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Digitizing Braille Music 2018

This is our fourth blog on the digitization of braille music. So, what is new with this project?

Katie Rodda explaining our braille music digitization process.

First, we are boosting our production by outsourcing the proofreading of scores scanned using Optical Braille Recognition (OBR). Our braille music specialist Gilbert Busch continues to review all the scans completed on DotScan so we can provide accurate scores.

As always, our first priority is patron requests. These are usually time sensitive, so soon after we receive the request, the music is scanned and proofread by a librarian then placed on Gil’s desk for quality assurance.

Every day we scan on both the OBR system and DotScan to digitize our entire braille collection. We use DotScan to digitize one-sided braille scores that have never been circulated. These are our masters; their braille dots are not worn down with use, so the images we scan are clear and well defined.

We are using OBR for mass digitization of the general collection, most of which are two-sided (inter-point) braille. On OBR, the flatbed scanner takes a picture of the page which shows the protruding dots of the front page as light circles, while the depressions caused by the dots on the back page appear as dark circles. OBR is equipped with an algorithm to identify and separate the light and dark dots into proper groups as you see in the original score. This makes it possible to scan both sides of the braille score at the same time.

As you may recall from our last blog on digitization, one of our biggest challenges is capturing accurate and complete images of all the dots in the braille score. The NLS Music Section has been exploring ways to tackle this challenge.

Donna Koh making concluding remarks.

We are excited to report that last week, Katie Rodda and I presented a paper entitled “Digitizing Braille Music: A Case Study” at the 2018 Imaging Science and Technology Archiving Conference at the National Archives in Washington DC. This was a major conference, with archiving professionals and librarians from 17 countries and 27 states attending the three-day event. We heard many interesting presentations that definitely broadened our horizons to topics such as new techniques for digitizing historical photographic archives, 3-D scanning of textured objects, and developing guidelines for government records.

Our presentation was a case study outlining our processes for digitizing braille music and the challenges we face in capturing accurate images of the braille scores.  After our presentation, we received some very innovative and interesting suggestions from scientists and archivists who are experienced and knowledgeable about digitization. They were definitely thinking outside the box. Some of the suggestions that we received are:

  • Updating the software of the single-sided digitization to digitize inter-point, to output both the front and back pages of a braille sheet like OBR.
  • Using a device with sensors that will work like fingers on the braille to detect the dots (some variation of this idea was suggested to us by three different scientists).
  • Using laser measurement to detect the protruding dots and depressions made by the dots on the back side of the page.

We conducted an intensive literature search to prepare for our presentation but had not come across these novel ideas for scanning braille. We clearly sense that there are many new technologies that can help us digitize with more accuracy and speed. The Music Section will continue exploring new methods of digitizing.

Please read our past blog posts on braille music digitization:

Tactile Staff Notation

Today’s post is about the braille books in our collection that explain to blind readers how staff notation (print music) works. In case you are wondering why blind musicians need to know staff notation, two important reasons come to mind. First, music teachers who are visually impaired must be able to help their sighted students […]

Aiming Beyond Graduation: Creating Inclusive College Music Courses for Blind and Visually Impaired Students, Part 1

Part 1 The end goal for most college music students is to develop and cultivate skills to prepare for a successful musical career after graduation. For some music students with visual impairment (V.I.), just getting through the college degree program can be challenging.  Here are some common reasons: inability to learn a large amount of […]

Interview with a NLS Engineer & Music Patron

As part of a continuing series introducing blog readers to facets of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), I recently spoke with NLS Senior Staff Engineer and music enthusiast, Lloyd Rasmussen. By interviewing Lloyd, I hoped to answer two questions: 1) What does an engineer do in a library? 2) […]

Digitizing Braille Music: An Update On Scanning

The work of digitizing the Music Section‘s braille music scores continues unabated. Details of the Section’s scanners and software were discussed in a previous post. Since then, the German scanner has served as the driving resource for digitizing braille music items. The digital copies of scores and parts are backed up and archived, serving as […]