• Libr 200: Ethical Issues in Information-Seeking Behavior Studies

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    In a music library, or any library for that matter, it’s essential for librarians to know exactly what patrons want and how they use the available resources. They need that knowledge to improve their services, and as Hursh and Avenarius (2012) write, “Improving services is what librarians are all about” (p. 84). But how should they acquire that knowledge? Attempts to answer that question can lead to ethical issues rearing their heads.

     

    Privacy is always an important issue in library ethics. When conducting studies to determine patron wants and information-seeking patterns, librarians need to take utmost care to respect the participants’ privacy, which can be difficult. For example, when a music library publishes the results of a survey about patrons’ use of online reserves, the interviewees’ answers should be anonymous, with no “personally identifying information,” yet still with “enough specificity to determine whether the reserve recordings were accessed from on campus or off campus” and other important details (Phinney, 2005, p. 12). Ideally, participation in the study should also be “strictly voluntary,” with “no incentives” to make reluctant patrons participate (Phinney, 2005, p. 12). But ideal though that approach may be from an ethical standpoint, it may keep librarians from acquiring all the needed information.

     

    A study of only a select few patrons who choose to be surveyed will offer a less complete portrait of mass information-seeking behaviors than a compulsory study of all patrons would. Furthermore, face-to-face interviews and surveys “can be misleading, because people often say one thing but do another” (Hursh & Avenarius, 2012, p. 85). Some librarians argue that an ethnographic study, combining interviews or surveys with periods of secretly observing everyday patron behavior, “results in a more complete and accurate picture” (Hursh & Avenarius, 2012 p. 85). But this presents an ethical dilemma: is it right for librarians to “spy” on patrons and record their behaviors for a published survey without their knowledge? Hursh and Avenarius (2012) have no qualms with this approach, because “no information [is] recorded that could later be used to identify specific individuals, and there [is] no manipulation of the subjects to get them to act in certain ways” (p. 90), but still, ethical concerns remain.

     

    Librarians who conduct patron studies have a difficult balance to strike: giving maximum respect to patrons’ privacy vs. gaining the most complete and accurate study results. Ultimately the nature of the study, the needed information, and the library itself will have to determine what type of study methods should be used. Librarians will need to observe every factor at stake and determine which side of the dilemma – privacy vs. completeness – should be emphasized to give patrons maximum benefit in the long term.

     

    References

    Hursh, D. W. & Avenarius, C. B. (2013). What do patrons really do in music libraries?: an ethnographic approach to improving library services. Music Reference Service Quarterly, 16(2), 84-108. doi: 10.1080/10588167.2013.787522

     

    Phinney, S. (2005). Can’t I just listen to that online? Music Reference Service Quarterly, 9(2), 1-33. doi: 10.1300/J116v09n02_01

  • “The Magic Flute (Impempe Yomlingo)” at the Broad Stage (October 11, 2014)

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    Cast

    Noluthando Boquana, Mandisi Dyantyis, Thobile Dyasi, Ayanda Eleki, Zamile Gantana, Nontsusa Louw, Sifiso Lupuzi, Pauline Malefane, Bongiwe Mapassa, Zanele Mbatha, Siyasanga Mbuyazwe, Sinethemba Mdena, Zebulon Mmusi, Mhlekazi (WhaWha) Mosiea, Zoleka Mpotsha, Siyanda Ncobo, Cikizwa Ndamase, Busisiwe Ngejane, Zolina Ngejane, Sonwabo Ntshata, Tukela Pepeteka, Luvo Rasemeni, Masakane Sotayisi, Ayanda Tikolo Read the rest of this entry »

  • Libr 200: User Experience at the UCLA Music Library

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    For this week’s blog post, I interviewed two faculty members from UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music. I’ll refer to them as Interviewees #1 and #2. I offered them a survey of five questions regarding their user experience with UCLA’s Music Library. In writing the survey, I kept in mind the emphasis that the lecture and readings place on the importance in libraries of organization, inviting aesthetics, innovation, and understanding of user needs. My goal was to learn whether the UCLA Music Library fully meets those requirements and offers a positive user experience or not, and whether its target community embraces it or prefers other information sources.

