Professional Development

Charleston 2015

Wednesday, November 11, 2015 11:00 am

Unseasonably warm weather, severely overcrowded rooms, and as many varieties of head cold as there are attendees: the Charleston Conference might not be for everyone. You have to really like acquisitions. Which, fortunately, some of us do.

James O’Donnell, Arizona State’s University Librarian (and a Classicist) gave a keynote-style talk about the need for libraries to embrace the changes that online education and resources have brought. He referred to a “universal collection” in which barriers are broken down between institutions, and called for access to be extended as far as possible. We shouldn’t think of libraries as stable collections or storehouses of information, rather as active and ever-changing “makers of knowledge.” As online education becomes more prevalent (at ASU it is huge), providing online access to our print collections becomes a truly essential function, because so much unique material exists only in that format. Mr. O’Donnell spoke intelligently and convincingly, as classicists tend to do.

Doug Way from Wisconsin (about whom Carol has already written and I will write a bit more later) participated in a panel about industry consolidation in the book-jobber business. Recent acquisitions of YBP by EBSCO and Coutts by ProQuest have sent tremors through the admittedly tremor-prone Technical Services world; there is an increasing sense that we libraries have exactly two choices; and as Mr. Way noted, options equal power, whereas fewer options mean less leverage for the customer. It is quite true, and we have already seen some of the ramifications of consolidation – a term which the companies involved, incidentally, seem to find hurtful. The question of whether book jobbers like YBP and Coutts will continue to play well with a variety of ILS/LSPs, regardless of corporate parentage, is presently unanswerable. As Mr. Way said, we need to see proof of neutrality. Press releases promising continued cooperation are inadequate.

At a “Lively Lunch” session (interpretation: you don’t really get a lunch break), Will Cross and Darby Orcutt from NC State led a very participatory discussion of emerging practices for providing non-academic video content in streaming format. All attendees contributed to the conversation. This was helpful in and of itself, as people in this line of work (i.e. my line of work) often feel as if they are trying to figure these things out on an island. Talk centered around legal questions pertaining to Fair Use, the TEACH Act, and libraries’ good-faith wish to deliver their professors the content they need for instruction. I have repeatedly confronted these issues in my time at ZSR (working with more colleagues than I can name) as we continue to seek solutions for provision of commercial content, especially in cases where the only version is not available to the educational market. To wit: Transparent. But take heart! I happen to know that Molly and Kyle are making important efforts in this area.

And now, about those short-term loans. Carol has already written about Doug Way’s presentation on Wisconsin-Madison’s “systematic abandonment” of this model of ebook acquisition. She also stated, correctly, I think, that we needn’t do the same at this time. On a side note, I found the idea of systematic abandonment oddly compelling: the relinquishment of dying or declining services so as to create opportunities for growth. It made me think of a tree falling in a forest, leaving a hole in the canopy that lets in new light and opens up space for fresh growth. Of course, the tree also crushes innumerable other plants; I haven’t worked out that part of the metaphor yet. At any rate, short-term loans and demand-driven access in general are changing before our eyes, as publishers try via STL price hikes and embargoes to make some money out of this whole ebook thing. Evidence-based acquisition (EBA) seems to be one direction that libraries are going, and I’m sure we’ll have conversations about that in the future. At “Will It Ever Settle Down? The Impact of Rapidly Shifting Ebook Business Models on Libraries and Publishers” David Givens from Loyola-Chicago spoke hilariously about his institution’s initial googly-eyed embrace of DDA and STLs and eventual significant reduction to the program’s breadth due to the aforementioned changes in pricing models. By now they have reduced their DDA pool by two thirds. It’s hard to say where we’ll be in two years, but it’s safe to say that it will be somewhere else; as it always is.

Other programs I attended included such various topics as acquisition of books in “squiggly languages;” Europe’s stricter online privacy laws and Google’s mandate to remove personal information about individuals from its web searches upon request; strategic, as opposed to speculative, collection building; a review of the literature on library users’ satisfaction with ebooks; and an effort by librarians at multiple institutions to create an acquisitions data standard, with emphasis on linked data, for an increasingly interconnected world.

And on Saturday afternoon, after the conference ended, this is where I fished. You can’t see the huge redfish that I caught, because it is still out there.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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 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 (, 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.


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.




2010 NCICU Purchasing Committee

Monday, May 17, 2010 12:07 pm

2010 NC Independent Colleges and Universities (NCICU),

Purchasing Committee Meeting, May 13

by Lauren Corbett

Carol and I attended only 1 of the 2 days of the Purchasing Committee meeting at Meredith College in Raleigh. Georgia Williams of Chowan University was Chair for 2010. Georgia thoughtfully broke with the tradition of being the host and arranged for the central location in consideration of travel costs for participants.

