Professional Development

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.

Midwinter 2016: A False Memoir?

Thursday, January 14, 2016 10:03 am

This year’s Midwinter was a bit unusual for me in that I didn’t find as many programs of obvious interest as I usually do, which led to my attending some sessions that I normally wouldn’t have. About this I have no complaints. It was fun, as was this outdoor section of the Brattle Book Shop (est. 1825):

The Role of the Professional in Technical Services Interest Group put on a program about the changing landscape of tech services (in our case Resource Services) departments as silos surrounding different functional areas continue to break down and collaboration and outsourcing of work to vendors become more common. Sally Gibson from Illinois State talked about “solution creators” as a distinct role within TS departments; these individuals excel at recognizing patterns and redundancies and at thinking creatively about workflows. Her emphasis on attitudes and behaviors (as opposed to technical skill sets) as essential traits is something we’re hearing more about lately in ALCTS-land.

After the meeting of my ALCTS-AS Organization and Management Committee got out early, having bravely crossed a windswept bridge leading away from the sea, I wandered into YALSA’s 2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee’s annual review of YA fiction. This was not my usual scene. A lengthy procession of super-earnest Boston-area youths (some in middle and some in high school, I gathered) took the podium to provide one- to three-minute reviews of new works of YA fiction, recommending whether they ought to make YALSA’s final list of recommended books. What kind of kid wants to go present at a conference for librarians? The answer: good kids. Their enthusiasm and sincerity were infectious; I found myself remembering that protocol-obsessed adolescents were my favorite patrons in my early days working at the circ desk of a public library. I will always miss that.

On Sunday I learned a bit about the rise of the online scientific megajournal, a phenomenon about which I previously knew little. Two representatives from publishers of such journals (Springer Nature and Elsevier) as well as one from AIP led a very participatory discussion of the value of these online journals, which publish several thousand articles per year and have been accused of causing a proliferation of lower-quality scientific publishing. From the perspective of authors, the journals sometimes function as a backup plan to publication in the more prestigious traditional journals. Audience members expressed concern about the extent to which megajournals depend for their profits on Article Processing Charges (ACPs) paid by authors. This would seem a valid concern. The publishers make the case that their journals provide an important service by bringing more scientific findings out of the gray literature and into the main scientific corpus. “This can only be a good thing,” said one. My sense is that some commentators would disagree.

I enjoyed a presentation by two librarians from the coolest combination of colleges possible – Nurhak Tuncer from the City College of Chicago’s Malcolm X College and Reed David from the University of Alaska Anchorage – in which the challenge of cataloging self-published ebooks was discussed. This is something Carolyn has worked on here, cataloging the ebooks published by Bill Kane’s in-house Library Partners Press. The main emphasis of the presentation was on decisions the cataloger must make about Publisher, Place of publication, etc. In the same session, Karen Snow from Dominican University talked about ethical decisions involved in cataloging and/or re-cataloging “false memoirs” – books presented as fact but later shown to be largely fictional (think A Million Little Pieces, The Education of Little Tree). Some libraries choose to re-class and move these books to fiction; others leave them where they are with the addition of notes. Practices vary, and the right decision for an academic library might not be right for a public one. Ms. Snow encouraged establishing a consistent policy. I think I disagree: to me these need to be treated on a case-by-case basis.

We are nearing the end. At my ALCTS Planning Committee meeting, we discussed strategies for requiring more accountability from various ALCTS committees with regards to the alignment of their activities to the Strategic Plan we adopted last year. Expect a new reporting form, people! Finally, on Monday morning, Nancy Lorimer, Head of Metadata Services at Stanford, presented on her library’s participation in the Linked Data for Production project, in which attempts are being made at coming up with real-world workflows that incorporate linked data, for instance, the insertion of URIs into legacy MARC bib records and authority records. As entities (a somewhat far-ranging concept) become more important in a linked data environment, authority control becomes a central concern. The fact that we’re on top of this at ZSR is good to know. Thanks, Steve.

And now, the aforementioned earnest young adults:

ALA 2015

Tuesday, July 7, 2015 3:31 pm

In case I’d been longing for parades (turns out I had), a confluence of well-known events made the 2015 ALA Annual Conference the perfect place to be. How do New Orleans and San Francisco parades compare, you ask? San Francisco parades involve less alcohol; more illegal-smelling smoke; smaller floats; fewer thrown objects; and more daytime nudity (not pictured).

