Professional Development

Author Archive

Leslie at MLA 2016

Monday, March 14, 2016 8:08 pm

This year’s meeting of the Music Library Association was held in Cincinnati, where, during breaks and receptions, we enjoyed 1920s tunes performed by members of the Cincinnati Opera, and by MLA’s own big band, in the Netherland Plaza Hotel’s beautifully-restored 1930 Art Deco ballroom.

DIVERSITY

It has long been recognized that America’s conservatories and orchestras remain overwhelmingly white (less than 5% of students in music schools are non-Asian minorities). While administrators of these institutions are currently struggling to rectify the situation, libraries (it was noted at the MLA meeting) have a chance to be an exemplar. In a joint project with ARL called the Diversity & Inclusion Initiative, MLA has supported internships and fellowships for MLIS students with music backgrounds to work in music libraries. The diversity aimed for includes not just race/ethnicity, but also gender, marital status, disabilities, etc. In the opening plenary session, we heard from some of the former fellows. Benefits that were particularly appreciated included the visibility and recognition acquired while a student, which subsequently opened doors to professional opportunities; peer mentors (previous fellows) who provided ongoing support with entry into the profession, and after; and help with the hidden costs of college (additional fees, textbooks, etc.) for which first-generation students are often unprepared. Difficulties encountered included locating sources of help – one fellow reported “cold calling” random MLA members before discovering the DII program. This prompted a discussion, during the Q&A, on how the program could be better publicized.

On a similar outreach note, MLA (whose membership encompasses North America – U.S. and Canada) plans to invite Latin American colleagues to next year’s meeting in Orlando, billing it a Pan-American conference.

LINKED DATA

MLA’s initiatives in this field:

  • Two new thesauri have been published in the past year — for medium-of-performance terms (LCMGT), and for music genre/form terms (LCGFT) – along with best-practices documents for both.
  • Involvement in LD4L (Linked Data for Libraries), a collaborative project of Cornell, Harvard, and Stanford.
  • The NACO Music Project, working on authority data.
  • A Bibframe Task Force, which is undertaking various projects to enhance the new encoding schema to meet music users’ needs.

We heard about other projects that member libraries have done to enhance discoverability of special collections:

The Linked Jazz Project, best known for its visualizations, is based on data extracted from oral-history transcripts in numerous jazz archives. The data is then converted to RDF triples reflecting relationships between jazz artists (x talks about y; y knows of x). The data is enhanced via crowdsourcing. The developers hope others will use the LJ data to build additional linked-data sets: mashing LJ data with performances at Carnegie Hall is one such project; another is unearthing female jazz artists (neglected in traditional jazz histories) by enriching LJ data with other sources such as DBpedia, MusicBrainz, and VIAF (the international authority file).

Colleagues at Michigan State used Discogs (a crowdsourced, expert-community-reviewed database of metadata on pop music recordings) to process a gift collection of 1200 LPs of Romani music, which also included pop music containing Gypsy stereotypes. They hope to use this collection as a pilot to develop a process for a much larger corporate gift of 800,000 pop recordings and videos. They were able to extract data directly from the Discogs website using Discogs’ API (which outputs in JSON – they used Python to convert the JSON to XML and then MARCXML). Cataloging challenges included: dealing with usage differences between Discogs’ “release” and RDA’s “manifestation”; similarly, between Discogs’ “roles” for artists and RDA’s “relationship designators”; and mapping Discogs’ genres and subgenres to LC’s genre/form terms and medium-of-performance terms, supplementing with LC subject headings as needed. Discogs’ strengths: expertise in languages (from its international contributor community) and in obsolete formats; and the ability to link to the Discogs entry from the library catalog. Our presenters plan to propose to the Discogs community indexing the UPC (universal product code, the barcodes on CDs); a similar resource, MusicBrainz, does this.

A third project, at Cornell, was ultimately unsuccessful, but also illustrates the variety of data resources and tools that people are trying to link up. For a collection of hip-hop flyers, they constructed RDF triples using data from MusicBrainz, ArtStor, and Cornell’s existing metadata on the related events etc. They chose Bibframe for their encoding schema, and compiled an ontology from Getty’s AAT vocabulary, various music and event ontologies, and Schema.org. Reconciliation of names from all these sources was done using the open-source analytics tool OpenRefine. The problems developed as they came to feel that Bibframe did not meet their test for describing flyers; they decided to abandon it in favor of LD4L. Reconciliation of names also proved more problematic than expected.

DISCOVERY

In a session on music discovery requirements, colleagues noted two things that current ILSs and discovery layers are not good at: showing hierarchies (for instance, making available additional search terms in thesauri, ontologies, etc.); and mapping multiple physical formats to one title (for multi-media items, such as a book issued with a disc, or a score with a recording, or a CD with a DVD – in most interfaces, the content of the second piece will not be retrieved under a format-facet search).

