Introduction To the amnesia by mikesanye


									                Introducing The
 Audio-Visual Information Network of Jamaica
                       Presented by Maureen Webster-Prince
   Coordinator, AVIN & Head Audio-Visual Department, National Library of Jamaica

                At the Inaugural joint FIAT/ IASA organised
                              November 8, 2003
                Knutsford Court Hotel, Kingston, Jamaica, W. I.

The Audio Visual Information Network of Jamaica [AVIN] was launched officially in April
2003 as the sixth subsystem of the National Information System.

Mission Statement
               To collect, document, preserve and provide scope for access to
               the aural and visual aspects of our cultural heritage.

Network Objectives
     To set priorities for the development of an effective and cohesive audio-visual
        information network (AVIN);
     To promote cooperation and resource sharing among audio-visual units within Jamaica;
     To standardise documentation tools for capturing the wealth of information contained in
        audio-visual formats.
     To facilitate the most effective use of national audio-visual resources.
     To bridge the gaps between generators, users and keepers of audio-visual materials.

Plan of Action
AVIN in fulfillment of its mandate aspires to:
       1. Form working parties within the network to:

               -   Develop policies & guidelines for the management of the nation‟s audio-
                   visual collections
               -   Establish cataloguing standards (AVIDA)
               -   Coordinate activities for the First Caribbean Audio Visual Information
               -   Produce publications
               -   Facilitate on-going training to incorporate best practices
               -   Examine legal issues related to providing access to audio-visual items and to
                   disseminate these findings throughout the network among stakeholders.
       2. Conduct Resource Surveys and circulate findings among stakeholders.
       3. Conduct Use / User Surveys to assess use of collections and develop strategies.
       4. Hold meetings at least six (6) times annually.
       5. Facilitate the establishment of discussion groups to increase public awareness of the
           need to properly capture, document and safeguard the sound, still and moving image
           aspects of our cultural heritage.

Background to AVIN

Ideally, a network serves to link various components, functions and processes to facilitate the
smooth operation of a specific infrastructure as an integral entity.

The Audio-Visual Information Network (AVIN) of Jamaica is the newest member of the
National Information System (NIS).          This system attempts to bring together Jamaica‟s
knowledge assets into a single, interconnected and interoperated mechanism to facilitate the
achievement of national developmental goals and objectives.

To put this in perspective, the National Library of Jamaica, as the coordinator of the National
Information System, has among its responsibilities to:

      Advise Government on the overall development of the information sector;
      Ensure the growth of the sectoral networks in the system;

      Cooperate with other major systems to ensure the continued development of the country‟s
       library and information sector within the National Information Infrastructure (NII); and
      Promote the value of information to nation-building.

The National Library of Jamaica‟s system of sectoral networks is committed to facilitating
cooperation among the libraries and information units that provide support for the day-to-day
developmental activities of their individual institution and of the nation as a whole. The system
already had five established networks:

      The Social and Economic Information Network (SECIN).                Its focal point is the
       Documentation Centre of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ).
      The College Libraries Information Network (COLINET), with the Library of the
       University of Technology (UTECH) as a focal point;
      The Scientific and Technical Information Network (STIN). The Scientific Research
       Council‟s Documentation Centre (SRC) is its focal point;
      The Legal Information Network (LINET) has the Supreme Court Library as its focal
       point; and
      The Jamaica Agricultural and Documentation Information Network (JADIN). Its focal
       point is the Ministry of Agriculture‟s Library.

These five sectoral networks are defined by the scope of the information they cover. We
disrupted this established pattern of network mapping with the addition of the sixth NLJ
network, the Audio-Visual Information Network (AVIN) with National Library of Jamaica‟s
Audio-Visual Department as its focal point. AVIN differs from the other five networks in that it
is defined largely by the media that bears the information rather than by the subject content. The
criterion of media defies the purist way of defining information networks as its blazes a new trail
into the information source machinery of Jamaica. To put it simply, formerly audio-visuals were
regarded as illustrative materials for explaining scientific and manufacturing processes or as
teaching aids and not as serious research material in their own rights. This worldview of audio-
visuals has experienced a paradigm shift and they are gaining significance as serious research
materials in their own rights.

It is within this context that I will now attempt to put AVIN in perspective and I hope we will
understand why the members of AVIN consider it to be our collective responsibility to ensure
that any cultural output that falls within our scope is given its rightful place in the annals of
history. After all, our oral communication systems are multifaceted and their potential research
resources are endless.

Facilities for the recording of sound have always been utilised by artistes to convey their cultural
expressions. Yet the further we go back in history, the wider are the painful gaps in our
inheritance of archival audio-visual documents of films, and sound and video recordings; many
have been lost irretrievable. Unfortunately, no amount of analyses of the reasons for this or
investigations into who is responsible or guilty about this massive loss of human values will
retrieve these records. This network therefore recognises that it has to identify ways of pooling
available resources to reduce the risk of cultural amnesia and to ensure that audio-visual items

are given positions of prominence among the other scholarly research documents that are being

The proliferation of audio-visual media in Jamaica, about Jamaica or by Jamaicans, reinforces
the view that audio-visual media are viable channels for social expressions.

