Tuesday, June 14, 2011
What is a mediatheque?
Is mediatheque a word pertaining only to centers of audio, visual and digital media (such as at the British Film Institute), or does it stand for collections of all kinds of media - digital, printed and other?
As the museum I work at is in the process of planning a mediatheque itself, I recently visited several mediatheque's in Paris to learn how they function, and what they focus on.
Sarah Baumfelder from la cité de la musique describes the mediatheque she works in as both a music library, a multimedia center, an educational center and a children's activity center. She herself leads vocational training in the mediatheque for people planning careers in music. Her students combine study on mediatheque books and computers with physical meetings at seminar tables. In addition to teaching, Sarah and other employees prepare information for inclusion in online and local digital collections: Catalogs of printed documents and sheet music; archived audio and visual recordings of concerts at the cite de la musique; archived audio and visual recordings of conference presentations; a digital catalog of musical instruments and photos in the collection of Musee de la musique; educational material about music and musical instruments; lists of music courses and educational institutions, as well as a guide to online resources in music.
Sarah pointed out that the online and local versions of the mediatheque are both structured in the same way, but that the local version contains access to considerably more resources - which copyright restrictions hinder from including online.
At Musee du quai Branly, I was graciously received by mediatheque director Anne Faure. Anne informed me that her museum inherited vast quantities of objects, books and archival material from two older institutions: the Musée national des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie, and the musée de l’Homme. Much of this material is available either in the reading room on the ground floor (available to the general public) or in the mediatheque proper on the 5th floor (available only to researchers). Her staff of 38 mediatheque employees have been busy digitizing photos and archival texts for years. There is still no end in sight for work that needs to be done, but finding funds for it is not easy.
Similar to la cité de la musique, the Musee du quai Branly makes catalog information available online, but allows access to audio-visual material and commercial database services only from computers in the mediatheque, due to copyright restrictions.
I was also told that the mediatheque had experimented a few years ago with a media room for children and young people. The service wasn't considered a success, however, as the room used wasn't very pleasant to be in, and the computers needed a large number of staff to assist visitors.
From these two examples, it appears that French mediatheques er mainly research libraries containing ALL kinds of media.
If YOU have knowledge about mediateques in other countries, I would love to hear from you!