The first session I attended was put on by the Cataloging Norms Interest Group of ALCTS. Nancy Fallgren of the National Library of Medicine gave an update on NLM’s BIBFRAME pilot project, which has been underway for some time. BIBFRAME Lite is an experimental set of core elements meant to be used in the new encoding framework, and NLM is working on mapping from MARC, Dublin Core, and other non-MARC legacy formats to BF Lite. However, Ms. Fallgren emphasized that their primary focus is on creation of new metadata using BIBFRAME, not conversion. A print monograph BIBFRAME mockup is viewable here.

At the same session, Roman Panchyshyn from Kent State talked about the non-stop nature of change experienced by technical services staff in the 21st Century. Managing change has become a key function for managers in technical services departments. Traditional breakdowns between acquisitions, cataloging, serials, etc. are disappearing. This trend, I think, is reflected here in Resource Services at ZSR. Mr. Panchyschyn identified eight skills/competencies that all technical services staff need to possess in order to keep up. I won’t list all of them here (full list available upon request), but suffice it to say they are metadata-centric, linked data-oriented, and future-looking. Liberal use of hyphens, sadly, isn’t one of them.

Still at the same session, Diane Hillmann from Syracuse speculated as to whether libraries will retain their legacy metadata once conversion to BIBFRAME is complete. She concluded that this is advisable; storage is relatively cheap, and you never know when you might need the data again. “Park the MARC,” she advised, wisely I think. As to whether we are making the right choice in moving toward BIBFRAME, Ms. Hillmann said that this is a moot question: there is no one right choice, and in future we will need to be multiply conversant as metadata takes on new forms and different libraries and other cultural heritage communities decide to go in divergent directions. This is part of the promise of BIBFRAME: it is to be flexible, extensible, and adaptable.

Believe it or not, I did go to other sessions and meetings. Later on Saturday I met with my ALCTS Acquisitions Section Organization and Management Committee, and on Sunday I met with my division-level ALCTS Planning Committee, where we continued to work on a three-year ALCTS strategic plan, with new emphasis on how best to track progress on that plan once it is in place. My work on the Planning Committee has provided a broad view of ALCTS as a whole – its different divisions, its reporting structure and micro-cultures, and its direction. I’ve only completed one year of a three-year term, so I have more enlightenment to look forward to, as my power and influence grow daily.

Roy Tennant from OCLC gave a fun presentation titled “Ground Truthing MARC,” in which he made a worthy comparison between the geographical process of ground truthing and the value of analyzing the existing MARC record landscape before we move to convert it en masse. He has been performing some interesting automated analyses of the ridiculously huge universe of records present in OCLC’s database, and found some interesting (if not surprising) results. A relatively small number of tags (100, 245, etc.) make up the vast majority of instances of populated subfields in OCLC; whereas hundreds of tags are used only infrequently and, all told, constitute a very small percentage of the data in OCLC. This type of analysis, he believes, will be essential as we start to think about mapping OCLC’s data into a BIBFRAME environment.

In other presentations, Amber Billey from the University of Vermont made an interesting case that in requiring NACO-authorized catalogers to choose between “Male,” “Female,” and “Not known” when assigning gender to an authority (RDA Rule 9.7), LC is expressing a false and regressively binary conception of gender. She and others have submitted a fast-track proposal that “Transgender” be added as an additional option; this proposal would seem to have merit. Joseph Kiegel from the University of Washington and Beth Camden from Penn discussed their libraries’ experiences migrating to the Ex Libris Alma and Kuali Ole ILS’s, respectively. In such migrations technical support is essential, whether provided by the system vendor or (as in the case of an open-source system like Kuali Ole) a third-party company that contracts to provide support.

On the last day, Corynne McSherry from the Electronic Frontier Foundation discussed several important copyright-related legal cases from the last year, including Authors Guild v. Hathitrust, Authors Guild v. Google, and Cambridge University Press v. Patton. The EFF is seeking a Digital Millennium Copyright Act exception for circumventing access-restriction technology in no-longer-supported video games so that archivists can preserve them, as these games are an important part of our cultural heritage. This was an entirely new topic to me and caused me to think back fondly on the days when Halo was young and I was too, when video games weren’t things to preserve, but to play. I suppose that preservation is the next-best thing.

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.

