Coming to a Close: Summer Digitization Internship

My summer digitization internship at the Graduate Theological Union‘s Flora Lamson Hewlett Library, has been different than expected. But as it comes to a close, I’ve reviewed my anticipated learning outcomes, and realize that I’ve met my goals. I started with a wild list of possible learning outcomes, that no one could possibly meet in one short summer. Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed and I pared the list down to three fairly specific goals:

  1. Competently use equipment and software for 1) the digitization of reel-to-reel audio tapes and 2) the management of digital files online in accordance with industry standards and best practices.
  2. Plan, assess and create descriptive, administrative, and structural metadata in order to support the discovery, management, and preservation of digital files.
  3. Demonstrate competence in applying knowledge of legal and ethical issues surrounding intellectual property in the management of digital collections in the online environment.

By tailoring the list so specifically, I was able to self direct my activities to a certain degree and spend the time it took (a luxury I realize working professionals don’t always have) to review material and learn about new aspects of the project, rather than flailing from task to task without direction. Of course, my site supervisor at the GTU Library, Melodie Frances, would never have let me fall into that trap in the first place. Fortunately for me, she allowed me to work independently, thus gaining confidence, and was ready and willing to listen to the knowledge I brought to the table, as many of the areas I was researching were new to her as well. Well, primarily the area of copyright. She had been involved with project metadata and digitization long before I arrived at her library. The intellectual property issues surrounding the project are a different cup of tea, however, and I will discuss my third learning outcome below.

Copyright for pre-1972 sound recordings, as I’ve posted before, is tricky stuff. Federal copyright law only applies to any underlying works on the recording such as a musical composition or poem, not to the actual recording itself. Seriously, this complicates matters. As a result, state law fills the gap, and protects the recording with criminal and civil antipiracy statutes, as well as state common law, including common law copyright (relating to the right of first publication), unfair competition & misappropriation, conversion, and unauthorized distribution. Additionally, rights of privacy and publicity can apply as well. And then of course, there is no guarantee which particular state’s laws will apply in a given case, as it is possible and highly likely for the laws from more than one state to apply, particularly when there are multiple copyright holders.

So what is a library or archive to do? There is hardly a circumstance where recordings are in the public domain. Clearly, one must attempt to get permission in good faith. But what about orphan works where the rights holder cannot be ascertained or found? Is it a safe bet to assess the risk, make sure that any intended use is not for commercial gain (directly or indirectly), and make it accessible online? Or is it best to wait until 2067 when the work enters the public domain? Waiting until 2067 just seems like too long a wait. Hopefully orphan works legislation will be passed before then, although I’m not holding my breath.

The whole issue is seriously complicated. I am finishing a paper about unpublished pre-1972 sound recordings for my internship. It is an assessment of current documentation at the GTU Library, the specific needs of the Jesuit Tape Collection, and recommendations for steps to take going forward with the digitization project. These poor tapes are at the end of their life span, and will not wait until 2067. For preservation sake, the digitization has to happen now. Fortunately, there is little risk with this. The problem is of course access. And what good is a historically significant tape collection, if few may access and use it?

One of the major advantages of digitizing a collection is increasing access to a wider audience while at the same time reducing wear and tear on the original, already damaged tapes during use. Magnetic reel-to-reel tapes just don’t last as long as some other materials.

Too bad intellectual property law is not up to date with the digital age of online access. I hope to see some positive changes to this as I move from intern to MLIS to professional.

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Field Trip: USF’s Gleeson Library

Oh, I’m so excited! I have a field trip today. My internship site supervisor and I are going to the Gleeson Library at USF in order to research the history and other details of the Jesuit Tape Collection which is housed at the Graduate Theological Union library in Berkeley.

Hopefully we will get some good information that will help to clear up some of the copyright concerns that have been plaguing the progress of the digitization project. Really, I think some fresh information might give us a new direction and more importantly, new contacts.

Well, I must plan my trip into the city! I will update with more details later. Continue reading

Lost on UC Berkeley Campus: A Pleasant Surprise

Bridge, U.C. Berkeley Campus

I came down some stairs and found a bridge

On a recent trip to my internship site at the GTU Library, I decided to avoid the steep walk up the hill to Ridge Road in Berkeley, and instead cut through the U.C. Berkeley campus. I decided to take a different path, and fortunately (except for the heat…I am always red faced by the time I arrive at the GTU), found my way to a picturesque pathway, that reminded me a bit of Lithia Park in Ashland, OR, where I spent most of my grade and high school years. It really was beautiful, although the path was a bit out of the way of my destination. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the change of scenery. I must take more time to explore the campus’ footpaths.

