Monday, April 25, 2005

One good blog deserves another

Quick decision...

I've decided to start another blog for my summer course. It's called "A Study in Preserving Moving Images". Enjoy! It'll probably be going strong after finals week.

Internships like analog media fade with time

My internships are coming to a close this week. The one at the music library will continue into next week with lots of recordings still to catalog. I'm still surveying a mess of lacquer discs at the ATM for Jake's class.

Messy stuff indeed!

I might talk about that later this week as I tabulate the data.

Thank you everyone for reading this blog. I'm doing an independent reading course over the summer about film and video I think I'll blog that course. Not sure if I'll transform this blog into that, or start another one altogether. If you keep reading for a week or two more, 'll let y'all know.

Travel lightly.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

OAIS Reference Model

Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems. Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System (OAIS), Blue Book. January 2002. CCSDS 650.0-B-1. Pages 1.1-2, 2.1-10. Available online at (accessed 18 April 2005).

The OAIS reference model was created by NASA and the Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems to implement agreed-upon standards between government and industry for long-term digital storage and preservation of computer information. While this model was created for space systems, it has an inherent terrestrial application: the long-term archiving of digital information. The term “open” refers to the fact that this standard was developed publicly, not that these archives are publicly accessible to anyone. It is a system for the deposit, management, retrieval, and dissemination of stored data, but it does not specify a recommended means for doing so.

The sections in the model I surveyed include the purpose and scope of OAIS, its objectives, the applicability of the model to other archives, and important concepts for understanding the model, from ingest to dissemination. It specifies what roles that producers, managers, and consumers play in the life of the information being preserved. OAIS requires that information objects be expressly labeled and described with some sort of means of identification, such as a metadata or cataloging record. Relationships between objects should be expressed through structural metadata; and file wrappers are encouraged. These wrappers are called packages, and are distinct in each of the three phases of the model: 1) ingest (submission information package), 2) management/storage (archival information package), and 3) retrieval and use (dissemination information package). This model will be the basis for the Archives of Traditional Music’s NEH grant Sound Directions which looks toward creating a system of interoperable audio repositories.

Folk Heritage Collections in Crisis

American Folklore Society and American Folklore Center. Folk Heritage Collections in Crisis. Washington, DC: Council on Library and Information Resources, 1996. Available online at (accessed 18 April 2005).

In May 2001, a seminar called Folk Heritage Collections in Crisis gathered in Washington, DC to discuss the state of the recorded legacy of collections of folk materials in archives and libraries in the United States. The overwhelming need, as was determined by conference members, was the preservation of folklore-related material on degrading analog carriers. However, without a clear idea of what our users want, preservation projects would continue without “without priority, and therefore likely without funding.”

The report begins by talking about the challenge researchers face when accessing archival collections of folklore and ethno-musicological materials. There is often poor documentation and cataloging of certain collections, which makes remote access or even assessment possible to researchers with no affiliation to that archive. The section on preservation outlines current practice, best practices for storage and handling, as well as digitization, and the need for more scientific research to be carried out in the areas of audio and video preservation.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges that archives face are legal in nature; pertaining especially to copyright and performance rights. In an era where content is king, archives are often restricted in their use and even hindered from preservation by current copyright laws. Unpublished manuscripts and recordings are also protected by law, and cannot be made accessible without renegotiation of legacy contracts—a seemingly impossible mission to find depositors’ and their descendants who might still hold rights. By limiting access to these materials, we are impairing the abilities of the present and future generations from making artistically-based derivatives and adaptations. At the end of the conference was a summary of actions that should be taken to preserve, promote, and provide access to these cultural documents.

Establishing Selection Criteria of Analog and Digital Audio Contents for Transfer

International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives, Task Force on Selection for Digital Transfer. Task Force to Establish Selection Criteria of Analogue and Digital Audio Contents for Transfer to Data Formats for Preservation Purposes. October 2003. Aarhus, Denmark: International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives, 2004.

In this document by the international association, otherwise known as IASA, seeks to address the issues of selection in the digitization of sound materials in libraries and archives around the world. It gives some selection criteria by which archives may prioritize their activities. The first priority should be the preservation of original materials, over that of materials with multiple copies. Physical carriers that are degrading, or are likely to degrade soon (such as lacquer discs) should receive next priority. The ranking IASA gives is: cylinders, coarse grooved discs (78 rpm records), microgroove discs (vinyl LPs), magnetic tape and then optical media. Within these, it should be noted that acetate tape and polyester tape suffering from binder hydrolysis probably should be treated before LPs that in the right storage conditions are of less immediate danger.

