Professional Development

Facility tour of George Blood Audio and Video

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 12:53 pm

On Friday, the day I arrived in Philly for the 2014 ALA Midwinter Meeting, I attended a facility tour of George Blood Audio and Video, an A/V digitization vendor. At their studio, we saw a range of playback machines for audio, video and film material; squeezed into their climate controlled vault; and learned a little bit about their workflows.

One of the most memorable comments that George made during our tour is that the point of quality assessment is not to correct errors, but rather to identify the source of errors upstream in order to eliminate errors and improve processes for the long term. Because of their rigorous item-level QA, as the volume of their production has dramatically increased, their error rate has actually decreased.

The staff of George Blood Audio and Video have varied backgrounds – some with an MLIS, others with audio engineering degrees, many of whom had never heard of A/V preservation & reformatting. Either way, in making hiring decisions, George says that he looks for people who recognize the artifactual value of content captured on obsolete media.

George Blood showcases the quad format

The man himself, George Blood, showcases the quad format. It was surprisingly heavy!

Quad playback equipment

Quad playback equipment. George is constantly on the hunt for playback equipment from old studios that he can purchase and incorporate into digitization workflows.

National Be Kind to Video Tape Technicians Week

National Be Kind to Video Tape Technicians Week.

Physical storage (Ampex 196 1" Master Video Tapes)

Physical storage (Ampex 196 1″ Master Video Tapes).

Head cleaners often rarer than playback equipment

Head cleaners are often rarer than playback equipment.

Quadruple styluses! (styli?)

Quadruple styluses! (Styli?) There are analog considerations when it comes to digitizing grooved disks. How well the stylus fits into the groove can impact the digital capture, so audio engineers at George Blood Audio and Video hacked a device that places four styluses on the disk at once. Then, within their software environment, they can switch between the channels associated with each stylus in order to decide which channel to digitize.

George Blood pretzels

George Blood pretzels.

Leslie at SEMLA 2012

Tuesday, October 23, 2012 11:26 am

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

Digitization Projects

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

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

Copyright Instruction

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

International

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

 

 

 

Vicki at 2012 Baptist History and Heritage Conference

Thursday, June 14, 2012 4:39 pm

On June 7th and 8th, I attended the annual conference of the Baptist History and Heritage Society, which was held in Raleigh this year. The BHHS ” a 73-year old non-profit, professional organization with members worldwide, bridges the worlds of the academy and the congregation, communicating the story of Baptists through print and digital media publications, conferences and seminars”. I was familiar with this group because many of the books they publish are wonderful resources that we add to the NC Baptist Collection, and we receive their journal Baptist History and Heritage, which is also part of the NC Baptist Collection. But I had not been to a conference before…

 

This year, the stars aligned just right to make this a great time for me to attend. The conference was in Raleigh, hosted at First Baptist Church Raleigh, and it would be a perfect opportunity for me to share information about our Biblical Recorder Digitization Project. I hoped that it would be possible for me to have a poster on display along with some take-along cards that have the website for the BR project as well as the Special Collections email address, phone and website. I contacted the Executive Director of the society and asked him about my idea. He said that would be fine, but he also wanted to find some time for me to present the information to the attendees. Even though most of the program was already scheduled, they found a slot for me to speak briefly on Thursday night. I told about how the digitization project came about through an IMLS grant, and about the processes we went through to finally wind up with the finished product. My presentation tied in nicely as the intro for the main speaker that night, Dr. Glenn Jonas of Campbell University. Dr. Jonas has written a book about the history of the First Baptist Church of Raleigh which is celebrating its 200th anniversary and used the Biblical Recorder for a lot of his research. He said he just wished it had been online and searchable earlier! He spoke about his research and how fortunate he was that FBC Raleigh had kept such detailed and organized records. He then told of how FBC Raleigh had been very progressive all along in regards to having black members as well as female deacons all in the 1800′s.

Sanctuary at FBC Raleigh

Dr. Glenn Jonas speaking at FBC Raleigh

 

Sanctuary at FBC Raleigh

Sanctuary at FBC Raleigh

( A side note of interest: the name “Charles Lee Smith” appears at the bottom of the stained glass window behind Dr. Jonas. He was a member of FBC Raleigh, and donated his library to Wake Forest College in 1941. His books was the core of what is now the Rare Books collection here at ZSR!)

 

After the presentations were finished, several people came up to ask me about various aspects of our project. They said that they had heard about it and were very excited to use it! Wake Forest’s own Bill Leonard was there, too, and said he was very glad that I was spreading the word about the BR and he had also used it. BHHS director, Bruce Gourley, asked if we have plans to do more digitization of other Baptist materials, and complemented the BR site which he had already used to research for his blog, Baptists and the American Civil War. It was so good to hear such positive feedback, and know that it is such an appreciated resource.

The next day, I attended several sessions and heard paper presentations on interesting topics in Baptist history.

*Deane Langdon told about Alma May Scarborough who wrote church materials for children and was a proponent of teaching children through play rather than lecture. She trained hundreds of teachers across the country and helped to bring about change in the way children’s Sunday School classes were taught.

*Steve Lemke from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary presented research on theological perspectives in hymnody, showing how Baptist theology is expressed in hymns and relating how this theology has been tested over the centuries in three major “Worship Wars”. The first was in the 16th century and dealt with sacred spaces and how Baptists “did worship”. The language of hymns, the tunes, and the use of musical instruments were all points of contention for those who were establishing new patterns of Reformation worship. Worship War II was in the 17th and 18th centuries. During this time, hymns became more personal and evangelical. But some groups of Baptists did not like congregational singing, and this is still a trait of Primitive Baptist churches today. Others didn’t like the personal wording and theology of the “new hymns” and this led to a split of many congregations. Worship War III is happening today, with issues such as the use of “praise choruses”, the theology that is focused on in traditional versus contemporary hymns and how a congregation can find its most suitable style of worship and hymns based on its theology.

