Welcome Brian Belak, Post-Graduate Assistant Conservator

Please join us in welcoming Brian Belak to the UCLA Library as Post-Graduate Assistant Conservator at the Audio-Visual Preservation unit. He is currently working remotely and can be reached by email.

We asked Brian a few questions about himself and his professional aspirations.  Brian Belak seated photo

What goals/hopes do you have for this year as our new Post-Graduate Assistant Conservator?

The Library holds unique and rare analog audiovisual media that is physically fragile and at risk of loss through degradation or obsolescence. My goals include furthering efforts to preserve and provide access to this material for everyone to enjoy and engage with. Analog media comes in a variety of formats, from motion picture film to videotapes to vinyl records, so I'm also looking forward to studying and implementing different treatments and digitization possibilities that each format can benefit from. 

How has your prior experience prepared you for this role at the UCLA Library?

I graduated in June with my MLIS degree from UCLA with specialization in media archiving and preservation. While I was a student, I worked in the Preservation Department on the 16mm films of the Synanon Foundation, a rehabilitation group that turned intentional community here in California in the 1960-70s. Before coming to UCLA, I was the collections manager for Chicago Film Archives, where I developed skills in analog film preservation and fell in love with amateur films and home movies.  

What projects will you be tackling first?

Along with ongoing assessment, stabilization, and digitization of sound recordings and moving image content, I will be working on fine-tuning our in-house workflows for the material and for metadata and description to improve accessibility in the Library catalog. We have also been discussing projects to inventory and prioritize specific at-risk video collections for digitization and to digitize microcassettes with the highest possible sound quality.

What are you currently reading/watching/listening to?  

I'm currently reading A People's History of Computing in the United States by Joy Lisi Rankin, a history of social computing told through public schools and universities in the 1960s-80s. I'm currently in the chapter about the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC), publisher of The Oregon Trail originally for teletypewriter terminals. I also just finished Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk and watched the film adaptation Spoor, directed by Agnieszka Holland. The story is a murder mystery set in rural Poland, with wild animals in the night and an eco-feminist slant.

We are delighted to have Brian at the UCLA Library.  You can contact him at belak@library.ucla.edu