposite. There are massive amounts of historical recordings ⅛that are currently⅜ out of circulation, and it’s created a sort of growing amnesia from one generation to the next.”

bc-recordings-history (TPN)