A presenter from Stanford proposed facet displays that include drop-down menus showing a relevant thesaurus, allowing users to further narrow to a subgenre, for instance. For music, the newly-developed medium-of-performance thesaurus, if displayed with multiple search instances, could enable musicians to enter all the instruments in their ensemble, and retrieve music for that specific combination of instruments. Also discussed were domain-specific search interfaces, such as the ones done by UVA for music and videos. Needless to say, there are potential applications for other disciplines.

Colleagues at East Carolina have made use of Blacklight to map multiple physical formats to the same title.

Leslie at SEMLA 2015

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 3:08 pm

This year’s meeting of the Southeast Music Library Association was at the University of Georgia in Athens. Good weather, great shoptalk over lunch and dinner, and we had a good turnout this year, affording opportunities to re-connect with colleagues I hadn’t seen in a long time.

A couple of presentations that stood out for me:

DDA for scores. While the demand-driven-acquisitions model for books has been on the scene for a while, music librarians have been waiting impatiently for music vendors to offer the same for scores. A colleague from the University of Florida described a pilot project they did with Harrassowitz, involving an initial load of 2000 (print) books and scores, focusing on the subject areas of ethnomusicology, contemporary repertoire, and music education materials. Cataloging is being done in-house (brief records upon receipt, full cataloging when a title is bought). Both the UF folks and the vendor seem to consider the experiment sufficiently cost-effective to be counted a success, and Harrassowitz is said to be “very interested” in expanding the pilot to other clients.

Collaborative projects. In a presentation titled “Exposing Hidden Collections using Interdepartmental Collaboration,” a colleague from UNC-Chapel Hill described how she dealt with a backlog of uncataloged music journals in the Southern Folklife Collection by enlisting the aid of the serials catalogers in the main graduate library — who, in a now-familiar trend, were finding they had more time to devote to special projects thanks to the growth of e-resources.

Classification. The Library of Congress does not classify its videos, so there are no tables in its classification system designed specifically for this medium. This leaves open a wide range of options for a creative cataloger who does want to organize music videos using LCC: for instance, an opera or musical could go under the corresponding number for the score; or for the libretto/lyrics; or in the literature tables, under the literary work the opera/musical is based on; or under a special topic in drama (e.g., the musical Camelot under “Arthurian romances”); or under scripts or criticism of motion pictures. A fellow cataloger at Auburn presented a survey she conducted of libraries that were classifying music videos using LCC. Most class their opera videos under M1500, for opera scores; but many class films of musicals under PN1997, the number for motion pictures. In large part, such a choice depends on how one anticipates the work to be used locally.

Our meeting venue was a new, and very impressive, building for UGA’s Special Collections. We were given a tour, including their underground storage vault, similar to our offsite storage facility, but about three times larger. In addition to UGA’s materials, the vault currently houses artifacts from the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, which recently closed — its collections have come to UGA for safekeeping until a new home can be found.

Leslie at MLA 2015

Monday, March 23, 2015 8:26 pm

Lots of good presentations at this year’s meeting of the Music Library Association in Denver. As at ALA, winter weather prevented a number of colleagues from attending, but we were able to Skype presenters in most cases, and for the first time, selected sessions were live-streamed. The latter will be posted on the MLA website.

DIGITAL HUMANITIES

In a session on “digital musicology,” several exciting projects were described:

Contemporary Composers Web Archive (CCWA). A Northeastern consortium project in progress. They’re crawling and cataloging composers’ websites, and contributing the records to OCLC and the Internet Archive. The funding is temporary, so here’s hoping they find a way to continue this critical work preserving the music and music culture of our times.

RISM OPAC. The Repertoire international des sources musicales is the oldest internationally-organized music index (of manuscripts and early printed editions), but only a small portion has so far been made available online. The new online search interface they’re developing retrieves digital scores available on the websites of libraries, archives, composers, and others worldwide. They expect to have 2 million entries when national inventories are completed.

Music Treasures Consortium (MTC). A similar project hosted by the Library of Congress, it links to digitized manuscripts and early printed editions in conservatories, libraries, and archives in the US, UK, and Germany. It’s modeled on an earlier project, the Sheet Music Consortium (hosted by UCLA).

Blue Mountain Project. Named after a Kandinsky painting representing creativity, this Princeton project, funded by a NEH grant, aims to provide coverage of Modernism and the Avant-Garde in arts periodicals 1848-1923. References to music in these sources are often fleeting, so there is a need for enhanced “music discovery.” The presenter discussed the challenges of digitizing magazines: the mix of text, images, and ads; multiple languages of periodicals in this project; variations in the transcription/spelling of names (they plan to cross-index to VIAF, the international authority file).

