Online Music To Harvard’s Ear

Libraries are trial running online music service accessible through HOLLIS

The Harvard College Library (HCL) is conducting a trial run of an online service offering access to over 85,000 musical tracks—tunes that could be available to the entire campus by early February.

The Naxos Music Library, which would be accessible through the HOLLIS catalogue, includes classical, jazz, world, folk and Chinese music, some of which is not currently available on compact disc.

During the trial period, slated to end Jan. 31, the service is being tested by librarians, a limited group of students and support technicians who are assessing how smoothly it runs on Harvard’s network.

Librarians were unable to comment on the status or feedback of the current trial at Harvard. However, due to the service’s success at peer institutions and with the general public, Constance A. Mayer, Public Services Librarian for Harvard’s Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, said, “It’s pretty safe to say at this point that the trial period [is a formality].”

Zoe T. VanderWolk ’05, one of the students testing the service, said Naxos would fill a large void in music accessibility at Harvard. Currently, undergraduate students have the ability to listen to music at the library, but are not permitted to check out compact discs or cassettes.

“You have to convince your professors or your TFs [to check out the media] if you want to take it home,” said VanderWolk, a statistics concentrator. “[Naxos] is great because you can sit at your desk in your dorm and just listen to it.”

VanderWolk called the service “incredible” and praised the sound quality of the downloaded music.

In addition to boasting numerous classical tracks, the Naxos Music Library website advertises that “playlists can be created for educational use,” meaning professors would have the opportunity to consolidate materials for music-based courses.

The music resource is already being used by peer institutions such as Brown University and Brandeis University, according to Mayer. “The feedback has been quite positive,” Mayer said.

The requirements for access would include a Harvard ID number to log into HOLLIS and an application such as Windows Media Player to receive the streaming audio. According to the Naxos website, Harvard’s broadband connection of 128 Kbps would produce “CD quality sound.”

Associate Librarian of Harvard College for Collections Jeffrey L. Horrell said the immense audio library would add a new dimension to Harvard’s already vast research capacity.

“It’s a real strength that we are able to combine [e-resources] with our print collections. It makes this institution so strong in terms of research ability. It’s truly phenomenal,” Horrell said.

While the hope is to have the service available campuswide by the beginning of February, Horrell said this is contingent upon the ability of the Office of Information Services (OIS) to work out licensing agreements in time. Horrell noted negotiations with Naxos are already being pursued by OIS.

This online addition comes after a series of cuts at Harvard libraries. The Crimson reported last January that HCL wanted to decrease expenses by $2.3 million in fiscal year 2005. HCL cut back on staffing, reduced hours at several libraries and canceled duplicate periodical subscriptions to reduce spending.

Horrell did not comment on the specific cost of the new Naxos service, saying that “price is usually negotiated between the vendor and the institution.” Beth Brainard, HCL’s director of communications, said the cost was “reasonable.”

Students interested in individual free trials can receive more information at naxosmusiclibrary.com.