Staff Profile: Tre Berney

Helping people discover unique experiences from around the globe.

Who he is: Tre Berney, A/V preservation specialist

What he does: Currently, I run the audiovisual reformatting and digitization lab. I do transfer and digitization of old analog materials. By the time it gets to me, it’s been prioritized to be preserved, so it’s very interesting stuff.

Right now, we’re working on a collection of field recordings of Mien spirit mediums performing ritual in Thailand. These are recordings of spirit mediums performing ceremonies in what is almost a dead language. We’re also finishing up a project preserving and digitizing CUL’s Indonesian field recordings. It’s amazing to turn on these recordings and to hear the space that the performance is happening in. You can hear birds chirping in the canopy, you can hear people talking in the distance. It’s such a rich experience.

Why it’s important: The Library of Congress said that we’ve got about 10-15 years to reformat A/V material off of its current medium. Magnetic tape faces degradation and obsolescence. Nobody’s making this equipment anymore, so it’s increasingly hard to play back, say reel-to-reel audio tapes with confidence. The only real way to preserve this material in perpetuity is digitally. I would argue that A/V material can be as important as any paper or physical document and in some ways can give us even more insight into whatever the subject is. 

Where he’s from: I’m originally from East Tennessee.

Background: I was a drummer in rock bands and drove around in bands and performed, and I worked in audio for a long time, but I kind of wanted to be able to have a grown-up job one day, so I tried to figure out a way to make better money and have better hours, or make ANY money. I started working in audio for video, I made a couple of documentary films that involved old analog materials from libraries across the southeast, and I also worked in audio mastering. I moved to Ithaca without any job prospects, saw this posting, and it was bizarrely in tune with my experience. So I applied and was like, ‘Please, please, please, this might be my only shot.’ It has worked out fantastically well.

Education: University of Tennessee, journalism and electronic media.

How long at Cornell: Two and a half years.

Best part of his job: I have a huge charge, to steward materials from old mediums into a discoverable place, and that gives me a tremendous amount of satisfaction. I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile, I’m helping foster research, I’m helping people discover and be able to listen to unique things from around the globe or around New York State in the comfort and convenience of their earbuds.

In his spare time: I parent. I’m active in the Ithaca homebrewing club, though not as active as I used to be before our daughter came along. We garden, camp, and have a lovely little life.

Dream job: I think I’ve got it.

In this LibeScope series, interviews with library staff reveal their skills, talents, interests and backgrounds. Want to suggest a staff member for a profile? Email