In the Q & A period, discussion centered on the global importance of projects such as these, and the concomitant need for best-practices standards (including a requirement to link to VIAF) and multi-language capabilities in metadata schema.

INFORMATION LITERACY

Now that the ACRL Framework has replaced learning objectives with “threshold concepts,” music librarians have begun taking first stabs at interpreting these for their discipline:

Scholarship as a conversation = performance as a conversation. Most music students enter college as performers, so this can serve as a base for scaffolding. One notable difference: performance lacks a tradition of formal citation — might some way be found to codify the teacher/student oral tradition by which the performing arts are transmitted?

Authority as constructed and contextual = performers as authorities (Performer X as a leading interpreter of Composer Y’s works); also, the changing of performance practices over time; learning to listen with a critical evaluative ear.

Information creation as process: understanding the editing process for scores, and also of recordings and video (vs. live performance).

Research as inquiry: every performing-arts student who spends long hours in practice and rehearsal is familiar with the concept of an iterative process — an excellent jumping-off point for understanding research as an iterative process.

Searching as strategic exploration: this has been related to musicians’ vexed relationship with library discovery interfaces that don’t work well for music retrieval! Resourcefulness and persistence is needed to meet performers’ information needs regarding specialized details such as instrumentation, key, range, etc.

Information has value = creative output has value. Understanding how the artist fits into the marketplace; the complexities of copyright as it applies to the arts.

COPYRIGHT

The music library community has long been frustrated by issues surrounding music recordings released online but governed by EULAs (end-user license agreements) that prohibit institutional purchase. MLA and the University of Washington have recently received a IMLS grant to develop strategies for addressing these issues, “culminating in a summit with stakeholders and industry representatives.” On the agenda: EULA reform (developing a standard language); preservation (given the industry’s apalling track record, perhaps the library community can create dark archives?); and public relations. Strategies being considered: developing a MLA best practices document; creating a test case; approaching either the smaller labels (who are generally more open to negotiation) or going directly for the big three (Sony, Warner, and Universal) on the theory that if they agree, others will follow.

Another session on recordings and fair use discussed the best practices movement. Noting that the courts, when confronted by new questions, have begun referring to community practice, many disciplines and professions are drafting best-practices documents. Unlike guidelines, whose specificity make them prone to obsolescence, best-practices statements “reflect the fundamental values of a community” — which not only helps them better stand the test of time, but also results in more commonalities between communities, so that they reinforce each other, lending them more weight in the face of legal challenges. The NRPB (National Recordings Preservation Board) recently completed a study that recommended such a document, and the ARSC (Association of Recorded Sound Collections) has a handbook forthcoming.

USAGE PATTERNS

At a poster session, I learned about two surveys done at Kent State that queried the preferences of music and other performing-arts students re the materials they use. One survey noted the significant number of print resources that still occupied top places in a ranking of preferred materials: print scores were much preferred to e-scores (68% to 28%); ditto for books (80% print to 27% electronic); CDs were still used regularly. E-journals, however, were preferred to print (64% to 32%). The survey’s conclusion found a “strong sentiment” in favor of a mix of print and electronic.

The other survey debated the relevance of audio reserves. It confirmed widespread use of extra-library resources by students for their listening assignments: YouTube, streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora, MP3s they had purchased themselves. Reasons given for preferring these sources: ability to listen on a smartphone or tablet (a preference also noted by commercial database vendors, who have begun developing mobile-device capabilities); personal comfort, and convenience. On the other hand, two encouraging reasons students give for using the library’s CD collection: the superior sound quality, and the availability of library staff for help.

CATALOGING

I attended a half-day workshop on genre and medium terms for music. Historically, the Library of Congress subject headings have combined, in long pre-coordinated strings, many disparate aspects of the materials we catalog: topic (Buddhism), genre (drama, folk music), form (symphonies), medium (painting, piano), physical format (scores), publication type (textbooks, catalogs), intended audience (children’s books, textbooks for foreign speakers). Since these can be more effectively machine-manipulated as discrete data than in strings, there’s a project afoot to parse them into separate vocabularies, to be used in new RDA fields, for more precise search-and-sort capabilities in our discovery interfaces.