     

    I asked the interviewees the following questions:

     

    1. How frequently do you use the Music Library for your information needs?

    Interviewee #1 uses the Library several times a week, while Interviewee #2 uses it only once every few weeks, but uses its website more frequently.

    1. What other information sources do you use? How frequently do you use them compared to the Music Library?

    Interviewee #1 uses online sources such as Wikipedia or Oxford Music Online when he needs to look up information quickly, but the Library is still his primary source. Interviewee #2, on the other hand, uses online sources and her personal book collection daily, more often than she uses the Library.

    1. Does the Music Library have any shortcomings – not just in content, but in terms of organization, aesthetics, etc. – that keep you from using it more frequently than you do?

    Interviewee #1 has no complaints, while Interviewee #2 dislikes the Library’s current website design.

    1. Do you find any aspects of the Music Library outdated? Do you prefer other information sources for being more “contemporary”?

    Neither interviewee considered anything outdated.

    1. What improvements would you suggest that the Music Library make?

    Interviewee #1 said only “Find more money and buy more things!” Interviewee #2 wishes the Library would display the current issues of journals at the entrance, so that anyone who needs them knows instantly when they arrive.

     

    If these two interviews are all indicative of the faculty’s general opinions, then the Music Library’s user experience seems to be essentially positive. The faculty uses it often, finds it “in touch with the times,” and doesn’t have many improvements to suggest. True, there are some areas that the Library may need to rethink, i.e. the website design and the organization of its journal collection. But for the most part, its seems to know its users needs and deliver them.

  • LIBR 200: Interview with a Community Member

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    Until I started taking LIS courses, my knowledge of music libraries was based exclusively on my experience with the UCLA Music Library as a student. In my mind, music libraries revolved around the study of music, not the performance of it. I never saw them as having a purpose beyond supplying professors and students with materials to help them better understand various musical works.

     

    But now, thanks to Dr. Patrick Lo’s 2013 article A Conversation with Robert Sutherland, Chief Librarian at the Metropolitan Opera Library, I know more. In this interview, Sutherland discusses his chief duty: providing the musicians with the scores they need for performance. This is no simple task. Many opera scores exist in multiple editions and many singers need certain passages of music to be transposed. For each opera production, Sutherland needs to confer with the conductor, the stage director, and the singers to decide which edition of the score (or amalgam of editions) and which keys will be used. Sometimes those decisions can be altered at the last possible moment for various reasons.

     

    Sutherland and his fellow librarians also proof-read the scores intensively to insure that they’re free of errors, preserve the markings written in the scores by various conductors, and ensure that when those conductors perform, those markings are copied onto the parts for all the orchestra members. They also have the job of repairing damaged sheet music (a necessity when a library has materials dating all the way back to 1883) or replacing damaged material that’s beyond repair. Although Sutherland loves his job and describes it as “like winning the lottery (Lo & Sutherland, 2013, p. 90), he also describes it “relentless” (Lo & Sutherland, 2013, p. 86) – the librarians need to be constantly busy to ensure the best quality performances. He also claims that his background as an orchestra musician helped prepare him for his current career, because it helps him view each score from the performers’ point of view. One of the keys to his job, he says, is to know which scores are the best for performing, not just reading or displaying.

     

    Of course the study of music is essential to all of this. Sutherland’s duties sometimes include such scholarly business as analyzing a composer’s handwriting to determine the exact meaning of the score’s markings. But it’s never study just for the sake of study. The ultimate goal of everything he does is excellence on the opera stage.

