Thursday Threads: Free Music Scores, Hiring for Attitude, National Broadband Map

Hickory, with true-to-life parting attitude (left) and Mittens

This week’s Thursday Threads is delayed, but for good reason. If you will indulge me with a personal note, this week saw the passing of our 20-year-old cat, Hickory, and the addition of a 6-month-old kitten, Mittens, to our family. Needless to say, when I would normally be putting together a post on Wednesday evening, I was otherwise distracted. The delay certainly wasn’t because there were not interesting bits to post in the past seven days.

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Okay, cute cat pictures aside, this week’s DLTJ Thursday Threads has three stories. The first is a pointer a project that scans and releases out-of-copyright music scores; this is an interest project not only for questions of copyright and asserting public domain rights but also for what it says about the perception of libraries and librarians. The second story, suggesting that organizations should hire for attitude and train for skill, makes me wonder about how this principle could be applied to the library profession. And lastly, the U.S. federal government has issued a broadband availability map based on data collected from states.

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Free Trove of Music Scores on Web Hits Sensitive Copyright Note

The site, the International Music Score Library Project, has trod in the footsteps of Google Books and Project Gutenberg and grown to be one of the largest sources of scores anywhere. It claims to have 85,000 scores, or parts for nearly 35,000 works, with several thousand being added every month. That is a worrisome pace for traditional music publishers, whose bread and butter comes from renting and selling scores in expensive editions backed by the latest scholarship. More than a business threat, the site has raised messy copyright issues and drawn the ire of established publishers.

The site (imslp.org) is an open-source repository that uses the Wikipedia template and philosophy, “a visual analogue of a normal library,” in the words of its founder, Edward W. Guo, the former conservatory student. Volunteers scan in scores or import them from other sources, like Beethoven House, the museum and research institute in Bonn, Germany. Other users oversee copyright issues and perform maintenance. Quality control — like catching missed pages — is also left to the public. “It’s completely crowd sourced,” Mr. Guo said.

This article from the New York Times about the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP) struck several chords with me (please pardon the pun). First is that this is the sort of activity libraries should be deeply engaged in. In a world where the mass distribution of physical works is common and the aggregation of digital access to materials being bundled into comprehensive (sometimes consortial-based) licenses (or libraries be bypassed by commercial distribution chains altogether), libraries can distinguish themselves by supporting projects that curate the unique and the local. The project has the word “Library” in the title and they have a category of volunteers called “librarians” (one is a high school student) but I can’t find evidence of the traditional library profession in the creation or support of the operation. As a librarian-by-formal degree (Simmons College, 2003) I’m neither offended by this, nor concerned that the project doesn’t have the involvement of librarian-by-degree people. Rather, I see this as markers of what people expect a library to be and what a librarian should do. This is an example of something we should strive towards.

The second chord is the copyright issue. It seems that this is another publishing industry segment that is under assault by the easy and relatively inexpensive distribution of content over the internet. In this case, it is the scanned versions of public domain scores. (The IMSLP has a Copyright Made Easy page describing what can and cannot be released on the site.) On the other hand, publishers can earn money by making researching and publishing what-the-composer-intended changes (my paraphrase) to public domain scores, then copyrighting the resulting derivative work. For most, scanned versions of out-of-copyright works are probably good enough and there is a cadre of volunteers who find personal fulfilment in scanning, uploading, proofing, and categorizing these versions. In its history, IMSLP was challenged in court, taken down, then reformulated and brought back online again by the original creator with the added support of volunteers. The IMSLP recently celebrated its five-year anniversary and although it faces the threat of lawsuits again, it is still going strong (hundreds if not thousands of changes per day).

Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill

How does the practice’s leader, Dr. Rushika Fernandopulle, find the right people for these unusual (but critical) jobs? “We recruit for attitude and train for skill,” Dr. Fernandopulle told Dr. Gawande. “We don’t recruit from health care. This kind of care requires a very different mind-set from usual care. For example, what is the answer for a patient who walks up to the front desk with a question? The answer is ‘Yes.’ ‘Can I see a doctor?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Can I get help making my ultrasound appointment?’ ‘Yes.’ Health care trains people to say no to patients.”

Now that’s an effective prescription for innovation!

This article in Harvard Business Review uses an example of a “special care center” in a physician’s practice to demonstrate how attitude of workers is key in radically moving an organization forward. I’ll admit to a mental struggle of trying to integrate the lessons of this story with that of the International Music Score Library Project above. This may be the kind of hiring model we need for “re-imagining the future of libraries” (to take a riff off of the physician’s practice motto). But with seemingly so many service aspects that we can’t let go of, I’m finding it hard to imagine not hiring for skills. [Via OCLC Research's Above-the-Fold.]

National Broadband Map: How Connected is My Community?

The National Broadband Map is a tool to search, analyze and map broadband availability across the United States. Created and maintained by the NTIA, in collaboration with the FCC, and in partnership with 50 states, five territories and the District of Columbia.

On February 17th, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) launched the National Broadband Map — a collection and visualization of better-than-dialup internet service providers in the United States. It came about using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Grant funds were given to states to gather the information needed to create the map, and it is on a schedule to be updated every six months. Network World Magazine has 6 cool things learned from the National Broadband Map (One: There is a large gap between connection speeds for small businesses and for medium and large businesses; Two: A dearth of broadband providers in the Northeast; Three: DSL is still the most available wireline technology; Four: Wireless looks like the future for rural broadband; Five: New York is the king of the 100Mbps download; Six: Wyoming is not a good place for high-speed Internet).

The text was modified to update a link from http://www.renhealth.net/about/index.html to http://www.renhealth.net/ on November 21st, 2012.

(This post was updated on 21-Nov-2012.)