Another issue is the availability of playback equipment to play and transfer sound material on obsolete carriers. There is only so much time that is left before tape manufacturers stop manufacturing open-reel analog audio tape. This document also gives criteria that are specific to certain types of institutions that might have sound materials: broadcast archives, national sound archives, and research archives—each of which have their own priorities and challenges.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Creating Digital Library Projects

Ray, Robert. “Creating Digital Library Projects." In Pre-Conference Workshop on The Assessment, Preservation, and Access of Audio Collections in the Digital Age. March 30, 2005. Austin, Texas: Association of Recorded Sound Collections, 2005. Based on Power Point presentation and lecture notes.

The focus of the 2005 ARSC conference was a case study of an digital audio project undertaken by the University of Missouri—Kansas City Special Collections called “Voices of World War II: Experiences from the Front and at Home.” Robert Ray, Special Collections Librarian and Project Director, talked about the experience of undertaking an digitization project, centered around sound recordings—and mostly radio transcription discs at that. The project sought to continue the work of digitizing unique and endangered materials in the UMKC Marr Sound Archives. The digitization was done to provide access to these materials online, but it served as a catalyst to fully catalog and preserve the originals, and to attempt audio preservation on digital systems. They worked with several partners, including the university, the Missouri State Library, and the Truman Presidential Museum & Library.

What was unique about the project website was the primary importance of audio items to the site. There are some photographs, pictures, sheet music, and other visual elements, but they serve to amplify the audio, rather than the reverse. Because many of the items are radio broadcasts, the medium of the radio is how viewers of the site experience the war. It should be noted that this project was not meant to demonstrate best practices in website creation.

Ray talked about the challenges associated with the project including the selection of items to be preserved and for the website, the workflow for digitization, metadata and MARC cataloging, and conservation of damaged carriers. An inventory of your collection is essential before access can be fully implemented. Good file management and consistent naming conventions on the preservation server and mirror servers. Through the creation of this program, the Marr Sound Archives was able to outfit their preservation studio with a professional quality preservation studio that can complete contract work from outside organizations and individuals.

Why does sound matter?

As I was going through my notes on the ARSC conference, I ran across this statement which UMKC Special Collections Librarian, Robert Ray quoted in his pre-conference presentation on creating digital projects for audio.

"Music and sound are transcultural in a manner that is not so for text. Whether white men can play the blues may never be resolved in some purists' minds, but there is no doubting that the representations of history and culture that are captured in music can be processed and enjoyed by people outside that culture. The rise of world music, the merging of cultural styles, and the worldwide of opera by people who cannot speak a word of Italian are testimony to the emotional response people have to music."
-- Dean Andrew Dillon, School of Information, The University of Texas at Austin.

Now that's something to ponder.

METS: Overview and Tutorial

Library of Congress, Network Development and MARC Standards Office. METS: An Overview and Tutorial. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 2004. Last updated September 23, 2004. Available online at (accessed 17 April 2005).

The METS overview and tutorial on Library of Congress’s Metacoding Encoding & Transmission Standard website touches on basic principles and aspects of this metadata schema. Developed by the Library of Congress as initiative of their Digital Library Federation, and maintained by the Network Development and MARC Standards Office of the Library of Congress, METS is meant to be a structural system for maintaining the integrity of digital libraries and their objects. Unlike metadata for traditional library items, like books, digital files require information infrastructures to maintain their connections with other files and webpages—a challenge that is complicated even more with the challenge of long-term digital preservation with its requirements for refreshment and migration of file formats. The structural map—embedded within a METS file—provides the basic framework by which digital objects maintain their links to related objects and files, and provide descriptive and administrative metadata about the object itself.

This initiative was created as a means to turn digital library objects into long-term archival information packages, housed in digital mass storage systems. It can play an integral part of Open Archival Information Systems. There are seven major components of a METS document: METS header (which contains metadata about the METS document), descriptive metadata (bibliographic information housed inside or external to the document itself), administrative metadata (how the files were created and stored, along with rights information), file section (which provides for object versions), structural map (which provides a hierarchy and links objects to their metadata), structural links (which records hyperlinks between nodes) and behavior (of executables). Expressed in XML, it is hoped that this schema is extensible and interoperable enough to provide long-term information about the objects in digital libraries.

