WKDU Project Notes: my visit to the UArts Library
Sorry, dear readers, if this is boring, but your humble narrator needs to keep her thoughts on this project somewhere so I don't forget anything.
I met with the University of the Arts Music Librarian Dr. Mark Germer last night. Their music library is located on the third floor of the Merriam Theater, 250 S. Broad St. Surprisingly to me (but I guess I've never been in a music library before, so this could be the way they usually are) the bulk of the space in the library was taken up by books on music, scores, and magazines. They also had a very nifty listening area that patrons were actually using! Their actual storage facility for the CDs and LPs was pretty small, Mark said he got the LP collection down to about 12,000 (WKDU probably has about 30k).
Speaking with Mark was super helpful, as I definitely don't know my ass from my elbow about cataloguing a music collection, and I'm completely flying by the seat of my pants. He showed me OCLC's WorldCat, which we used to look up some semi-obscure titles we have in the vinyl library at WKDU, to see if they were listed. We looked up the punk band Flipper, and sure enough, their albums were catalogued in WorldCat (although, oddly, the albums for Queens of the Stone Age were a few pages into the search results. Go figure.) He explained to me that OCLC is a collective of sorts, and you are expected to give as well as take. But when I think about the kids who will be cataloguing the records at WKDU now and in the future, I think it'd be best on all accounts if we just used OCLC as a reference tool to look up information about albums to be catalogued, and load that information into a local database of our own.
Mark brought up a lot of interesting points that I hadn't previously considered about this project. Since OCLC is web-based, it is possible that if we spoke with the Drexel library they would let us use their username for looking-up purposes for free (we are, after all, a student organization). The trick, though, would be that I know most WKDU DJs and the exec staff would not want Drexel to then use our cataloguing efforts as a way to quantify our holdings and make them available to Drexel students and personnel. The physical space of the station, the lack of supervising personnel, and records' uncanny ability to walk makes that an impossibility. It is important with this project to always, ALWAYS keep the best interest of the users - the WKDU DJs - at heart, despite the attractiveness of more dangerous liasions. His point did give me the notion that I should be careful what I ask for, and I should talk to the WKDU exec staff before poking my nose around the Drexel library, so I will talk to them at their meeting tonight and see what shakes out. I'm a little nervous. I hope it goes well.
Where to go from here? I think the project is doable, I think it will be cheaper than we thought, I think it's possible to do without any grant money whatsoever. Ideally we would get free access to OCLC as a guiding tool, but we would be able to also set our own standards (what Mark called "minimal cataloguing," he uses a similar, abbreviated method for his vinyl collection) that any WKDU kid or new member entering a record could handle. The job of the record librarian would be to supervise/spot check the records going in for accuracy. My dream database program would be free or cheap, open source, particularly suited or modifiable for a music collection, run on Mac, and have the ability to have a long list of keywords to search by (man, tag clouds of the KDU collection would be an INCREDIBLE tool for DJs)...I'm all ears to any suggestions of such a program. Natural language and a set list of genres and guidelines would be key (and one of the most difficult parts of the project!) A possible grant would be to pay for the software for x years and maybe some initial freelance cataloguers if we find that doing it ourselves is too difficult (although, I think, a freelance cataloguer might be a bad idea. How would you catalog Kraftwerk for example? Electronic? Punk? New Wave? Krautrock? Experimental? File under A for Awesome?) It could get very confusing very fast, especially for the uninitiated to WKDU. There needs to be a fair amount of flexibility with the system (as Kraftwerk is all of the above, in my opinion, so all of these descriptors should be keywords). Also different genres' DJs have different needs from a system - the difference between an extended dance mix and a radio single might mean a great deal to an electronic DJ, for instance (while track times could be useful to any DJ, which is something routinely featured in WorldCat). So, so much to consider! But I think if I can get the support of the exec staff and get them up and running (maybe with a semester of independent study...cataloguing and coming up with manuals for later cataloguers to use), KDU will do what it's always done, getting their motivated members to do it themselves. Which would rock.
Tonight: off to WKDU for the first time in years, taking pics of the record library, talking to the exec staff. Wish me luck.