Three vocabularies are being developed:

  • Genre/form (LCGFT) — e.g., drama, folk music
  • Demographic groups (LCDGT) — author’s nationality, gender, etc.; intended audience
  • Medium of performance (LCMPT) — for music: instruments/voices

Given the many thousands of existing subject terms, this is clearly a challenging task, and I acquired a new appreciation for its complexities as I listened to the LC folks describe their struggles wrestling music terminology (as just one disciplinary example) to the ground. Problems debated included: types of music that musicians have long regarded as genres in their own right (think string quartets) but are really just defined by their instrumentation or number of players; ditto for music set to certain texts (Magnificats, Te Deums); bringing out the distinctions between art music, folk music, and popular music (an attempt to remedy the original classical-centrism of the LC terminology); terms like “world music” that seem to have been invented mainly for marketing purposes; music for specific events or functions; stuff like master classes, concert tours, etc.; ethnomusicological (area studies) terms, which proved too numerous, and too inconsistently defined in reference sources, to be dealt with in the project’s initial phase; and tension between the need to build a logical hierarchy and recognizing the more fluid conventions practiced by user communities. While the new vocabularies are still under construction, we learned about the major changes, and how to encode the terms in RDA records.

In a session on Bibframe (a new encoding format designed to replace the aging MARC format), we heard about LD4L, a project conducted by Standford, Cornell, Harvard, and LC to develop an open-source extensible ontology to aid in conversion of MARC to Bibframe; and another project at UC-Davis to develop a roadmap for Bibframe workflows, from acquisitions operations to cataloging and conversion, and even a prototype discovery layer.

SIDELIGHTS

A Friday-night treat was the screening of a silent film (The General, starring Buster Keaton) accompanied by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra (a 6-piece strings-and-winds band). The score was one they had compiled from music used by theater orchestras of the period, now archived in the University of Colorado’s American Music Research Center.

Leslie at LAUNC-CH 2015

Monday, March 23, 2015 10:21 am

I don’t often get to attend this annual conference, hosted by the Librarians Assembly of UNC-Chapel Hill, but always enjoy it when I do.

KEYNOTE

This year, we had an exceptionally engaging keynote speaker, Jeffrey A. Greene of the Learning Sciences and Psychological Studies program at Chapel Hill. He began by busting some common myths about learning:

  • Digital natives: Greene questions claims of physiological changes in young people’s brains; technology is just one of the life experiences of all sorts (whether you grew up on a farm or in suburbia, etc.) that informs thinking patterns. What is real, Greene says, is the digital divide — we can’t assume every student had a computer a home, is familiar with internet navigation, etc.
  • Multi-tasking: Greene contrasts the task of driving a car, which uses the automatic brain functions, with juggling “cognitively conscious” tasks — we just can’t do the latter effectively.
  • Learning styles: the style one uses at any given time depends on the content (try conveying the locations of the US states without resorting to any visual means).

Greene’s formula for self-regulated learning:

  • Understand the task.
  • Make a plan (a step many students skip).
  • Enact good strategies (many bright students who coasted through high school arrive in college with a very small toolbox of learning strategies).
  • Monitor progress (for anyone making their first attempt to master new material, it’s hard to add on this additional layer — students need our encouragement and guidance).
  • Evaluate and adapt (resisting the brain’s natural tendency to re-use automatic responses — to it, that’s more efficient than thinking, and re-thinking, about what you’re doing).

Greene’s presentation is posted on the LAUNC-CH website: http://launcch.web.unc.edu/events/conference/

LIB250

Another highlight was the presentation given by Ellen Daugman, Kaeley McMahan, and myself on LIB250 (our Humanities course). This was essentially an update on an article we published in 2012. We reviewed our initial development of the course, and described lessons we learned during the five years we’ve taught it, and how we adapted and improved it. We had a large and engaged audience, who offered thoughtful questions and an enthusiastic overall response. Discussions continued over lunch. A very gratifying outcome!

Our slides

Our article

 

 

Leslie at SEMLA 2014

Monday, October 6, 2014 5:07 pm

This year’s meeting of the Southeast Music Library Association was hosted by Louisiana State University, in Baton Rouge. It was one of those enjoyable meetings where one can just sit back and absorb a lot of new information on a novel topic — this year’s theme was electronic and experimental music. LSU has a large program in this field, and boasts a Laptop Orchestra and a Mobile Device Orchestra. But it’s an area that many of the rest of us don’t have much occasion to deal with.

Some challenges in preserving and distributing born-digital musical works:

  • How do you define a musical instrument these days? Especially when the “instrument” is a piece of software or a smartphone? Or is part of a multi-media work?
  • How do you distribute such instruments, so that others are able to perform your work?
  • How do you notate this kind of music?
  • Obsolescence of software and hardware.

Attempted solutions have included:

  • Distributing the software for building instruments via websites, and by developing universal encoding standards.
  • Archives and repositories for software and media.
  • Rapid prototyping of instruments, for instance by producing stand-alone units (containing sensors, circuit boards, etc.) for specific projects.

