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Friday, 30th July 2010

A Conversation with the David Walls, GPO's First Preservation Librarian

About two weeks ago we posted an item about the Government Printing Office hiring the first preservation librarian in the history of the agency.

His name is David Walls and he came to the GPO from Yale University where he worked as a preservation librarian for twelve years. He is concluding his fourth month on the job.

Today, the Washington Post has published a Q&A style interview with Mr. Walls.

Here are two question and answer sets.

Q. How did you get interested in library preservation?

Walls: I volunteered years ago in the rare-books collection at the Baylor University library in Texas. I got bitten by the bug then. It's a very small field and a young one. You could probably put every preservation person in the U.S. in one large hotel ballroom. Most people who do this work are in academic settings or private libraries, but there are government libraries, too, beyond the Library of Congress. You've got the National Library of Medicine, for example.

Q. What are the challenges of carrying out the agency's mission without paper?

Wallis: The paper publication had a physical form, so there was some intellectual control over what it was and where you could find it. You could sit there for quite a long time without worrying about it becoming obsolete. You weren't going to go into the library one day and find out that a publication was inaccessible because it was in a different file format.

With digital, you have the whole issue of how do you know it's authentic? That all the information is there? The digital publication requires almost constant vigilance.

Access the Complete Washington Post Interview

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