Monday, December 16, 2013

Music Libraries…of the Future!

This past week, I wrote a reflection paper for a class on my predictions about music libraries of the future, and I'd thought I'd share some of my thoughts here. I think parts delve more into a wishlist than prediction, but I tried to base my speculation on current trends. I'm sure it will be amusing to read in 10 years and realize how wrong I was, but it's still fun to think about the future.

I believe that in 10-15 years, there will be two main trends in music libraries, especially academic music libraries: First, collections that are increasingly 1) electronic, 2) searchable AND browsable online, and 3) aggregators for third-party content. Second, management that focuses on greater outreach, more specialization, and a shrinking (or at least not growing) number of professional positions.

Trend 1: Streaming music, browsable sound collections

As more and more musical resources are put online, music libraries will offer more streaming services, even starting to offer popular music streaming services such as Spotify or Pandora. Of course, the streaming services now existent (Alexander Street Press, Naxos, and DRAM) will continue to add content and also increase their prices. Because of this expansion in electronic sound recording content, music libraries will find their budget for physical sound recordings dwindle, and will have to rely more finding rare music that is hard to find electronically on third-party markets. Although libraries will develop the tools to lend MP3s, legal problems will prevent the execution of this program. Subscription video streaming services will continue in the same way, becoming a greater percentage of music library’s budget as more and more music content becomes available online and fewer and fewer resources are published in a physical form. As physical sound recording budgets shrink and CDs become less of a theft risk, music librarians will figure out new ways to increase their physical circulation or risk their material having almost no use at all, perhaps finding a cheaper method of moving from closed stacks to open stacks or making their physical collections virtually browsable online.

Trend 2: E-books and e-scores

Music libraries will begin to catch up with other libraries on the purchase of e-books, as more music e-books become available and demand for them increases. Better tools will be developed to display textbook and academic e-books, making theme more popular, because the market will call for it, and because these tools as so bad now, they can only get better. In addition to e-books, some scores will start to be leased through aggregate publisher databases for use on tablets. These program will allow musicians to mark their own copies, and perhaps keep those markings for the next time they will lease the music, solving one of the big problems of non-physical copies. In the next few years, however, the score leasing model will only apply to old public domain material and new music from active composers who are willing to try the new model. In order for patron to use this new music leasing, the library will have to start lending the technology to use such music, such as tablet computers. In addition to tablets, the library will need to rent other multimedia technology that will continue to be too expensive for students, such as video equipment, microphones, and video and sound editing software.

Trend 3: More (and cheaper) e-journals, with content aggregators

While legal action will not convince courts to allow the lending of MP3s, lawsuits against big academic publishers will finally make electronic academic journal access cheaper rise only as fast as inflation. More journals will be open access, but in the next few years these open access journals will still not have figured out how to keep their academic standards high in the new model, such as working peer review process. Large, publisher-driven journals from academic presses will still continue to function and carry the most credibility, even with decreased revenue and court settlements. While the number of journals will continue to increase, more and more periodicals and books will be published as e-only. The library will become the aggregator of these resources for their patrons. With the continuing increase of e-content, someone will have to develop a tool so that these items electronic items are readily browsable, instead of just searchable. New books and journal issues will be funneled into something like Feedly or even Facebook, a reader that posts new content that is available in the library, such as the table of contents of patron’s favorite journals or a type of new books, so that patrons can quickly see what’s new. While browsing capabilities will continue to increase, music databases will become better at pinpointing material patrons need based on their search queries and search query history, a direction that we are moving already.  

Trend 4: Public domain expansion

While American copyright probably will not change much in the next 10-15 years, I will continue to hope that the restrictions to public domain material will slacken. There is currently an international movement to pull back the life-plus-seventy copyright stipulation back to a more reasonable life-plus-fifty. As demand and availability of out-of-copyright sources increases, libraries will become more involved in the location of online public domain resources and the production of out-of-copyright resources for these online platforms. Fair use will continue to be nebulous, but libraries will become more important in informing the public how to navigate these laws.

Trend 5: Less product, more service outreach

In addition all the changing collections (or perhaps because of it), music libraries will function differently, especially in terms of public service and personnel. Because of the de-emphasis in physical resources and large increase in online providing, music librarians will be doing more time with laptops having “office hours” in music schools, marketing themselves as a provider of resources instead of a repository of resources. While other academic libraries, such as large graduate and undergraduate libraries, will continue to gain in study and technology space, music libraries will be forced into smaller and smaller spaces, another reason why music librarians will need to concentrate on outreach.

As part of this outreach, music librarians will continue to do advertising exhibits; if anything, these exhibits will get bigger and more complicated and will be connected to social media (maybe a series of exhibits on a similar theme throughout the year, pushed heavily on university websites and Facebook and Twitter). Advertising of resources will become even more important, as will education about the increasingly complicated and varied music tools available.

In order to do this outreach, librarians will increasingly rely on paraprofessional and part-time workers. I think as budgets continue to flatline, the trend will continue to have fewer top people with library degrees and more full-time paraprofessional positions. However, the top positions will continue to require MLS degrees because of the continuing importance of technical education. MLS programs will be changing, however, to reflect the need of greater technical expertise. Because of the peculiarities of musical resources and overabundance of trained musicians versus jobs, though, musical expertise will continue to be desired for these top-level music librarian positions.

What do you think is in the future of music libraries?

Vocab: streaming, MP3, paraprofessional

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