     

    Even though the Met is a performance library, not an academic library, I’m sure that academic music librarians have similar responsibilities. Colleges offer music performances, too. UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music offers plenty of concerts every year, as well as the occasional opera and Broadway-style musical. Not only that, most music students are actively studying to be musicians (it’s all too easy to forget this sometimes, but people like me who only study Music History are the exception, not the rule). Who supplies the materials that they need to give the best performances possible? The library! Academic music librarianship may not be identical to Sutherland’s job, but I doubt it’s drastically different either.

     

    Thanks to this interview, I know now that music libraries do more than just teach people about music. They also play an essential role in helping musicians bring music to life.

     

    References

    Lo, P. & Sutherland, R. (2013). A conversation with Robert Sutherland, chief librarian at the Metropolitan Opera library. Fontes Artis Musicae, 60(2), 76-91. Retrieved from eb.b.ebscohost.com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/ehost/detail/detail?vid=3&sid=356cd544-71ca-40ce-9afd-9050d454290a%40sessionmgr111&hid=103&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=llf&AN=89990716

  • An Open Letter About Ingmar Bergman’s “Magic Flute”

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    To all directors planning to stage Die Zauberflöte, or make a new film version of Die Zauberflöte, or write a novel, or stage a ballet, or create any other new work based on Die Zauberflöte:

     

    Hello from one Flute lover to another! I’m thrilled that you’ve decided to stage/make a new adaptation of Mozart’s final masterpiece and I wish you the very best of luck with it. I’m in the process of writing my own novel-length retelling – I’m tentatively calling it An Eternal Crown after the last words of the libretto, though I might change the title later.

     

    I’d just like to say one little thing, though. Read the rest of this entry »

  • LIBR 200: My Information Community of Choice

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    The information community I’ve chosen to study this semester is the community of music libraries in academic settings. As I wrote in my first blog post, the Music Library at UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music was vital to my work as I was earning my BA. That particular library offers a wide variety of communication forms to distribute information:

     

    • Books (scores, opera librettos, dictionaries, volumes on music history, composer biographies, analyses of various works, and technical guides for beginning musicians and composers).
    • Periodicals (magazines, newspapers and music society journals).
    • Audiovisual recordings (CD, LP, cassette, DVD, Blu-Ray, VHS and Laserdisc).
    • The Internet (the collection catalogue, digital audio and video reserves, e-books, online articles and journals, encyclopedias, research guides, and The Music Blog, which offers advertisements and in-depth discussions of various events and items in the collection).
    • Special events (concerts, exhibits).
    • Teaching services (courses, tours, research workshops and teaching workshops).

     

    The library provides all the professors in the School of Music with the materials they need for their courses, as well as students with any music-related materials they could want, either for research or for fun. And like any good information community, they reach out to many different groups of people. Their tagline is “All the Musics of the World” and one of their most important missions is advancing the field of Ethnomusicology, as evidenced by their Ethnomusicology Archive with its collection of music from every country and every culture. Its walls and website regularly contain advertisements for concerts and exhibits devoted to the music of far-flung times, places and ethnic groups, as well as the familiar Western “canon” of art music.

     

    I wouldn’t say that the Music Library breaks any economic barriers, since it’s only accessible to professors, students and alumni. But it certainly does all it can to break geographical and cultural barriers by exposing people to music and music-related materials that they otherwise might never have known existed. And since it’s open to all the university’s students, teachers and lovers of music, it definitely fosters a sense of connectedness among like-minded people. If I find a job either with that library or with another music library like it, I think I’ll be happy, and I know I’ll be proud.

  • A Tale of Two Bohémes

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    The recent crisis at the Met has raised so many questions, as has the demise of the NYCO, the near-demise of the San Diego Opera and the Rome Opera’s uncertain future. Are grand, starry opera productions in the style of those high-profile companies still viable in today’s economy and culture? Are they nothing but soulless, overblown spectacle that isn’t worth trying to save? Or are they the very heart and soul of the art form of opera? Read the rest of this entry »