Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Bodleian Music card catalogue now searchable online

It is now possible, for the first time, to browse the card catalogues for the Bodleian’s printed music collections without having to come to the Library. The cards have been scanned and the images made accessible online as a kind of ‘virtual’ card catalogue here. This is part of a project which will eventually see brief records for this material loaded into SOLO.

Since 1992, all music scores acquired by the central Bodleian have been catalogued online and are therefore accessible through SOLO, the online catalogue for most of Oxford’s libraries. Additionally, several retrospective conversion projects over the years have meant that a significant quantity of earlier accessions have been recatalogued, notably opera scores, a large proportion of our pre-1800 editions, music hall songs and a selection of important 20th century composers and collected editions. However, that still leaves approximately 75% of the Library’s music holdings represented only by the bulky card catalogues which used to dominate the old Music Reading Room and now line the central aisle of Duke Humfrey’s Library.

The card catalogues in Duke Humfrey's Library

A full recataloguing job was deemed to be prohibitively expensive but, back in 2011, the Library was fortunate to receive a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund a more economical approach to making the rich Music holdings of the Bodleian more widely accessible. Teaming up with the Maps section of the Library (who have a similar problem to Music) we arranged for 536,400 cards to be scanned and sent the card images away for the information on them to be keyed into a database. This task was outsourced to a company in the Philippines whose work is currently being checked and enhanced by a small team of editors based in the Bodleian’s Osney One Building in Osney Mead. Once that work is complete, by the summer of 2014, most of the data will be converted into brief MARC records and loaded into Aleph (the integrated library system) and will become searchable and the items requestable via SOLO.

A catalogue drawer
The ‘virtual’ card catalogue is a by-product of this project. An interface has been developed to make the card images accessible online using ‘flipbook’ technology which allows access to the card ‘drawers’ at frequent index points. Once you have entered a ‘drawer’, you can browse the cards until you find what you are looking for. Each card image comes with an e-mail icon which will bring up a web form to enable registered Bodleian users to request the item from the stacks. After entering your name, library card number and contact details, the form automatically captures the filename of the image and sends it to library staff for ordering to the Music reading room in Duke Humfrey.

A sample card from the Main card catalogue
In fact, several distinct music catalogues are included in this project. In addition to the main card catalogue (begun in the 1920s but incorporating much earlier material), the hand-written supplementary slip catalogue (now containing mostly minor Victorian editions received under legal deposit) can be found, along with composer and title indexes to popular music (ca. 1953-1991), and a partial index to printed music found in journals or non-music publications. Included also are a small number of cards for microfilm sets and some individual music manuscripts available on film, along with a partial index to music manuscripts catalogued between about 1965 and 2009, but the legibility of some of these hand-written cards leaves much to be desired. Please ask music staff if you need help in deciphering them.

One of the supplementary slips
Items from the old catalogues which have already been recatalogued online were removed from the drawers so duplicate entries between SOLO and the scanned cards should be minimal. Links to the ‘new’ catalogue can be found on the SOLO homepage. SOLO should always remain your first port-of-call when looking for any music scores but remember to check the card images if you can’t find what you need in SOLO, if it was published before 1992. If you still can’t find what you need, it may be worth asking Music library staff as cataloguing practices over the years have often been quite obscure and what you want may not always be filed where you might expect to find it!

A card from the Light Music catalogue
While this solution falls short of the ideal – the complete recataloguing of all music scores in SOLO which would see everything fully and consistently described and indexed – it is hoped that the result of this more pragmatic approach will be a considerable improvement on the present situation. The new interface has been released in its ‘beta’ phase and currently works best in Firefox and Chrome browsers. Functionality issues with Internet Explorer are being addressed and a few other minor improvements are planned for the coming weeks. For more information on the coverage of the card catalogues and help in using them, please see the music LibGuides. Comments are welcome to music@bodleian.ox.ac.uk.



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