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Six Questions: Paul Fraunfelter, Digital Conversion Specialist

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“I bid you all goodbye.” Words and music by Nicholas Colangelo. Providence: Nicolas Colangelo, 1918.

The following post is by Carlos Martinez III, Office of Strategic Initiatives.

In a recent blog post, I discussed a World War I Sheet Music digitization project and some of my contributions to it. I had the pleasure of working alongside several team members and Paul Fraunfelter, Digital Conversion Specialist from the Music Division. Over the course of three months, we described over fourteen thousand items of World War I sheet music. What follows is an interview with Paul describing the project and how it differs from other digital collections the Library has curated.

Carlos: Please tell us a little bit about your work at the Library and how this collection relates to the type of work you do?

Paul: I have been producing digital projects for the Music Division for over fifteen years. While the Music Division has released feature presentations covering many subjects, periods, original formats and digital media, we’ve made more sheet music available online than any other type of medium. The World War I sheet music project is the most recent example of the Library’s commitment to digital conversion of “complete sets” (in this case, the complete holdings of LC Classed M1646 materials).

Can you tell us a little about the initiative to begin this project and something specific that makes it important?

This project came as a Management request to help commemorate the 2014 WWI centennial. The size of this collection and the fact that it all pertains to a particular subject is important in itself.

How does this project differ from other music digitization projects?

Performing Arts Encyclopedia (Music Division) imaging projects are normally produced in-house by personnel from the Digital Scan Center, Music Division and the Network Development and MARC Standards Office. This project is quite different as the scanning is being done by an outside vendor and production is to be administered by the Office of Strategic Initiatives, using software and processes completely new to our office.

I know that several people contributed to creating the preliminary records for this music. What do you think will be the next steps in the digitization process?

A workflow is established at the outset. After receiving stub records, boxes are returned to the Music Division stacks. From there they go to Conservation for assessment and treatment. After Conservation, items are scanned. And finally, they go to catalogers for full bibliographic records. All these activities run concurrently and it is essential that each step in the process stays well ahead of the next one.

I definitely enjoyed working on this project with you, Paul. It taught me a lot about the challenges associated with organizing information for digitization, preserving material for the future, and creating a digital collection for access. Do you have any specific thoughts on how the collection should be organized so that it meets the needs of the users and addresses the strategic goals of the Library?

I am a tireless advocate for item level records for classed and special collection materials. Sure, I love the romance and serendipity of rummaging through an archival box as much as anyone else, but digital is all about access, and item level is how one achieves it.

What do you see as the Library’s role in the changing digital preservation landscape?

Over a decade ago, the Library made a commitment to preservation of born digital content, but at that time, social media had yet to become ubiquitous. There’s just too much content out there for any institution to attempt to “do it all.” I feel any institution’s role in the digital universe should be defined (or confined) by its collection development policy, provided it has one, and realizing that nothing is static.

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