Other presenters tackled the issues involved in cataloging experimental music. A colleague from Florida State identified lacunae in Library of Congress subject headings: often, the scope is either too broad (“Computer music,” “Electronic music”) or too narrow (flash-in-the-pan trends). There’s a paucity of headings for non-traditional methods of sound production, and extended techniques on instruments (we have “Prepared piano” dating from the 1960s generation, but not for current techniques like fluteboxing.) Another problem: genre and form have traditionally been the primary organizing principle when classifying music, but with much new music it’s the process of creating or performing the work (often on a random or extra-musical basis, as when sensors are placed or mapped so as to produce musical tones when people pass through a public place, or interact with a website) that is the principle aspect. A possible solution to all this: tagging, a.k.a. folksonomies. Some tags assigned by users of Last.fm, for instance, show potential to be incorporated into library catalogs, and into the LCSH hierarchy. A colleage from Chapel Hill also opened fascinating vistas for exploiting linked data in cataloging Hip Hop music: Hip Hop uses sampling from many other genres, so metadata that links to the source recordings would be of inestimable value for academic study, and for the DJs and artists who are currently involved in the identification and preservation of the source material (like Ninth Wonder, who recently guest-lectured at WFU).

On the IL front, presenters from Loyola described how, in response to an accreditation report that revealed deficiencies in the Music School’s efforts to equip its majors with technology skills, they developed a “Tech for Music” course, required for all music students. The course includes sessions on recording techniques, working with images (Photoshop etc.), software for music notation, and web presence for composers and performers, as well as good old library research skills.

All told, interesting sessions and perfect fall weather — couldn’t be better!

Leslie at MLA 2014

Saturday, March 15, 2014 4:38 pm

This year’s Music Library Association conference was held in Atlanta. It was a very productive meeting for me: I got a lot of continuing education in RDA, the new cataloging standard; and an opportunity to renew contacts in the area of ethnomusicology (music area studies), having learned just before leaving for MLA that our Music Department plans to add an ethnomusicologist to their faculty.

RDA

The impact of RDA, one year after its adoption by the Library of Congress, was apparent in the number of sessions devoted to it during the general conference, not just the catalogers’ sessions sponsored by the Music OCLC Users Group. I learned about revisions made to the music rules in the RDA manual, in MLA’s “Best Practices” document, and in the various music thesauri we use. (So if you see a “Do Not Disturb” sign on my door, you’ll know I have a lot of re-reading to do, all over again!). One sign of the music library community’s clout: MLA’s Best Practices will be incorporated into the official RDA manual, with links integrated into the text alongside LC’s policy statements. In a session on RDA’s impact on public services, I was gratified to find that almost all the talking points presented by the speakers had been covered in my own presentation to our liaisons back in September.

PRESERVATION AND COPYRIGHT

LC gave a report on its National Recordings Preservation Plan (NRPP), which began in February 2013. The group has developed 31 recommendations, which will be presented at hearings scheduled for this year by the US Office of Copyright, covering the entire copyright code, including section 108, orphan works, and pre-1972 sound recordings (the ones not covered by federal law, leaving librarians to navigate a maze of state laws). Also to be presented: a proposed “digital right of first sale,” enabling libraries and archives to perform their roles of providing access and preservation for born-digital works whose licensing currently prohibits us doing so. In the meantime, best-practices documents have been developed for orphan works (by UC Berkeley) and fair use for sound recordings (by the NRPP).

ONLINE LICENSING ISSUES

Perennial, and always interesting, sessions are held at MLA on the ongoing problem of musical works and recordings that are issued only online, with licensing that prohibit libraries and archives from acquiring them. An MLA grant proposal aims to develop alternative licensing language that we can use with recording labels, musicians, etc., allowing us to burn a CD of digital-only files. A lively brainstorming session produced additional potential solutions: an internet radio license, which would stream a label’s catalog to students, at the same time generating revenue for the label; placing links to labels in our catalogs, similar to the Google links that many OPACS feature for books, offering a purchase option; raising awareness among musicians, many of whom are unaware of the threat to their legacies, by speaking at music festivals, and asking the musicians themselves to raise public awareness, perhaps even by writing songs on the topic; capturing websites that aggregate music of specific genres, etc., in the Internet Archive or ArchiveIt; collaborating with JSTOR, PORTICO, and similar projects to expand their archiving activities to media.

DIGITAL HUMANITIES

This hot topic has begun to make its impact on the music library community, and MLA has established a new round table devoted to it. In a panel session, music librarians described the various ways they are providing support for, and collaborating with, their institutions’ DH centers. Many libraries are offering their liaisons workshops and other training opportunities to acquire the technical skills needed to engage with DH initiatives.