Music Cataloging: The Bibliographic Control of Printed and Recorded Music in Libraries

Smiraglia, Richard P. Music Cataloging: The Bibliographic Control of Printed and Recorded Music in Libraries. Englewood, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 1989.

Smiraglia’s 1989 volume is in his own words “a textbook designed to introduce the field of music cataloging to students of music librarianship, students of cataloging, and/or music librarians or general catalogers who find themselves in need of a basic explanation of the prevalent practices in the bibliographic control of music materials.” I found the text to be as Smiraglia described, and less useful as a reference tool than his 1997 volume Describing Music Materials. It is indeed a systematic study of the subject.

There are numerous examples of description and access in both AACR2 form and in the MARC format. After each example is an explanation of any unusual or idiosyncractic usages, that would perplex introductory catalogers. There are extensive sections related to subject analysis and classification schemes for music, as well as machine-readable cataloging and systems for automation. There is also a good treatment of uniform titles and their importance for arranging and filing music (both within the catalog and on the shelf). One of the primary strengths behind this textbook is its methodical manner it takes in introducing those with an introductory knowledge of bibliographic control to an application of a rules when dealing with music materials.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Cataloger's Judgment

Weitz, Jay. Cataloger's Judgment: Music Cataloging Questions and Answers from the Music OCLC Users Group Newsletter. Arranged and edited by Matthew Sheehy, with a foreword by H. Stephen Wright. Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited, 2004.

Jay Weitz’s regular column in the Music OCLC Users Group Newsletter has been a useful clarifying tool, ever since he began writing it in 1989. Collected in this book are fifteen years of Weitz’s columns, organized into various categories. These include: when to input a new record, sound recordings, main and added entries, titles, description, notes, subject access, numbers, fixed fields, and OCLC services. The title of the book comes from the idea that cataloging is more of an art than a science. In the course of describing an item and providing its access points, there are many interpretive decisions that must be made.

Weitz’s book provides questions and answers of the most interesting variety. Because the questions come from actual music cataloging situations, Weitz usually responds with practical suggestions and logic that is often indisputable. One of the benefits of this book is that it deals with situations arising from application of AACR2, MARC21, OCLC Bibliographic Standards and Formats, and the MARC Authority Format. He also answers question about features associated with cataloging software such as Passport and CatME. He also explains why some items might be cataloged in the manner which they were; thus providing a historical view of the changes in cataloging practice.

Guidelines on the Production and Preservation of Digital Audio Objects

IASA Technical Committee. Guidelines on the Production and Preservation of Digital Audio Objects. IASA-TC-04. Aarhus, Denmark: International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives, 2004.

The newest publication by the IASA's Technical Committee is the Guidelines on the Production and Preservation of Digital Audio Objects. This dense document moves beyond its 2003 publication, The Safeguarding of the Audio Heritage: Ethics, Principles, and Preservation Strategy, towards the application of these principles in the reproduction of the original sound media, the creation of digital sound objects. It also elucidates strategies for managing long-term preservation and access of these materials. There is discussion of digital mass-storage systems, data file formats, media, and the hardware systems which will be essential for the operation of new digital archives.

Its three main areas include: 1) standards, principles, and metadata; 2) signal extraction from originals; and 3) target formats. The first section talks about having a well-planned strategy for preserving digital objects and supporting these objects with robust metadata. The second section maintains that our goal as audio archivists should be to provide as good or better fidelity in the digital object than what came from the original analog item. Every kind of analog carrier is documented here, with their particular characteristics and transfer challenges. The third section focuses on where these objects will be stored, whether on optical formats or on digital mass storage systems. The document details the benefits, costs, and disadvantages of operating in each environment. While IASA TC-04 often provides solutions that are of immediate implementation only to large-scale universities and corporations, there is valuable guidance for the smaller archive who must use intermediate solutions until digital mass storage systems are cost-effective for everybody.

It's my birthday!

Oh yeah, and tomorrow's my birthday...April 18. Born 200 years after the ride of Paul Revere. I celebrated today with a haircut and a birthday brunch at the Uptown Cafe.

