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Libraries Faces

Craig Breaden,
Head, Media and Oral History, Russell Library

A year of teaching 8th graders made Craig Breaden realize it wasn't his calling.

"It showed me the value of work and of making contributions," he said. "I realized I was on the right track, but off the mark, so I went to library school."

"I've always been interested in recorded sound and I thought I would pursue the idea of how history is recorded in media and how that's accessed by researchers and I've found it's not," he said.

While in graduate school at Chapel Hill Craig assisted a professor who wanted to preserve his grandparents singing folk songs in the 1950s. Because students are encouraged to do field work, Craig also was fortunate to become acquainted with Steve Weiss, head of the Southern Folklife Collection and Sound and Image librarian at Chapel Hill .

"I made a few collecting trips with Steve, I learned to work with donors and I took advantage of these opportunities," he said.

Having earned a master's in Frontier History from Utah State and after spending 10 years in the corporate world -- a victim of the "dot.com bust" -- Craig earned his library science degree in 2005 and landed in the Russell Library for Political Research and Studies.

"What attracted me to the Russell is they had a defined and progressive view of their audiovisual collection; most libraries don't. The Russell is at the edge and I was impressed with where they want to be," he said.

As the media and oral history archivist, Craig is charged with making sure the collections are preserved and also with finding ways to audition the material and make it available.

A challenge facing audiovisual stewards is the variety of formats used over the decades. The Russell's collection ranges from 1940s- era wire spool recordings of former governor and longtime U.S. Sen. Herman Talmadge to VHS and reel-to- reel.

"We can probably access 60 to 70 percent of our materials," Craig said, "but the formats are a huge challenge. Transferring formats is a priority but it is a huge expense. It comes down to doing a cost-benefit analysis of what we get in return."

The paradox of spending a chunk of the department's budget to access a fraction of material held in the collections leads to what Craig calls a "push-me-pull-you" situation.

"People don't use media collections because they often don't have access to them, but it's difficult to make a case for creating access copies until people ask to use them," he explained. "In an ideal world we would transfer everything."

Outmoded equipment is a major issue. The special collections departments at the UGA Libraries have only three functioning reel-to-reel machines, which are no longer made , for example. "Just the mechanics mean they are going to break eventually , and that's when you become a historian on the front line. That's the daunting part of being an archivist "deciding what will survive," Craig said.

Despite the challenges he faces, Craig is not discouraged by the prospects for the future.

"This (UGA Libraries) is a great institution and is very supportive . Dr. Potter really "gets' it," he said. "And Sheryl (Vogt, director of the Russell ) knows what the challenges are."

Craig says he and his wife, Melissa, have enjoyed living in Athens , although having two sons, Will, age 2, and newborn Callum, has limited their forays.

"I really enjoy jumping on the bed," he jokes when asked about avocations.

"We did go to the REM benefit and got to see them on stage, which was a surprise," he said. "Working recently with (retired art professor and folk musician/ archivist ) Art Rosenbaum has gotten me into playing the banjo again."

A recently remodeled kitchen is the center of their home life and Craig says he and Melissa enjoy cooking and experimenting with fusions of food. Traveling with children is "character building," but the Breadens are making an effort to discover their adopted state.

Reading preferences tend towared biographies and history; a favorite author is music journalist and critic Greil Marcus. "A Man in Full" by Tom Wolfe, a 1998 novel about an Atlanta real estate mogul, was the last book Craig finished, although he has been working his way through Moby Dick.

The Wolfe book was recommended reading in preparation for a proposed oral history interview. The Russell's Oral History series was begun in 2000 and seeks to document political parties, politicians and Georgians influential in politics.

"We're taking every opportunity to get this series off the ground and hopefully it will be a showpiece. We currently are working on making it more accessible," he said.

In library school, Craig expected to be working with music collections, but finds working in a political studies library captivating.

"In media you tend to find the very public face that reflects the politicians the way they would like to see themselves. It's interesting to see what they want to be. I find that fascinating," he said. "This IS where I should be: it's a fresh topic, it's continually interesting and it's never less than bizarre."

(Editor's Note: If you are interested in telling your colleagues about yourself and your interests (or about a co-worker!), drop a note to libnews@uga.edu. Write it yourself or be interviewed! Photographs reflecting your personality will be accepted! We're flexible! We're interested!)