The Ellers Visit the In-Laws; Charleston 2014

Wednesday, November 12, 2014 12:00 pm

Eleven-day-old daughter and sleep-deprived wife in tow, I attended the 2014 Charleston Conference flying arguably in the face of reason. I had the advantage of a free place to stay: my parents-in-law live out on James Island, a 15-minute drive to the Francis Marion Hotel where the conference is held. Given this fact and the conference’s unique focus on acquisitions, it makes sense for this meeting to become an annual excursion for me.

The opening speaker, Anthea Stratigos (apparently her real last name) from Outsell, Inc. talked about the importance of strategy, marketing, and branding the experience your library provides. She emphasized that in tough budgetary times it is all the more important to know your target users and to deliver the services, products, and environment they are looking for rather than mindlessly trying to keep up with the Joneses and do everything all at once. “Know your portfolio,” advised Ms. Stratigos. I would say that we at ZSR do a good job of this.

At “Metadata Challenges in Discovery Systems,” speakers from Ex Libris, SAGE, Queens University, and the University of Waterloo discussed the functionality gap that exists in library discovery systems. While tools like Summon have great potential and deliver generally good results, they are reliant on good metadata to function. In an environment in which records come from numerous sources, the task of normalizing data is a challenge for library, vendor, and system provider alike. Consistent and rational metadata practices, both across the industry and within a given library, are essential. To the extent that it is possible, a good discovery system ought to be able to smooth out issues with inconsistent/bad metadata; but the onus is largely on catalogers. I for one am glad that we are on top of authority control. I am also glad that at the time of implementation I was safely 800 miles away in Louisiana.

In a highly entertaining staged debate over the premise that “Wherever possible, library collections should be shaped by patrons instead of librarians,” Rick Anderson from Utah and David Magier from Princeton contested the question of how large a role PDA/DDA should play in collection development in an academic context. Arguing pro-DDA, Mr. Anderson claimed that we’ve confused the ends with the means in providing content: the selection process by librarians ought properly to be seen simply as a method for identifying needed content, and if another more automated process (DDA) can accomplish the same purpose (and perhaps do it better), then it ought to be embraced. Arguing the other side, Mr. Magier emphasized DDA’s limitations, eloquently comparing over-reliance on it to eating mashed potatoes with a screwdriver just because a screwdriver is a useful tool. He pointed out that even in the absence of DDA, librarians have always worked closely and directly with patrons to answer their collection needs. In truth, both debaters would have agreed that a balance of DDA and traditional selection by librarians is the ideal model.

One interesting program discussed the inadequacy of downloads as proxy for usage given the amount of resource-sharing that occurs post-download. At another, librarians from UMass-Amherst and Simmons College presented results of their Kanopy streaming video DDA (PDA to them) program, similar to the one we’ll be rolling out later this month; they found that promotion to faculty was essential in generating views. On Saturday morning, librarians from Utah State talked about the importance of interlibrary loan as a supplement to acquisitions budgets and collection development policies in a regional consortium context. On this point, they try to include in all e-resource license agreements a clause specifying that ILL shall be allowed “utilizing the prevailing technology of the day” – an attempt at guaranteeing that they will remain able to loan their e-materials regardless of format, platform changes, or any other new technological developments.

Also on Saturday Charlie Remy of UT-Chattanooga and Paul Moss from OCLC discussed adoption of OCLC’s Knowledge Base and Cooperative Management Initiative. This was of particular interest as we in Resource Services plan on exploring use of the Knowledge Base early next year. Mr. Remy shared some of the positives and negatives he has experienced: among the former, the main one would be the crowdsourcing of e-resource metadata maintenance in a cooperative environment; among the negatives were slow updating of the knowledge base, especially with record sets from new vendors, along with the usual problem of bad vendor-provided metadata. The final session I attended was about link resolvers and the crucial role that delivery plays in our mission. As speakers pointed out, we’ve spent the past few years focusing on discover, discovery, discovery. Now might be a good time to look again at how well the content our users find is being delivered.

OCLC Member Forum – UNCG

Thursday, October 9, 2014 9:55 am

I recently attended the first regional OCLC member forum held at UNCG. The meeting focused on the many changes happening with OCLC products and a better understanding of how the products work together. I went to the break out session pertaining to Cataloging and Metadata. Within this session, members were able to give feedback on issues that we have been having particularly with Connexion and make request for features that don’t exist. OCLC has a web page dedicated to the forums which include pictures, questions and feedback from the attendees. Feel free to explore at the following link https://oclc.org/en-US/events/member-forums/after-party.html

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 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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