Metadata and its relation to the OPAC

Sistrunk, Wendy. “Metadata.” In Pre-Conference Workshop on The Assessment, Preservation, and Access of Audio Collections in the Digital Age. March 30, 2005. Austin, Texas: Association of Recorded Sound Collections, 2005.

Wendy Sistrunk was a presenter at the Association of Recorded Sound Collections’ 2005 pre-conference workshop on assessing, preserving, and giving access to audio collections. She is the music catalog librarian for the University of Missouri—Kansas City, and creates and edits bibliographic and authority records, as well as handling aspects of metadata for the music collections. She talked about the importance of including metadata when undertaking a digitization project, and its relationship to individual libraries’ online public access catalogs. Most of the pre-conference workshop was focused around the University of Missouri’s World War II collection of radio broadcast transcription discs and its online exhibit, Voices of World War II: Experiences from the Front and at Home. Ms. Sistrunk talked about how metadata and traditional cataloging provide access to digital projects and exhibitions.

Sistrunk gave a brief description of what metadata is, its various functions, and some of the common schemas in usage today. She talked about her role in providing records not only to the digital image, but also to the original recording in the Marr Sound Archive. She makes two MARC records—one for the sound recording, and the other for the digital file. Because these materials are unpublished and qualify for archival treatment, many MARC fields are used that are not typically needed in ordinary library situations. Some of these include provenance, creating subject headings for the collections, detailed information related to the original recording process and subsequent digitization process, as well as information related to grant funding for the project. By creating two individual records, instead of just one with an 856 tag for electronic access, they are able to more fully separate the original item in the archive, from the derivative copy created for online access. She also talked about how it is possible to create Dublin Core records in OCLC Connexion, and the poor mapping that occurs when that record is exported into the MARC format.

Cataloging [Music]: an annotation

Another cataloging annotation:

Papakhian, Arsen Ralph. “Cataloging.” Notes: A Quarter Journal of the Music Library Association 56:3 (March 2000): 581-90.

Ralph Papakhian is the Head of Technical Services at the William and Gayle Cook Music Library at Indiana University. He has been employed at Indiana for over thirty years. His article, “Cataloging”, was one of a series done at the turn of the twenty-first century, and looks at the development of music cataloging formats and standards during the past century, and ahead to the challenges that face the profession. He begins with an overview of the MARC music format (1978), the role of OCLC and the Library of Congress, and how individual integrated library systems have changed.

He discusses the complexities of music cataloging; for example, one of the issues is the presence of multiple works in one physical volume. Music catalogers face a challenge in give access at the work level: whether to use uniform titles, or to give separate analytic entries within the OCLC database. Papakhian is very observant when he says that libraries are requiring a greater level of detail, access, and accuracy in their catalogers; but at the same time cutting staff and replacing professional librarians with para-professionals and student workers. Other elements of the digital evolution have changed the way library catalogs are perceived by users and managers. New innovations such as metadata, FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records), and the cataloging of Internet music resources could derail already-overtaxed cataloging staffs who struggle with backlogs on a daily basis. Lastly, he addresses the lack of training for music cataloging in American library and information science graduate programs.

Types of Compositions for Use in Music Uniform Titles: A Manual for Use with AACR2

MLA Working Group on Types of Compositions. Types of Compositions for Use in Music Uniform Titles: A Manual for Use with AACR2, Chapter 25. 2002 rev., last updated Mar. 18, 2005. Available online at (accessed 15 Apr. 2005).

This manual was created for the purpose of detailing the types of musical compositions that fall under the rubric “generic title” in AACR2, Chapter 25. Uniform titles are essential for music catalogers as they collocate all instances of a musical work within a catalog. It lists alphabetically names of musical forms which are common enough to qualify as generic types. The principles of the list follow that of AACR2. They are not meant to substitute for it; rather it is a tool to be used in conjunction with official cataloging documentation. The manual gives all the noted exceptions, the use of plurals, scope notes about their proper usages, and under which language the form should be given.

This manual is hosted on the Music Cataloging at Yale page, which houses the NACO-Music Project handbook A Handbook of Examples For Use in Authority Records—a site that houses many other useful documents for music catalogers. Additions and deletions to the list of types are made by submitting new terms to Michelle Koth, the webmaster of the Yale site and a member of the Music Library Associations’ Bibliographic Control Committee. One of the most useful aspects of the list are the cross-references from unauthorized terms to authorized terms. This list is essential in the construction of music uniform titles.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Handbook of Examples For Use in Authority Records

Here's an authority-related cataloging annotation:

Koth, Michelle. A Handbook of Examples for Use in Authority Records. NACO Music Project, 1998. Available at: (accessed 15 April 2005).