AVIN recognises that it is scientifically and morally unjustifiable to treat audio-visuals with less
regard than books in libraries, manuscripts in archives or works of art in museums. Although the
management of audio-visual collections continues to challenge their custodians, AVIN is
committed to identifying „best practices‟ to implement for the management of audiovisual items.
Hence AVIN‟s involvement in this conference.

AVIN seeks to halt the process of mass destruction of audio-visual records. In a preliminary
survey conducted on the causes of mass destruction of items identified within the electronic
media the reasons ranged from lack of adequate supplementary documentation to facilitate
organization and conservation, to absolute ignorance about handling, use and storage of audio-
visual formats. There is a mythical view that audio-visual records are self-explanatory and that
attention to details about production is a useless activity. Consequently, persons charged with
managing audio-visual collections are hard-pressed to identify ideal solutions to the many issues
implicit in the management of their holdings. The urgency with which audio-visual items are
required by researchers also put additional strain on audio-visual managers who are expected to
mentally archive the contents of their audio-visual collections.

The National Library of Jamaica‟s AV Department, though itself faced with its own challenges,
which include inadequate resources and space, is obliged to serve its constituents of audiovisual
managers and users. The problematic areas identified include administrative issues such as:

                  Methods for deposit and collection of AV items
                  Selection and other policy issues;
                  Value of audio-visuals materials;
                  Legal problems associated with

                      o “access” and “use”
                      o new demands
                      o new user categories.

One critical area of concern that continues to plague AVIN‟s attempts at audio-visual
management is that of format obsolescence.         The spasmodic development of new media
technologies has created a situation in which problems outweigh theories about which ones are
ideal. The very archival principle of preserving as given is problematic especially since audio-
visual records are dependent on specific equipment for accessing the data. What do we do when
particular pieces of equipment are no longer functional and replacement or spare parts seem

Networking may be a possible solution to this problem. All members will have information
about what is owned by each unit and will participate in establishing the terms and conditions for
gaining access to each other‟s scarce resources.

Insufficient financial support is another major problem that militates against the instituting of
proper archival principles within individual units of AVIN. There are considerable expenses
associated with:

      The creation and maintenance of a controlled environment for audio-visual media;
      The purchase of technical equipment for use, checking and maintenance of audio-visual

In other words, it takes considerable and constantly increasing financial support both to establish
and maintain audio-visual archives. Ideally state funding should be provided, but the reality is
that it is our collective responsibility to ensure that our cultural heritage is preserved for
generations yet unborn.     The arguments of archivists, cultural historians, media experts,
sociologists, journalists and other researchers are needed to promote the case for attracting
additional funds. AVIN was established to provide a platform for lobbying such discussions and
other issues related to the handling, conservation and maintenance of audio-visual collections.

Audio-visual archives in Jamaica operate within very dynamic environments, such as media
houses and production units. Traditionally systems for the storage of sound and moving images
were analogue devices such as movie films, LP discs and still photography.             Among the
problems encountered when handling analogue recordings are the quality and fidelity of the
information because this is degraded every time it is moved from carrier to carrier. Additionally,
the copying process relies heavily on skilled staff with expertise in assessing the quality of the
copy generated to ensure that the best copy can be generated. Concomitantly, skilled staff cost
money and the process is also time-consuming – thus escalating the costs associated with proper
archival audio-visual management.

Towards the end of the last century the information industry witnessed the emergence of
numerous new formats for storing information. The vast range of competing devices for storing
sounds, images and textual information is bewildering but not all forms of the “New
Technology” are appropriate for the mass storage of information by libraries and archives.
Digital formats have been showcased as the audio-visual custodian‟s magical potion. Many
arguments have been advanced to support the possibilities of digital documents.

Additionally, the availability of automated storage system that is controlled from, and sends
information to, standard computer terminals will result in less use of original carriers and access
time.   AVIN will establish a sub-committee to review technological advances and their
suitability for audio-visual archiving. The acquisition of a mass storage system for the network
can be cost-effective if properly administered and can be set up in a “safe” area that is one less
likely to be affected by device of man-made disasters. For example, the cost of providing the
appropriate infrastructure is prohibitive for individuals units. AVIN recognises that the volatility
of our very existence is substantial reason to pool our resources to identify what is best for our
rich cultural audio-visual heritage.

Between February and March 2003, the National Library of Jamaica AV Department attempted
to conduct a survey among the potential AVIN members to ascertain:
                      Size and contents of their collections;

                     Organisation of AV collections
                     Available services offered by the units
                     Levels of cooperation with other information units;
                     Numbers and educational background of staff;
                     Budgetary allocations
                     Equipment at their disposals

Of a sample group of 30, only 17 responses met the extended deadline. One major conclusion
that can be drawn from the analyses of the survey conducted is the disparity in resource
allocations. Given the differences in available resources, networking is considered the best way
to solve many of the problems within Jamaica‟s audio-visual units. Therefore, the establishment
of AVIN is a national imperative that must be energized to prevent collective amnesia and to
reclaim our rich cultural heritage!

Thank You!!


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