Matt's Blog

Weblog of New York City based Jewish Musician.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Question
Your boss is out of the country, your bosses boss stops in to talk with you. Your working in the database set up for you. They have lots of questions, which you try to explain. You didn't set up the database, and their are things that you would have done differently. But it does follow standards for the type of medium, sound recordings, that you are working in. Many of the problems that they had are the ones that you deal with on a regular basis. How do you deal with it?

Here is the main issue. Sound recordings are treated like books. Each track is equal to a chapter in a book. In a book it is not a big deal to search by keywords, and not be able to search by individual chapter titles. In sound recordings being able to search by by song titles while still looking at full recordings is important. Though it is still not a perfect solution, you will still miss things. EX. Ikh bin a Rothchild by Sholom Alekheim, by searching for Rothchild you will bring up all the examples of the short story in Yidish, and of any Yidish productions of "Fiddler on the Roof," but not the English version of "Fiddler on the Roof." Ikh bin a Rothchild is If I were a richman in Yidish.

While not an elegant solution my boss did come up with one with the software that he has. Using the older version of a database program, which at that point was still flat file and not relational, and having the records look the same as standard library records of sound files, one can search by track. It isn't user friendly but it does get the job done.

I sure hope that they don't switch to the proprietary library software that they are moving the rest of the institution to. It will go from being hard to find what you want to nearly impossible. What they need to do is give us the type of funding, that all institutions neglect to do, to full catalog our collections. Upgrading the software would help, but at some point you need to catalog it fully. This is an institution where the main catalog is still on note cards. Their are reasons, but technology is at the point where it can move to computers.

As a researcher I ask that you don't use proprietary systems that are only used for library cataloging. On one hand you are putting all our eggs in that one software companies basket. This is something that you are doing in any case, so you might as well use something that is used in lots of applications, because that software has a better chance of being supported long term. Two, I don't want to be limited to how I can manipulate my data like it is books. I want multi level searching where I can exclude data. I also want to be able to save my searches and sorts so that I can revisit them and continue to manipulate them.

I wish that I could tell you about some of the music that I listened to today at work, but the recordings that I wanted to listen to were listed in the catalog as being missing. And they were. It is a shame, even though they didn't have a complete set, they had the most complete set listed that I had ever seen. 8 out of the 10 sides. I have only heard 4. The 2 sides they did, I have heard.

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