OTHER TECHNOLOGICAL PROJECTS

In a panel session on new technologies, we heard from a colleague at the University of Music and Drama in Leipzig, Germany, who led a project to add facets in their VuFind-based discovery layer for different types of music scores (study scores, performance scores, parts, etc.); a colleague at Haverford who used MEI, an XML encoding scheme designed for musical notation, to develop a GUI interface (which they named MerMEId) to produce a digital edition of a 16th-century French songbook, also reconstructing lost parts (we’ve been hearing about MEI for some years — nice to see a concrete example of its application); an app for the Ipad, developed by Touch Press, that offers study aids for selected musical works (such as Beethoven’s 9th symphony) allowing you to compare multiple recordings while following along with a modern score or the original manuscript (which automatically scrolls with the audio), watch a visualization tool that shows who’s playing when in the orchestra, and read textual commentary, some in real time with the audio; a consortium’s use of Amazon’s cloud service to host an instance of Avalon, an audio/video streaming product developed by Indiana U, to support music courses at their respective schools; and ProMusicDB, a project that aims to build an equivalent to IMDB for pop music.

Leslie at MLA 2013

Wednesday, March 6, 2013 7:48 pm

A welcome escape from the usual wintry rigors of traveling to a Music Library Association conference — mid-February this year found us in San Jose, soaking up sun, balmy breezes, and temps in the 70s. (Colleagues battered by the Midwest blizzards were especially appreciative.)

THE FUTURE OF SUBJECT COLLECTIONS
This was the title of a plenary session which yielded a number of high-level insights. For one, it was the first time I had heard the term “disintermediation” to describe the phenomenon of librarians being displaced by Google et al as the first place people go for information.

Henriette Hemmasi of Brown U analogized the MOOCs trend as “Diva to DJ”: that is, the role of the instructor is shifting from lone classroom diva to the collaborative role played by a disc jockey — selecting and presenting material for team-produced courses, working with experts in web development, video, etc. Her conclusion: 21st-century competencies must include not just knowledge, but also synthesizing and systems-thinking skills.

David Fenske, one of the founding developers of Indiana’s Ischool, noted that the rapid evolution of technology has rendered it impossible to make projections more than 5 or 10 years out (his reply to a boss who asked for a 20-year vision statement: “A 20-year vision can’t be done without drugs!”). He also observed that digital preservation is in many ways more difficult than the traditional kind: the scientific community is beginning to lose the ability to replicate experiments, because in many cases the raw data has been lost due to obsolete digital storage media. Fenske envisions the “library as socio-technical system” — a system based on user demographics, designed around “communities of thought leaders” as well as experts. Tech-services people have long mooted the concept of “good-enough” cataloging, in the face of overwhelming publication output; public-services librarians, in Fenske’s view, should start talking about the “good-enough” answer. Fenske wants to look “beyond metadata”: how can we leverage our metadata for analytics? semantic tools? How can we scale our answers and services to compete with Google, Amazon, and others?

PERFORMERS’ NEEDS
Some interesting findings from two studies on the library needs of performing faculty and students (as opposed to musicologists and other researchers in the historical/theoretical branches of the discipline):

One study addressed the pros and cons of e-scores. Performers, always on the go and pressed for time, like e-scores for their instant availability and sharability; the fact that they’re quick and easy to print out; their portability (no more cramming a paper score into an instrument case for travel); easy page turns during performance (a pedal mechanism has been devised for this). Performers also like an e-score that can be annotated (i.e., not a PDF file) so they can insert their notes for performance; and the ability to get a lot of works quickly from one place (as from an online aggregator). On the other hand, academic users, who work with scholarly and critical editions, like the ability of the online versions to seamlessly integrate critical commentary with the musical text (print editions traditionally place the commentary in separate supplementary volumes). Third-party software can also be deployed to manipulate the musical text for analysis. But the limitations of the computer screen continue to pose viewability problems for purposes of analysis. Academic users regard e-scores as a compliment to, not an alternative to, print scores.

Another study interviewed performing faculty to find out how they use their library’s online catalog. Typically, they come to the library wanting to find known items, use an advanced-search mode, and search by author, title, and opus number (the latter not very effectively handled by many discovery layers; VuFind does a reasonably good job). Performing faculty often are also looking for specific editions and/or publishers (aspects that many discovery interfaces don’t offer as search limits/facets). Performing faculty (and students) study a work by using a score to follow along with a sound recording, so come to the library hoping to obtain multiple formats for the same work — icons or other aids for quickly identifying physical format are important to them, as for film users and others. There is also a lot of descriptive detail that performers need to see in a catalog display: contents, duration, performers’ names.

Stuff a lot of music librarians have observed or suspected, but good to see it quantified and confirmed in some formal studies.