*Jay Smith from Yellowstone Theological Institute ( a new school in Montana) spoke about new ways of “doing and being church” (he quoted Bill Leonard on that). He addressed the fact that there are many ways to be a Baptist theologically and that many pastors and congregations today are trying to embrace a post-modern era.

*Philip Thompson fro Sioux Falls Seminary in South Dakota talked about how Baptist history and identity have been argued about for years, and that Baptist principles can’t be separated from Baptist history. He quoted Nathan Hatch as saying “we are in an age of radical anti-elitism” and how this attitude shows up in many congregations across the country.

In addition to hearing informative speakers, I was able to meet other archivists and librarians who work with state Baptist collections in Georgia, Alabama and Texas. It was great to make those connections and compare notes. One even said “we were talking about your Biblical Recorder project the other day, and would like to do something similar to that”! Great to hear that our work has been noticed. I’m glad I had the chance to attend this conference and meet people who maintain similar kinds of collections as well as those who research heavily in our collections and appreciate our materials on a different level than a casual user. I hope to attend again next year!

 

Digital Forsyth: There is Still Interest Out There!

Friday, November 4, 2011 5:17 pm

During the past two days the North Carolina State Archives and the State Historical Records Advisory Board sponsored a conference in Raleigh: “From Theory to Practice: Accessing and Preserving Electronic Records and Digital Materials.” Originally, Audra was lined up to talk about Digital Forsyth in the cultural repositories track session on “Economics: The True Costs of Managing a Digital Project.” When she headed west, she asked me to step in for her, which I was happy to do, having managed this grant budget for the three years of the project. Here is my presentation if you are interested:

Digital Forsyth: A Partnership/Budgeting in a Collaborative Grant from Susan Smith

Unfortunately, between ZSR obligations and school commitments, I wasn’t able to take advantage and attend the conference except for the session where I was presenting. I did share the session with Jane Blackburn, who is director of Braswell Memorial Library in Rocky Mount. She talked about a project they started 9 years ago that involved a very unique collection of 500,000 photographic negatives (from 1948-2001) by a local photographer (Charles Killebrew). The images span his career as a photographer and primarily were taken in Nash and Edgecombe counties of North Carolina. Her presentation was a cautionary tale, as they took it on without a plan, a budget or staff and in spite of local politics, restrictions from the donor and no funding. However, the collection was in danger of being lost through improper storage and preservation. To date, they have successfully digitized and described over 100o of the images and you can tell how fabulous the Killebrew Collection is. Now that the donor (Killebrew) has died, the gift stipulations that were in place are removed and they can finally look for the right grant to move the digitization forward.

Digitizing Hidden Collections: Success Stories from Small and Medium-sized Digitization projects

Wednesday, November 2, 2011 3:26 pm

Today, Vicki, Craig, and I sat in on an ALA Office of Information Technology Policy (OITP) webinar on the topic of digitizing hidden collections. Each of the four presenters discussedinteresting and uniquedigitization projects.

Erin Kinney, the Digital Initiatives Librarian at Wyoming State Library, spoke about the Wyoming Newspaper Project. Besides having a great logo, the project has attempted to digitize all Wyoming newspapers from 1849-1922. The project has aimed for newspapers already on microfilm, but some poor quality or unavailable microfilm forced them to resort to paper copies (sounds suspiciously like the Biblical Recorder project). Although the project planners originally applied for a National Digital Newspaper Program Grant, they did manage to get a CLIR grant and state funding for $940,000 to complete the digitization. Outsourcing the digitization, hiring metadata workers, massive storage requirements, and a variety of other factors played a role in this project, but they have managed to create a great interface and a successful browse hierarchy for access to this important and highly used collection.

Larry Carey of the Tompkins County Public Library in Ithaca, NY took the local history collection (similar to the North Carolina Room at our own Forsyth Public Library) and sought out copyright permission for almost 300 books and publications including city directories, local histories, and a variety of other sources. The learning curve regarding copyright and technical expertise was mentioned numerous times. Carey did reference Peter Hirtle’s Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums as a valuable tool when working towards obtaining copyright clearance for the digital project. I must say, we were impressed with the time and dedication this small public library staff put in to making these materials available online. The benefit, however, is that the site gets approximately 1,500 visits a month.

Devra Dragos, of the Nebraska Memories Project,explained the statewide project to digitize archival materials excluding newspapers. Using ContentDM as their repository, libraries, historical societies, and other cultural heritage institutions across the state of Nebraska digitized, created metadata, and contributed what they could to this project. Each contributor must sign off that they have copyright for materials and the metadata is standardized. Devra did mention that contributors tend to add information to the metadata that is not standard but is very useful and otherwise potentially lost information.

The final presenter was Natalie Milbrodt of the Queens Memory Project. This is a fascinating project attempting to gather oral histories of the changing landscape and cultural makeup of the borough of Queens while supplementing these oral histories with archival materials. Highly collaborative, innovative, and supported, the Queens Memory Project is only just getting started but it is quite an exciting and interesting effort.

These speakers were highly enthusiastic and had some great projects and ideas. It is always good to hear that other institutions face the same challenges as we do when completing digital projects. What was great was the effort put in to making these projects happen. Smaller libraries with less support technically have manged to make collections accessible to those who seek them out. These are great models for what can be done when a need is realized.

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.

JSTOR

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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