  • INTEGRATED SEARCH SYSTEMS On the day that Carol and I were not present, the group looked at demonstrations of integrated search systems from Ex Libris (Primo), Serials Solutions (Summon), and EBSCO (Discovery). We heard comments about how expensive these systems are and it seems that most of the NCICU members are taking the same approach as we did — wait and see.
  • NC LIVE Jill Robinson Morris gave an NC Live update. Foci for the past year were: 1) content, 2) access and integration, 3) awareness. NC Live will be dealing with about an $85,000 cut in budget next year. As a sidebar to this presentation, Lauren learned that NC Live “governance” is 4 Committees of Interest (COIs): 1) NCICU, 2) state universities, 3) community colleges, and 4) public libraries through the State Library. K-12 is not represented because they don’t have a formal, single, centralized body to represent them. Kathy Winslow is the representative to the Resources Committee for NCICU.
  • SERIALS ASSESSMENT Carol enlivened her presentation on Serials Assessment, covering our cancellation project and weeding guidelines, by using humorous pictures to illustrate her points. She had the audience laughing about every 5 minutes. For example, her first slide was one of storm trooper action figures (Star Wars) killing Cheerios. (Serials cancellation is a killing action, n’est-ce pas?) Near the end of the day, Georgia used an index card process where each attendee recorded one great thing from the day and only items with unexpected benefits beyond the agenda were selected to be read aloud. Carol’s presentation was mentioned twice!
  • COPYRIGHT Kevin Smith, a lawyer and Scholarly Communications Officer at Duke University gave a presentation on copyright, most of which was very familiar since he spent quite a bit of time on the TEACH Act, but a particularly useful tidbit that was new to me and Carol was that while it is illegal for a French professor to circumvent DRM on DVDs to assemble a collection of film clips for a course, a new small exception allows a film studies professor to do this with films _from the Department’s collection_ (but not the library’s collection). Kevin concluded with a plug for librarians to play a role in getting professors to stop giving away their copyright.

Discussion in the business meeting at the end of the day concluded that the May meeting is the best opportunity for members to share questions and answers surrounding issues in libraries and that they wish to continue in this vein instead of limiting to the historical action agenda. Several members agreed that it is important to have a theme for the meeting so that each institution can send the appropriate representation for both learning and knowledge contribution. For example, if ILL is to be covered or reference desk services, Lauren would not be the most appropriate representative from WFU.

However, for May 2011, the plan is to have three e-book vendors present a proposal for consortial purchasing. David Brydon of High Point University is the Committee Chair for 2011 and will be hosting the meeting at his institution. Mary Roby of Gardner-Webb University was elected as Vice Chair/Chair Elect.

Leslie at MLA 2009

Monday, March 16, 2009 7:59 pm

I’m back from this year’s annual conference of the Music Library Association, held in Chicago (during a snowstorm) Feb. 17-21. This year I also attended the pre-conference hosted by MOUG (Music OCLC Users Group). Some highlights:

Sound Recordings and Copyright

Tim Brooks of the Association of Recorded Sound Collections described the ARSC’s work lobbying Congress to reform US copyright law on pre-1972 sound recordings. These recordings are not covered by federal law, but are often governed by state law, which tends to give copyright holders, in Tim’s words, “absolute control.” Tim cited some startling statistics: of all recordings made in the 1940s-70s, only 30% have been made available by the copyright holders; of recordings made in the 1920s-30s, only 10% are available; and of the enormous corpus of ethnic and traditional music from all over the world that was recorded by Columbia and Victor in the early years of the 20th century, only 1% is available. Because US copyright law for sound recordings is the most restrictive in the world, early recordings of American artists are currently legally available in other countries but not in the US — which means that American libraries and archives are unable to preserve this portion of our own heritage.

In response, the ARSC has made the following reccomendations:

  • Place pre-1972 recordings under a single federal law.
  • Harmonize US copyright law with that of other countries.
  • Legalize use of “orphaned” works (whose copyright holders cannot be identified).
  • Permit use of “abandoned” works, with compensation to the copyright holders.
  • Permit “best practices” digitization for preservation. Libraries and archives are the most likely to preserve early recordings (they have a better track record on this than the recording companies themselves) and the least likely to re-issue recordings (so they’re no financial threat to copyright holders).

Of ARSC’s experiences lobbying Congress members, Tim reports that many were simply unaware of the situation, but were sympathetic when informed; that libraries are seen as non-partisan and a public good, “the guys in the white hats”; and that there is now much “soft” support in Congress. Other ARSC activities include a “white paper” for the Obama administration, and the establishment of an organization called the Historical Recording Coalition for Access and Preservation (HRCAP) to further lobbying efforts.

In another copyright session, attendees and speakers offered some good tips for approaching your legal counsel re digitization projects:

  • Present your own credentials (copyright workshops you’ve attended, etc.) pertaining to libraries and copyright.
  • Cite specific passages of the law (section 108, 110, etc.)
  • Show you’ve done due diligence (e.g., you’ve replaced LPs with CD re-issues where available; you’ve determined other LPs are in deteriorating condition, etc.)
  • Try to persuade counsel to adopt a “risk assessment” approach (i.e., just how likely is it that a copyright holder will challenge you in this case) versus the more typical “most conservative” approach.
  • File a “contemporaneous writing” — a memo or other document, written at the outset of a digitization project, in which you explain why you believe that you are acting in good faith. This will go a long way towards protecting you if you are in fact challenged by a copyright holder.

Is the Compact Disc Dead?

