Digital music libraries moving toward OhioLINK

Andrew Schiller

It’s a fact of life: Everyone likes freebies. Free food. Free T-shirts. Free music.

Kent State provides access to two online music libraries: the Naxos Music Library and the Classical Music Library. The university began subscribing to each of these services around the time they began three or four years ago, said Daniel Boomhower, performing arts librarian and head of the Hugh A. Glauser Music Library.

While both collections have lots of classical music content, the Naxos library also covers other genres such as jazz and world music. Because use of the Naxos library is limited to a 280 user pool formed by a statewide group subscription among Ohio’s colleges, access to the library can sometimes be restricted. The Naxos library allows users to pay to download music or stream music for free, but it doesn’t let students set up playlists.

The Classical Music Library has no user limit and allows anyone to create playlists — after setting up a login name and password.

Boomhower said that while students can’t download whatever they want and put it on their iPods, because the libraries are online, they are available after hours at just about anywhere: in a residence hall, at a computer lab or even at home.

“It’s a lot more flexible and convenient, and that, I think, actually encourages people to actually do their homework, and listen to this stuff,” Boomhower said.

At the same time, the music library’s current practice of renting content through the Naxos and Classical music libraries isn’t sustainable, Boomhower said.

“I would like to see a situation where we are in a position to buy material that really has broad appeal, and figure out licensing to make that accessible,” he said. “There’s a lot of good stuff out there that would be of interest, and not just course-related.”

Because music is moving away from a physical format, such as the CD, and toward taking up space on a PC or server, it will be easier than ever to form a digital library, Boomhower said.

Two existing collaborative efforts have already laid the groundwork for a statewide digital library: OhioLINK, a consortium of Ohio libraries, and the Digital Media Commons, an OhioLINK project aimed at eventually becoming a networked storehouse of content — some of which will be traditional library material — that will be accessible to students and faculty all over Ohio.

“We probably have maybe as many as 200,000 CDs within OhioLINK,” Boomhower said. “Let’s think of 200,000 CDs with 10 tracks. We’re talking about 2 million tracks of content that we currently own collectively.”

It would be nice to have all 2 million tracks in one central collection that had statewide access, he said.

In the meantime, Boomhower doesn’t expect the recording industry to come up with any viable alternatives for college libraries.

“The mental leap that the recording industry has to make hasn’t happened,” Boomhower said.

“Libraries’ goals are to collect and preserve content. If we don’t have control over the actual content, then there’s no need to preserve it,” he said. “And if we’re not given a model to legally control that, then our hands are tied and then we’re just kind of … then we’re not a library.”

Contact libraries and information reporter Andrew Schiller at [email protected].