COLLABORATIVE COLLECTION DEVELOPMENT
This is a topic that has generated much interest in the library community, and music librarians have also been exploring collaborative options for acquiring the specialized materials of their field. Besides shared approval-plan profiles for books, and shared database subscriptions, music librarians have divvied up the collecting of composers’ collected editions, and contemporary composers whose works they want to collect comprehensively. Because music materials are often acquired and housed in multiple locations on the same campus, internal collaboration is as important as external. One thing that does not seem to lend itself to collaborative collection: media (sound recordings and videos). Many libraries don’t lend these out via ILL, and faculty tend to want specific performances — making on-request firm orders a more suitable solution. One consortium of small Maine colleges (Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin) divided the processing labor of their staffs by setting up rotating shipments for their shared approval plan: one library gets this month’s shipment of books, another library receives the next month’s shipment, and so on.

DDA
There was a good bit of discussion concerning demand-driven e-book acquisitions among colleagues whose institutions had recently implemented DDA services. On two separate occasions, attendees raised the question of DDA’s impact on the humanities, given those disciplines’ traditional reliance on browsing the stacks as a discovery method.

RDA
It was a very busy conference for music catalogers, as over a hundred of us convened to get prepared for RDA. There was a full-day workshop; a cataloging “hot topics” session; a town-hall meeting with the Bibliographic Control Committee, which recently produced a “RDA Best Practices for Cataloging Music” document; and a plenary session on RDA’s impact across library services (the latter reprising a lot of material covered by Steve and others in ZSR presentations — stay tuned for more!)

SIDELIGHTS
A very special experience was a visit to the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies (located on the San Jose State campus), the largest collection of Beethoveniana outside Europe. During a reception there, we got to play pianos dating from Beethoven’s time. Hearing the “Moonlight Sonata” up close on the model of instrument he wrote it for (Dulcken, a Flemish maker) was a true revelation.

Leslie at SEMLA 2012

Tuesday, October 23, 2012 11:26 am

This year’s meeting of the Southeast Music Library Association was held at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, where we had beautiful weather and a number of interesting presentations.

Digitization Projects

We heard an update on Vanderbilt’s Global Music Archive, which has to date focused on East African music. Now they’re working on an Appalachian Dulcimer Archive (dulcimerarchive.omeka.net/), featuring “pre-revival” (pre-1940) instruments. For software, they selected Omeka (which I understand we’re investigating for our own special collections). Features of Omeka that they liked, for purposes of the dulcimer project, included its ability to handle multiple format types (visual, audio, etc.); to create new types, metadata, and tags for aspects unique to dulcimers; the plug-in for user-created data; and they plan to investigate the “Exhibits” plug-in. Also important for this project was the geographical aspect (i.e., interactive maps). They’re still troubleshooting things like the cropping of the photos of the instruments (can’t get enough in the picture), but pretty impressive results so far!

Closer to home, one of the library world’s best-kept secrets is UNCG’s cello music collection, the world’s largest, built on the personal libraries of prominent cellists, including scores with their performance annotations. In an effort to market the collection more effectively, the library is embarking on a project to digitize the collection, including images of the annotated scores, album covers, and video interviews with the donors. They’re using ContentDM for the platform, and Dublin Core for the encoding scheme, adding notes fields from the MARC records. They’ve so far done this for one donor, Bernard Greenhouse, formerly of the Beaux Arts Trio.

Copyright Instruction

One colleague related her struggle to impress the principle of intellectual property on her students. Her most successful solution: inviting one of her music faculty, a composer and performer, to speak first-hand on the needs of those who make their living writing and recording. Actually, this prof starts off with a story about his family’s vacation cabin: it happens to be adjacent to a state park, and the family has often arrived to find park visitors camping out on the premises. This usually rouses an indignant reaction from the students (“that’s so wrong!”) — making a neat segue into talking about the personal investment that goes into creating new art.

International

In an adventure somewhat analogous to Lynn’s in China, Laura Gayle Green of Florida State University was invited to help build a library collection for the music school of Mahidol University in Thailand. She brought back lots of wonderful pictures of the country, and notes on the culture. For one thing, students are often hesitant to ask questions, assuming people will think they have not been educated properly. Laura realized that her first challenge would be building the trust needed to reassure students that they can seek help without fear of being judged. Audio streaming was new to music students in this part of the world. Shoes are removed before entering homes, temples, and libraries — a reflection of the reverence in which libraries are traditionally held (and a novel way to take door counts!). The university’s goal of integrating American models of instruction with local customs is an ongoing challenge.

 

 

 

Leslie at SEMLA 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 6:01 pm

This year’s meeting of the Southeast Music Library Association, in Chapel Hill, had a special event to celebrate: the seventy-fifth anniversary of UNC-CH’s Music Library, now the largest music collection in the Southeast. Some of the collection’s rarest treasures were on exhibit at the opening reception.

