Making it Happen – Iowa City Public Library licenses local music for patrons

File this one under “why I still read press releases even though 95% of them are junk” Got a nice email from John Hiett of Iowa City Public Library letting me know about their local music project which is launching today. Hiett explains: “We’re offering local cardholders free, DRM-less downloads of records by local musicians. We’ve leased the rights for a two year period at $100 per record. We launch this beast June 8 at music.icpl.org. We have over 30 albums locked down, but the list is growing and we expect to top out at around 50. This includes most of the best known Iowa City bands over the last couple decades.”

I thought this was a pretty cool sounding project and one that I’m surprised more libraries haven’t already been doing for years. I emailed John back to ask him a few questions about it.

1. You say in your FAQ that you think this is a replicable model for other libraries. What would you suggest for other libraries who want to try something like this?

You’d need a budget, some web expertise and some authentication software to keep it local, none of which should be too much of a barrier. Feel free to adopt our contract, available at http://music.icpl.org/music_licensing_agreement.pdf

Just get bands signed up, collect W-9 forms for tax purposes, rip the disc, scan the cover, post, and let people know.

2. What was the most challenging part of this project?

Apparently, nobody starts a band to fill out paperwork. While musicians almost unanimously responded enthusiastically to our initial pitch, getting them to actually sign the contract often took quite a bit of follow-up. I tried not to beg, but in a few cases . . .

Having a good team makes a big difference. When I took this idea to our director, Susan Craig, I asked for enough money to lease 20 albums at $50 each. She said to get 50 and offer $100. Our webmaster James Clark’s work recalls that old Arthur C. Clarke quote, ” Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Mara Cole’s artwork moves me in ways that commercial art shouldn’t. Other people have coordinated publicity, kept track of the financial details, and done original cataloging.

The challenging part may be yet to come. If we don’t generate some threshold of downloads, it’s only been a fun experiment. Also, I’m already hearing from musicians who want to be included, tho the money’s gone for now. Letting them down gently might be hard.

3. What inspired you to decide to do the legwork on a project like this instead of going with one of the off-the-shelf music options?

I was watching Dave Zollo play late one night (definitely a Talent Deserving Wider Recognition) and wondered why we sent all our music money out of town, when he was as good as anyone we bought (and he uses our library). I may have had a few at that point, but emailed myself. The more I thought about it, the more I saw how it could work. Plus, it gave me a chance to meet some cool people.

leaving des moines

Des Moines Public Library

note: new update from Des Moines PL and the architect’s office below the fold. Short form: “it would be appropriate to change the policy”

I had a great time at the Iowa Library Association conference. I gave two talks and actually scheduled my time such that I could actually attend a few presentations as well as give some. My notes for two talks — Tiny Tech and On-the-Fly Tech Support — are online here. I saw a presentation by the new ALA OIF director about privacy in the age of social software as well as a gadgets talk where I learned more about ebooks.

I also had some time to go to the local public library. I’m often surprised that the local libraries don’t do much to acknowledge that there is a huge library conference in town. Most of the time when I go to the local public library when I’m visiting a new city, there isn’t even a “welcome librarians!” sign out. Karen Schneider [who gave a great keynote in the morning and a talk about open source later in the day] and I actually had a sort of weird experience there. We went in to the library, snapping photos as we do, and were met as we walked in by a library worker who basically asked “Are you taking pictures?” When we said that we were, she said that we weren’t allowed to take photos in the library and if we wanted to get permission to take photos we’d have to go talk to the marketing people up on the third floor.

We were just on a fly-by so we (mostly) put our cameras away. However, I was curious about the policy. I had an email exchange with the marketing director that I am reprinting here with permission. I’m not sure what to think about the whole situation. You’ll note I took a photograph or two anyhow, and I appreciated the very nice email, but it was in stark contrast to both a weird-seeming policy and a weird-seeming policy enforcement mechanism. (more…)

a few from the feed

As may be obvious, I’m a little behind on my feeds. The good news is that there’s a lot of good stuff there. The bad news is that you may have seen some of it. Here are a few quickie notes that I think merit some attention. My apologies if you’ve all seen them before. My personal goal is to be all caught up on feeds by the time I leave for ALA — Thursday morning — and don’t get behind again. I think it’s doable.

Cedar Rapids PL flooding update/interview from Library Journal

The heartbreaking story of the Cedar Rapids public library. Information on the flooding and an address to send donations. Photos and up to date flooding information at the Cedar Rapids Library home page.

determining the cultural health of an area by looking at its libraries

I think this is a politically smart thing to do. Iowa governor Tom Vilsack’s wife Christine Vilsack visited 500 libraries during her term as state’s first lady. [libraryola]

plinkit: scalable solutions to library tech rollouts

One of the problems that library consortiums have frequently solved is technology centralization. While I am not denying that consortiums have caused other problems, having one central go-to technology platform, software set, team of trainers and help desk has made many non-tech savvy librarians able to provide a higher level of service to their customers. For tech savvy librarians, this has sometimes come with a downside of lack of control of their own technology, or dumbed down interfaces to robust tools. We’ve been looking for a happy medium solution.

Two newish projects have been getting talked about lately in the states of Iowa and Oregon. Oregon is using Plinkit, a web authoring tool that is built on an open source CMS called Plone. This tool allows libraries to create nice looking professional websites with some standard modules (calendar, lists of links, links to electronic resources) and some standards compliance. Here is a list of libraries using it. Iowa got money from the Gates Foundation and is using it to provide web hosting for libraries along with an email hosting service (please don’t let it be an Exchange server) and a helpdesk person available by email and phone (and I bet chat by the end of the grant period) for all state libraries. One of the best things the Vermont Department of Libraries has done is to make sure every library in Vermont has a fixed and memorable email address that either forwards or links to an easy to use webmail interface. They have had this for years and it’s done a lot to help libraries stay connected and feel like part of the larger library system, even when they’re up a mountain serving 600 people. I’m not usually one to jump on the “technology builds community” bandwagon, because I think there are certain irreplacable virtues to face to face interactions. However when done properly and effectively, technology can help support communities that are already built, and help them put their best face forward.