Creek on U.C. Berkeley campus

Creek on U.C. Berkeley Campus: A refreshing change of pace

Creek on U.C. Berkeley Campus

Creek on U.C. Berkeley Campus

It’s Getting Hot in Here: Interning at Home, Studying Copyright

So, it is hot today and I’m at home instead of my library internship site. And my apartment doesn’t have air conditioning, and feels more like a hothouse. Yuck. I am sweaty and hot. Today, the Flora Lamson Hewlett Library (GTU Library) at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU)–my digitization internship site–is upgrading to a new system server, and I’ve agreed to work from home, which is always a dangerous proposition–so many distractions, my husband included. Also, my sister is pregnant and will give birth any day now, and I am constantly checking my phone for updates. In favor of clear focus however, I’m all caught up on my Netflix cue, so I’m really ready to go to work, and have decided to do so.

I’m thinking about my internship and realize I’d better get crackin’ on my copyright research for tomorrow. One of my tasks is to do a copyright assessment for the Jesuit Tape Collection (JTC) digitization project. I’ve reviewed and summarized current GTU and GTU Library documentation regarding intellectual property–mostly copyright stuff. However, the JTC involves pre-1972 sound recordings which are particularly troublesome, because although they are not protected by federal copyright law due to a loophole created by historical precedence (thanks piano roll!), state laws have filled the void to varying degrees. And all this is of course, ridiculously complex, apparently even for legal experts.

So I’ve been reading and reading. About copyright law in general, and about pre-1972 sound recordings specifically. Today I hope to add to my report, fleshing out the details that need to be taken into consideration by the GTU Library when planning for streaming the digitized files. I’ve got a few hours of work ahead of me, and tomorrow it will probably be back to planning metadata for compound objects in CONTENTdm. So, I’ll endure the heat, and move forward onto the tangled path that is copyright law, this evening. I’m sure I’ll be reading this stuff for days on my own time. Here are a few good resources:

Besek, J. M. (2009, March).  Copyright and related issues relevant to digital preservation and dissemination of unpublished pre-1972 sound recordings by libraries and archives. Available from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR): Publication 144

Besek, J. M. (2005, December).  Copyright issues relevant to digital preservation and dissemination of pre-1972 commercial sound recordings by libraries and archives. Available from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR): Publication 135

Jaszi, P. & Lewis, N. (2009, September). Protection for pre-1972 sound recordings under state law and its impact on use by nonprofit institutions: A 10-state analysis. Available from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR): Publication 146

Analog to Digital: Trials and Tribulations

So I’ve been working on my internship for a month now, and I’m feeling like I’m pretty well oriented to the project and the internship site. Nevertheless, as warned in reading after reading, for digitization projects you must always allow for extra time. You never know what will go wrong, much less when it will go wrong.

Graduate Theological Union

GTU's Flora Lamson Hewlett Library

First, a little about the internship: I am the digitization intern at the Flora Lamson Hewlett Library, which is part of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA. My site supervisor is the head of cataloging (she is currently away at ALA 2010, lucky), and I pretty much work with her exclusively. All told, there are three of us involved in the project: my site supervisor, a volunteer, and myself. Two other interns have worked on the project in prior semesters. Together, we are managing the analog to digital transfer of nearly 1000 reel-to-reel audio tapes created in the 1950s and 1960s.

It is a bit sad that many of the tapes are in bad condition. It is possible that some content may be lost, when any given tape(s) have deteriorated past the point of salvation. Of course, outsourcing for professional treatment is possible in some cases. Nonetheless, as the much of the material is unique and of high research value, with information and discussion by priests about Vatican II, and other topics surrounding this historical period in the Jesuit community, it is hoped that as digitization progresses, sticky shed syndrome and the like will be minimal enough to ensure the success of the project.

To date, my involvement with the actual digitization process has been minimal, and the three times I have been trained, there has always been a problem that has interrupted the process. Lucky for me, I will be able to get some one on one training early next month. So far though, my digitization experience is somewhat laughable.

Sony reel-to-reel player

Sony RTR Player

On attempt one, the selected reel had tape that was so badly warped, that it was set aside for possible outsourcing. On attempt two, the selected reel was brittle, and a piece of tape was broken away, leaving no leader at the beginning of the reel. By the time I was shown how to splice it and repair the break, we had another false start, as the old Sony RTR machine is finicky, and the play button would not stay depressed long enough to even begin a transfer. After troubleshooting, and solving this problem, the day had ended without a single digital file to show for it.

Finally, the next day, after a couple of meetings, there was just enough time to digitize one file, and of all things, my trainer and I didn’t hit record. So I listened to an hour of playback, with no results. It just goes to show, that there are so many places where errors and lapses of judgment can occur. In other words, mistakes can and do happen, and digitization always needs extra time for this included in the planning.