Michelle Koth’s online handbook, A Handbook of Examples for Use in Authority Records, is a guidebook to be used when creating and entering authority records for a personal or corporate name authority record (composer or performer or corporate body) or a name/uniform title authority record. It began in 1992 as a project of the Music OCLC Users Group’s NACO Music Project to create a coordinated means by which to contribute name and name-title authority records to Library of Congress’s Authority File. This document give copious examples of ways to cite resources in an authority record’s Source Data Found field (670).

Koth’s manual expands on the NACO Participant’s Manual in illustrating common practice for the music cataloging community. Some of the elements such as the general material designation in a 670 field, for example, have been deprecated by the Library of Congress. Music catalogers continue to use these designations in citations, because it is a clear way to establish that the main entry being cited is a sound recording. She includes ways to cite from commonly used reference sources, such as the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. There are also examples for citing online resources, whether from a webpage, a database, or from another library catalog. At the end of the document is an addendum by NMP Funnel coordinator, A. Ralph Papakhian (also the Head of Technical Services for the IU Music Library), on guidance on “Procedures for removing a person from an undifferentiated name heading.”

MOUG Newsletter

Another cataloging annotation:

Music OCLC Users Group. “Newsletter.” Available to all members of MOUG in print form. Occasional publication, 1977-present. ISSN: 0161-1704

MOUG is a familiar acronym to music librarians and catalogers. It is an abbreviation for the Music OCLC Users Group, a group made up of mostly music catalogers that was established to work with the Online Computer Library Center, Inc. on their implementation of rules and standards relating to printed music, sound and video recordings with music content, and material about music. It works with librarians with oversight over music-related material who make uses OCLC-related products and services, such as Connexion and Passport. MOUG publishes an occasional newsletter (usually ever four months) called the Music OCLC Users Group Newsletter which has a number of useful articles.

The newsletter usually delivers updates about the organization and its activities; as well as those of OCLC. Because MOUG serves as an unofficial coordinating agency between OCLC and the music library community, it is the official vehicle to inform MOUG members of news and updates about OCLC’s services and products, such as updates, additions, revisions, and changes to their Bibliographic Formats and Standards.

One of the most useful features about the newsletter is Jay Weitz’s Questions and Answers, a forum to address complex questions of using the MARC format for bibliographic description and name, uniform title, and subject access. There are often reports from related organizations, as well as lists of recent additions and changes to composer/uniform title authority and subject authority records.

Audio and Video Preservation Reformatting: A Library of Congress Perspective

Another annotation:

Fleischauer, Carl. “Audio and Video Preservation Reformatting: A Library of Congress Perspective.” Paper delivered the Preservation Conference (Digital Technology vs. Analog Technology), National Archives at College Park, March 27, 2003. Available online at (accessed 15 Apr. 2005).

This paper by Library of Congress Project Coordinator of the Office of Strategic Initiatives, Carl Fleischauer was delivered at the 2003 NARA Preservation Conference “Digital Technology vs. Analog Technology.” It delivered six many points relating to reformatting analog materials to make them digital. Fleischauer talked about many of the approaches which the Library of Congress has taken towards preserving original formats and creating preservation digital masters for long-term preservation and access. His paper talks about videotape as well as audiotape—the former being an area where both technological systems and preservation practice still preserving.

One of the most enlightening points which Fleischauer makes relates to digital videotape formats. These formats contain signals whose digital information that is compressed. Compression (even those which employ lossless algorithims) introduce digital artifacts which produce inferior copies, much as copying an analog object would. The same can be said in the audio realm for digital audio tapes and minidiscs, whose materials are encoded with similar algorithims. Because of the large size of files and the cost of storage of uncompressed video is prohibitive at the present time, video preservation is still in its infancy when it comes to the digital realm.

Fleischauer also notes that the goal of reformatting sound and video is not transformation, as it is in book and paper microfilming projects. There is a transformation in the physical medium; but ideally, it should still be the same experience: listening to sounds and watching images that are true to their original capture, often done in archives without noise reduction or any other sort of “enhancement.” In video reformatting, often the elements (chrominance (or color) and luminance (or light) of a picture are combined together as a “composite signal,” rather than a “component signal” which separates these elements—often resulting in greater fidelity of image. The Library of Congress is currently experimenting with a prototype for video, much as they did for audio.

