Recently Alex from the Digital Production Center came by to ask if I could fix a cassette tape. The tape broke while they were digitizing it, and they just needed it to hold together long enough to record Side B. I know a lot about the chemical and physical make-up of magnetic tapes, but I have never had to actually fix one before.
Librarian skills activate! I searched the professional literature and the internet to no avail. There are a lot of DIY articles on the web, but we try to hold ourselves to a higher standard in our lab whenever possible. I finally called a friend who actually does this for a living.
Hannah Frost, Manager of the Stanford University Media Preservation Lab, walked me through how to repair the tape and assured me that I had the skills necessary to do it correctly. In the end the repair took less than ten minutes, and now I know how to do this the next time it happens.
The thing about working in a library is that we collect everything from the usual stuff like paper and skins but we also have poison arrows, glass plate negatives, hair, textiles, paintings, glass eyeballs and magnetic media. I can’t tell you how important it is for a library conservator to create a large network of friends and colleagues who specialize in areas that are not your own. Sooner or later you will find yourself working on something completely different and unknown, and you need to know who to call. Thanks Hannah, I owe you a drink at the next AIC conference.