Awards and Honors, Scholarly Communications, Southern Folklife Collection, Special Collections

Staff Grants Promote Innovation in Music Cataloging and Copyright Education

Photograph of Steve Weiss and Anne Gilliland, 2015 Innovation Grant winners.

Steve Weiss and Anne Gilliland are the Library’s 2015 Innovation Grant winners. Their respective projects will improve access to music recordings and to copyright expertise. Photo by Jay Mangum.

Locating historical music recordings may soon grow easier at the UNC Library’s Southern Folklife Collection. The Collection has received one of two internal Library Innovation Grants to experiment with technology-driven cataloging for more than 100,000 sound recordings.

The other award goes to the Library’s Scholarly Communications Officer to aid in developing a team of copyright “first responders.”

Funding for the grants comes from unrestricted library endowment. Recipients must complete their projects by June 30, 2016.

Revealing American Roots Music Records

In the Southern Folklife Collection, more than 100,000 78 rpm and 45 rpm sound recordings from the Collection’s huge holdings sit in semi-obscurity. The records document the history of American roots music—blues, bluegrass, folk, Cajun, and more.

They would be a treasure for researchers, but because they came to Carolina with no catalog records, they are essentially hidden from view. Researchers have no way to know what recordings are there, or even that they exist, unless a staff member guides them to a lucky find.

Steve Weiss, curator of the Southern Folklife Collection, estimates that it would take catalogers approximately 45 years to research and create a standard record for each of the thousands of discs. So he has proposed a pilot to speed cataloging through automation.

His idea is to take a digital photograph of printed record labels, convert the images to text using optical character recognition (OCR) software, and then combine the text and images to help with workflow, discovery, and access. Crowdsourcing tags and comments may help to add even more information to the process.

If the test is successful in saving time and producing usable data, Weiss would hope to use the method to apply for external funding from a granting or government agency in order to catalog the entire set of recordings.

Building a Copyright First Responders Network

Nearly every aspect of the modern academic library requires a knowledge of copyright basics. Copyright sets parameters for digitization; governs loan, licensing, and publishing endeavors; and can smooth the way for multimedia projects or trip them up before they launch.

In 2012, the Library hired Anne Gilliland as its Scholarly Communications Officer, in part to guide researchers and librarians through the intricacies of copyright law. But the need for copyright expertise far outpaces what one person can offer.

Inspired by a “Copyright First Responders” program at the Harvard University Library, Gilliland proposes to create a similar team at UNC.

She will use an Innovation Grant to train a team of internal experts to analyze copyright problems, respond to most routine questions, and identify the tougher issues that need special attention. Gilliland will involve local experts and her counterparts from other research libraries across the country in the training. She will also make use of materials that she developed last year for a MOOC (massive open online course) that taught basic copyright law to 10,000 librarians and educators worldwide.

If all goes according to plan, a new cohort of copyright-savvy staffers will be on call for their colleagues and for library users beginning next summer.

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