The current challenges for any sort of reformatting revolves around perceptual elements of a recording. What we can hear or see is only a small percentage of the total spectrum of sound and visual frequencies. What information then is worth recording? Do you have the equipment to play back all the frequencies? Can you really tell the differences? While one might not be able to tell, often what is perceived is not there: the high frequencies often contain harmonic overtones which are integral to the complete aural experience and are useful in re-mastering recordings.

Many of Fleischauer’s comments relate to best practices in transferring and reformatting digital objects at the highest possible resolution. He does make the point that not all institutions are ready for these high-price preservation solutions and storage formats. Intermediate solutions are needed and should be used in accordance with ethical treatment of the original sound documents. Digital preservation reformatting should be a tool in a preservation’s toolbox, but more work should be done towards long-term preservation of the original source recordings.

Review of Audio Collection Preservation Trends, Challenges

Another article annotation:

Brylawksi, Samuel. “Review of Audio Collection Preservation Trends and Challenges.” In Proceedings from the Sound Savings Symposium, July 24-26, 2003. Available online at (accessed 15 Apr. 2005).

In this document, the former head of the Recorded Sound Section of the Library of Congress, Samuel Brylawski wrote a review of preservation practices related to audio, and the challenges placed upon institutions by degrading physical carriers. He says that the digital future is already here. While archivists and preservationists generally should not adopt the latest fads, a sea change has occurred; therefore, there is little choice but to adopt measures to move the intellectual content of analog sound recordings to the digital domain.

He first begins to talk about conservation, or the practice of cleaning, restoring, storage, and handling. There is still considerable ambiguity over the life expectancy of many formats, and best ways for preserving recordings that were instantaneously recorded (and thus, usually made only for short-term purposes). His bad news is that there have never been any agreed upon best practices for conserving original audio recordings. Given the recency of the collection of audio materials, this is perhaps not surprising. Brylawski makes the point that “it wasn’t that long ago that masters were routinely destroyed after reformatting.” Standards are continuing to evolve, and audio archivists are often left to their own devices to adopt the best possible standards for preservation that exist at the time.

There are similar challenges to digital preservation that exist and have been debated for years. Some of the issues of transferring involve using lossless file formats, the final target format, and the future refreshing and migration of file formats. Institutions will have to build and maintain long-term digital repositories for their digital materials, much as their libraries collect paper and analog items. In this area, Brylawski says that we are still in the childhood of the development of these systems.

Likewise, institutions will need a suitable information infrastructure to sustain these digital collections. He talked about some of the prototypes being developed, such as the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center by the Library of Congress and the Open Archival Information System (OAIS). Metadata schemas, such as METS will associate audio data, with scanned record labels and bibliographic data, as well as structural and administrative metadata, so that all aspects of the “archival information package” will maintain associations after being ingested within an OAIS system.

Because the playback and transfer of audio recordings involves expert knowledge of both historical and current carriers and equipment, Brylawski advocates the training of audio preservation engineers which can undertake the massive amount of work still to be done. The challenge of preserving current lossy (MP3) formats will be a challenge. Sound archivists will need to work with Congress and the music industry to insure that important cultural material does not degrade beyond repair before the copyright term expires.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Safeguarding of the Audio Heritage

Another journal article:

IASA Technical Committee. Standards, Recommended Practices and Strategies. IASA-TC-03. "The Safeguarding of the Audio Heritage: Ethics, Principles and Preservation Strategy," Version 2, September 2001. A revision of IASA TC-03, issued in February 1997

IASA stands for the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives and was created in the late 1960s as an organization for archives that house audio and audiovisual materials. Its activities include the exchange of information among archives and functions as a forum for cooperative efforts in the preservation of the world's audiovisual heritage. The Technical Committee of IASA deals with "all technical aspects of recording, storage and reproduction, including new recording,
transfer and storage technologies."

In 2001, it released the second version of a document called "The Safeguarding of the Audio Heritage: Ethics, Principles, and Preservation Strategy" ( which addresses the principles behind which this work is done, the care that should be taken with sound material as original documents, and ways to create realistic and manageable practices that are consistent with the archive.

