Finally. I said it. I’ve been waiting all my life. It was the first thing I, and every other American ever learned or remembered from French class. Emerging from the Paris metro, and seeing no signage anywhere, lips pursed, with confidence…”Où est la bibliothèque?”
I was in Paris to attend the 46th annual IASA (International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives) , with a follow-up day at The Europeana Sounds conference. Both were held at The Bibliothèque Nationale and I was there representing the Internet Archive (IA) and our own ARC. Leading our team of two was Alexis Rossi, Director of Media and Access @ the IA. Her paper, that maybe mentioned the ARC a tad too generously, was titled “Building Shared Collection,” offering ways that collections can be built, maintained and shared through creative collaboration.
The conferences were swell, as always, offering a wide range of papers on systems and sighs that are part-and-parcel with the struggle to save too much with too little. But apart from the unlikely string of perfect sunny days, everyone seemed fascinated with the epitome of ‘too much’, the actual library building. The Bibliothèque Nationale is a grandiose notion that should have been (sorry) guillotined. It is endless ups and downs, double doors and gangplanks, functionality a slave to design. The ultimate proof ? – the four soaring towers, designed to mimic open books, took in so much light that the stacks were relocated to the basement. But who am I to criticize a country who thinks libraries are important and Versailles is homey? And then again what other city officially sponsors a “Festival Jerk Off” (Sept 18 @ the Carreau du Temple).
Of course the really important questions in life is, “Où est la Marche aux Puce?” And the answer answer is Vanves, the flea market way south near the old city walls. Here there were plenty of exotic paperbacks offering sound ideas (as above), and the usual crates of LPs and 45s. The flea markets don’t have the very best things, but about the only places you can still find reasonably priced recordings. Here’s a french 45 we didn’t have – a fave song from a fave artist.
The trip was not all panels and papers. Street trucks are the latest rage in Paris these days, and that saves quite a few Euros. One hour-long late-nite walk along the quay led to the remarkable L’Avant- Comptoir in the 6th arrondissement. Here are my two colleagues, Marcos Sueiro Bal, archivist and engineer at WNYC, and Toby Seay from Drexel University (who had the nerve to play some music while discussing the Philly Groove Records) hanging below the hanging menu, closing the joint after a lovely stand-up meal of remarkable tapas.
On another evening, another archivist, Russian born Rebecca Feynberg at NYU’s Avery Fisher Center for Music & Media, delighted everyone with a few singin’ swingin’ numbers in a cavern jazz club. Rebecca was kind enough to ask me to speak at the upcoming AES convention in NYC in early Nov. Another reason I like her. Regardless, nice to hear some live music at a conference dedicated to preserving sound.