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.