David S. Ferriero, the 10th Archivist of the United States, LA’72, MA’76, explored the future of archives and libraries in the digital age, and chronicled the storied history of the nation’s record-keeping arm yesterday during a celebration at Northeastern University.
Ferriero, speaking at an event marking Snell Library’s 20th Anniversary Celebration, said the rapid growth of digital media has allowed unprecedented access to libraries and archives. Yet in this world of unlimited, and sometimes overwhelming, amounts of easily available information, libraries can lend an invaluable service of identifying the quality of that content, he said. Meanwhile, librarians and students can learn from each other about new and emerging technologies.
“Our task is to create a literate society, helping our clients recognize when they need information, and then imparting the skills for them to find, evaluate and use that information,” Ferriero said. “These are lifelong skills used for class work, advanced research and understanding a family member’s medical problem. The resources and environments we’ve created for this work are both dynamic and worth celebrating here, especially in this space today.”
Speaking at a Snell Library bustling with students preparing for finals, Ferriero said that on college campuses nationwide, libraries have been at the forefront of embracing new technology.
William Wakeling, dean of University Libraries, introduced Ferriero, and spoke of future plans for Snell Library — which include expanding its physical and digital archives and bolstering technology offerings that foster individual and group study on campus. In its 20th year, Snell Library will serve more than two million walk-in and online visitors, and currently offers access to 964,000 volumes, 139,000 e-books and 42,500 electronic journals.
At a reception following the event, President Joseph E. Aoun lauded Ferriero for his achievements and thanked Snell Library staff for their hard work over the last 20 years.
Ferriero, who had been director of the New York Public Library, was confirmed as the 10th Archivist of the United States in November 2009. The National Archives opened in 1935, and now operate 44 facilities across the country with a total collection of 10 billion pages, 40 million photos, 13 presidential libraries and 100 million terabytes of digital information.
Among this vast array of documents, Ferriero pointed to several items he found particularly fascinating: the $7.2 million check the United States wrote to Russia for the purchase of Alaska in 1868; a 1992 patent issued to singer Michael Jackson for shoes he designed to tip himself forward; and Clark Gable’s Army discharge papers signed by then Captain – and later President – Ronald Reagan.