This was the question addressed by a very interesting panel of speakers, including a VP of Digital Product Strategy at Universal Music Group; the CEO of the Cedille recording label; a concert violinst (Rachel Barton Pine); a former president of the American Symphony Orchestra League; and a music librarian at Northwestern U.

The panel quickly cited a number of reasons to believe that the CD remains a viable format: among these, the universal human desire to own a physical artifact “to give and to show”; the ability to listen on room speakers, not just earbuds; violinst Pine noted that she sells and autographs some 40-70 of her CDs after each performance, that people enjoy the personal contact with the artist, and relish being able to take home a souvenir of the concert. Flaws of downloadable releases were cited in comparison: garbled indexing, making identifying and retrieving of classical works difficult; frequent lack of program notes to provide historical context; the inferior audio quality of compressed files. Changes in student behavior were also noted: in online databases, students tend to retrieve only selected works, or excerpts of works; there doesn’t seem to be the inherent incentive to browse like that offered by physical albums, with the result that students don’t develop as much in-depth knowledge of a composer’s works. On the other hand, the reduced cost of digital distribution has enabled smaller orchestras and other groups to reach a larger audience.

Concern was expressed over an increasing trend among major labels to release performances only in the form of downloadable files, often with a license restricted to “end user only” — preventing libraries from purchasing and making available these performances to their users. The panel proposed that performers and IAML (the International Association of Music Libraries) put pressure on the record companies. Alternative approaches? CDs-on-demand: Cedille’s boss sees this as a growing trend. Also, consortial deals with individual record companies: OhioLink has recently done one with Naxos.

Finally, a concern was expressed about the aggregator model of audio-steaming databases: that these hamper libraries’ responsiveness to local user needs, and the building of the unique collections important for research. The music library community needs to negotiate for distribution models that enable individual selection for traditional collection development.

How Music Libraries are Using New Technologies

  • Videos demonstrating specific resources, such as composers’ thematic catalogs (similar to Lauren’s Research Toolkits).
  • “Un-associations,” in informal online forums like Yahoo or Google groups. There are currently groups for orchestra libraries, flutists, etc.
  • Use of Delicious to create user guides.
  • Meebo for virtual ref.
  • Twitter for virtual ref and for announcements/updates.
  • Widgets and gadgets to embed customized searches, other libraries’ searchboxes, and other web content into LibGuides, etc.
  • ChaCha (a cellphone question-answering service) for virtual ref. Indiana U is partnering with ChaCha in a beta test.


A JSTOR rep presented palns to add 20 more music journals to the database, including more area-studies and foreign-language titles. Attendees pointed out that popular music serials (Downbeat, Rolling Stone, etc.) are becoming primary source material for scholarly research — would JSTOR consider including them? The rep replied that JSTOR originally required that journals be peer-reviewed, but had recently begun to relax this rule. A dabate ensued among attendees as to whether the pop publications were sufficiently relevant to JSTOR’s mission — some believed that JSTOR should stick to its original focus on scholarly literature, and that others could preserve the pop stuff.

Bibliographic Control and the LC Working Group (or: Music Catalogers Freak Out)

The MOUG plenary session gave catalogers a forum to discuss ramifications of the LC Working Group’s recommendations on bibliographic control (see my blog posting for RTSS 08). Concerns expressed:

If collaboration is properly defined as “doing something together for a purpose,” then the disparate (and sometimes opposing) purposes of publishers, vendors, and libraries means that LC’s vision of collective responsibility for metadata and bibliographic control will not constitute true collaboration, but merely exploitation.

The Working Group appears to some to harbor a naive faith in digital architecture to meet all discovery and retrieval needs (it reminded one attendee of predictions that microform would solve all our problems). This is perceived to cultivate a gobal, generalist, one-size-fits-all outlook divorced from existing patterns of scholarly communication and “communities of practice” (e.g., the subject specialist and the community of practitioners that he/she serves). Bibliographic control should be “a network of communication between communities of practice.” An MLA liaison to ALA’s RDA committee noted that the RDA folks expected local catalogers to help fill in the gaps in the currently-vague RDA code — but when specialist communities actually propose details (such as a list of genre terms for music), they’re “dissed.”

Others fear that if LC backs away from its historical role as national library, relying on the larger community of publishers, vendors, and libraries to collaborate in bibliographic control, the actual effect will be that library administrators will think: “If LC isn’t doing this work, then we don’t have to either” — and collaboration will disappear.

Yet others fear the “commodification of cataloging.” With the increasing availability of MARC records and other metadata from third-party sources, there seems to be a growing perception that all metadata is the same — and a concommitant decline in willingness to investigate its source and quality. Administrators increasingly speak of metadata as a commodity.

Remember Katrina?

I’ll close with an item from the business meeting of SEMLA (the Southeast chapter) which was a cause of great celebration: our colleagues from Tulane University in New Orleans, whose music collection was flooded in Hurricane Katrina, announced that 70% of their collection has successfully been restored, and the last portion of it recently returned to them. They brought along a few representative items for show and tell — including a score died pink by its red paper covers. Recalling photos of the original damage, a 70% recovery rate seems a miracle!

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