The paper begins with a quick overview of the field and the terms in common usage in the sound archives field. It makes a concrete distinction between the intellectual works or content embedded on media, the physical media itself (disc, tape, or cylinder), and the equipment used for playback. One of the principal values of the field is fidelity of the original source recording. It is important in the transfer of material to achieve the best quality signal from the original source recording. To do that, one needs well-functioning equipment--not an easy task to find when you are dealing in obsolete formats, such as lacquer discs, commercial 78s, or wax cylinders. During and after the transfer, the archives' role is to preserve the original document, whether it is its content or its carrier. For that reason, no signal processing such as equalization or noise reduction should be performed during the preservation process. (Obviously, greater clarity can result in the use of these processes, but they should only be done afterwards for access copies).

The Committee makes recommendation on the digital side of the transfer as well. Having a high-quality analog-to-digital converter is crucial to transferring recordings into the digital domain. The archives should have a forward-looking philosophy towards sampling rates and word length (recommended: 24K bit depth, 96 kHz sampling rate), because future technologies could allow for greater fidelity in playback and editing. A lossless file format is preferred, and the current standard is either the .WAV or the .BWF Wave formats. Quality control of the digital products is crucial for long-term preservation and access. It is usually only economical to transfer a recording once, and multiple playback degrades analog tapes and discs.

Institutions should commit to long-term mass data storage and the incorporation of metadata with, or linked to the objects they describe. The consensus is that there is no one permanent answer. What is needed is a long-term strategy of migration and reformatting as the way to preserve and maintain the sound content of audio archives.

For smaller archives, work should be done by priority of the needs of the degrading medium: lacquer discs, acetate magnetic tape, cylinders, etc. What this document does not say is that access is often the priority of information organizations like libraries and archives. Reformatting of popular materials might justify a balance of these priorities.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Another cataloging annotation

Smiraglia, Richard P. Describing Music Materials: A Manual for Descriptive Cataloging of Printed and Recorded Music, Music Videos, and Archival Music Collections, 3rd ed. Lake Crystal, Minn.: Soldier Creek Press, 1997.

A graduate of Indiana University’s School of Library Science, Richard P. Smiraglia has been at the forefront of cataloging issues for music-related materials. The majority of Describing Music Materials illuminates the bibliographic description process: for printed music, sound recordings, music videorecordings, interactive multimedia packages, and archival collections of musical documents. This volume also covers choice of access points (author only), which is an especially confusing choice in the area of sound recordings, the construction and use of uniform titles and cross-references in authority records. Smiraglia’s monograph ends with a helpful reference bibliography that should be use by anyone who catalogs music.

The sections which were of primary importance for me this semester were the description of sound recordings, choice and form of entry, and uniform titles sections. Helpful guidance on recording from the chief and prescribed sources of information is provided, as well as useful examples and often, parts or the whole of modifications made by the Library of Congress Rule Interpretations and the Music Cataloging Decisions. The book is geared towards the content and syntax of a catalog record, not the machine-readable formatting language as illustrated in Jay Weitz’s book Music Coding and Tagging.

Smiraglia’s examples are illustrative and plentiful. He doesn’t refrain from listing complex ones, and they serve the purpose of the rules he is trying to amplify. There are twenty-two individual examples in the description of sound recordings section, which range broadly from country, rock ‘n roll, motion picture music, to a range of classical music examples (collective titles, collections, operas, discs with many composers and works).

Perhaps one of the best sections of each of the description chapters is the beginning: the technical reading. In order to clearly understand the item in hand, one must first investigate every piece of the item: the disc, its label, the container and insert, and any enclosure or documentation which accompanies it. One does this reading to ascertain the chief source of information. In sound recordings, this source is usually the label affixed or printed on the disc or tape. There are a number of sources that should be taken account when determining other areas of cataloging, besides the title proper and statement of responsibility. Smiraglia describes these places, and makes the point that a cataloger should use every piece of the item to gather descriptive data from it.

I used Smiraglia’s book in my training to music cataloging. Often, I would refer back to it if I was unsure of a certain situation when cataloging. Describing Music is more of a ready reference tool than his 1989 book Music Cataloging: The Bibliographic Control of Printed and Recorded Music in Libraries. I find all of his works to be helpful and enlightening in the practice of cataloging sound recordings.