Strategy for the access to magnetic tape collections

Although, in contrast to mechanical carriers, magnetic tapes can be replayed several hundred times without measurable deterioration of the recording, provided modern and well maintained equipment is employed, there is a statistical risk of damage to tapes through unforeseen malfunction of replay equipment. In particular, thin (LP, DP and TP) open reel tape and all cassette formats are prone to such rare, but unpredictable threats. In the analogue era this has led to a strategy of copying vulnerable original tapes to sturdy studio tapes and to making listening copies for recordings in frequent demand. Whether digital repositories are already in place or not, this strategy is still valid in the digital era, as most original digital audio and video recordings are extremely vulnerable. CDs and DVDs have proved ideal media for access copies (but not for master or preservation copies). As with collections of mechanical carriers, a request for access is often a trigger to prioritise the digitisation of that material.