Among the most interesting presentations was one given by Sonia Archer-Capuzzo of UNCG, posing the question “How can librarians support faculty and students doing fieldwork?” Music librarians, in particular, have rarely given much thought as to how they can fill this role. By like token, their traditional patrons — musicians — often find fieldwork intimidating; classical musicians tend to be introverted types. Nonetheless, fieldwork is done by ethnomusicologists (who study musical traditions using ethnographic methods), music educators, performers, and even music theorists. And of course fieldworkers in other disciplines – religion, dance, anthropology – encounter musical traditions. Sonia notes that librarians can add value by: (1) reminding our users that we also do fieldwork (e.g., library user studies); (2) stocking our collections with the right resources, of course; and (3) leveraging our connections: knowing the experts among our colleagues and other scholars, to whom we can make referrals. Finding little existing literature designed specifically to guide the librarian, Sonia conducted two email surveys: one of fieldworkers in music and other disciplines, asking how they used libraries in their fieldwork; and one of librarians, asking how they had helped fieldworkers. (The survey instruments, and Sonia’s presentation slides, are posted at https://sites.google.com/site/soniaarchercapuzzo.) Responses revealed that fieldworkers do value libraries, and librarians’ assistance, in doing the background research for their fieldwork; they also appreciate having one online portal — the library’s website — for re-consulting resources as needed while in the field.

Ethnographic studies of library user behavior have attracted attention in the last decade or so. David Hursh of East Carolina reported on the first such study conducted in a music library. ECU’s music library staff collaborated with a resident ethnologist to design a study using “seating sweep” and “timecard” methods to collect data on such factors as group vs. solo study, social activity, time spent in the library, use of technology, and volume and type of activity in various areas of the library. The timecards were short questionnaires handed to users as they entered the library; staff recorded the time of entry, asked the user to return the card when they left, and recorded the time of departure. Because “people often say one thing but do another,” library staff also did unobtrusive visual sweeps of the premises at designated time intervals, recording their own observations of user activities. As expected, there was some variance between the self-reported and observed data. Results from both, however, suggested that users spent most of their time working alone; spent up to a quarter of their time socializing; and used the tech lab (which included the music listening stations) more heavily than the study carrols, reference collection, or the stacks. Multi-tasking was not quite as ubiquitous as might be expected: some 30% of users were observed spending more than 20 minutes on a single task, but when technology was in use, there was a strong correlation with multi-tasking.

Like many library associations, SEMLA and its parent organization, the Music Library Association, have seen declining membership in recent years, in large part due to the current economic climate. Some strategies brainstormed during the business meeting included:

  • Demonstrating our association’s value to music faculty by hosting a clearinghouse of lesson plans, and reminding advisers about music librarianship as a career option.
  • Cheaper dues; reduced dues for the first year; additional membership options (e-membership; membership without the journal subscription).
  • Dropping the membership requirement for first-time conference attendees; sponsoring an attendee; inviting local library-school students to conferences, where they would be mentored by student members.
  • Recruiting from more diverse populations.
  • More webinars, podcasting, etc. for those who can’t travel to meetings.

Leslie at NCLA 2011

Friday, October 7, 2011 2:50 pm

It was really nice to be able to attend an NCLA conference again — one of my music conferences, as it happens, has been held at the same time for years.

I attended a session on RDA, the new cataloging standard recently beta-tested by LC. Christee Pascale of NCSU gave a very helpful, concise reprise of that school’s experience as a test participant; the staff training program and materials they developed; and advice to others planning to implement RDA.

Presenters from UNCG and UNCC shared a session titled “Technical Services: Changing Workflows, Changing Processes, Personnel Restructuring — Oh My!” Both sites have recently undergone library-wide re-organizations, including the re-purposing of tech services staff to other areas, resulting in pressure to ruthlessly eliminate inefficiencies. Many of the specific steps they mentioned are ones we’ve already taken in ZSR, but some interesting additional measures include:

  • Eliminating the Browsing Collection in favor of a New Books display.
  • Reducing the funds structure (for instance, 1 fund per academic department — no subfunds for material formats)

There also seems to be a trend towards re-locating Tech Services catalogers to Special Collections, in order to devote more resources to the task of making the library’s unique holdings more discoverable; outsourcing or automating as many tech services functions as possible, including “shelf-ready” services, authority control, and electronic ordering; and training support staff (whose time has putatively been freed by the outsourcing/automation of their other tasks) to do whatever in-house cataloging remains. That’s the vision, at any rate — our presenters pointed out the problems they’ve encountered in practice. For instance, UNCC at one point had one person doing the receiving, invoicing, and cataloging: they quickly found they needed to devote more people to the still-significant volume of in-house cataloging that remained to be done even after optimizing use of outsourced services. They’re also feeling the loss of subject expertise (in areas like music, religion, etc.) and of experienced catalogers to make the big decisions (i.e., preparing for RDA).

NCLA plans to post all presentations on their website: http://www.nclaonline.org/

 

 


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