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Variations3: An Integrated Digital Library and Learning System
for the Music Community


IMLS National Leadership Grant Interim Performance Report







Award Number: LG-05-05-0209-05


Institution Name: Indiana University


Report Type: Interim Performance Report


Period Covered by Report: October 1, 2007 – March 31, 2008


Project Director: Jon W. Dunn

Associate Director for Technology

Indiana University Digital Library Program

(812) 855-0953

Variations3: An Integrated Digital Library and Learning System for the Music Community

Indiana University Digital Library Program

IMLS National Leadership Grant

Interim Performance Report for Period October 1, 2007 – March 31, 2008


1. Project Purpose


The purpose of the Variations3 project is to create a digital music library and learning system that can be easily deployed at a wide range of college and university libraries with minimal technical support and minimal cost to the institutions. By offering a complete environment in which students and faculty can discover, listen to, view, annotate, and interact with music, this system will integrate access to online recordings and scores into teaching, learning, and research activities. The project builds on Indiana University ’s successful history in digital music library development (Variations2) and responds to the keen desire of music libraries large and small to operate similar systems.


2. Project Activities


Activity 15 (March-September 2006)

Develop and conduct preliminary market research for sustainability


After presenting a poster session on Variations3 at the annual Music Library Association, we gathered a list of contact information for 46 people/institutions interested in Variations. Also in discussions with these people at the conference we find it increasingly likely that the sustainable solution is one that requires less IT involvement than our current system. One direction to move is to create a hosted system.


Activity 17 (May-July 2006)

Develop requirements for enhanced MARC import and import of data from other sources for version 2


The Variations team continued work on this task during this reporting period, as our initial work in this area made it clear this activity would be ongoing throughout the project. During this reporting period, we finalized specifications for, performed, and analyzed results for a third iteration of experiments to identify musical Works from MARC records, gaining highly reliable results from MARC records meeting certain criteria, and developed methods to successfully predict which records will not produce reliable mappings. Additionally, our team has made significant progress in converting documentation for MARC mapping into stand-alone algorithms that could be used by any institution, from the iterative, Variations-specific documentation used earlier in our project. We expect this work to be complete and available to be used as the basis for a fourth iteration of the mapping experiment by June 2008.


Experiments to use data from the MusicBrainz < > service have also been promising. This service has been shown to be helpful for recordings where the MARC mapping is likely to perform poorly, and our first round of testing shows track listings from this service represent Works not previously known to the Variations system. We expect in the long term to run parallel processing queues where records meeting certain characteristics are sent to the MARC import routine and those with certain other characteristics will be sent to the MusicBrainz-based import routine.


Our work in both of these areas is highly promising and all indications are that these mappings will be reliable enough to use in a production environment. We are uncertain at this point, however, whether we will be able to devote enough project development resources to successfully put these routines into production. Regardless of whether we can integrate these processes in to the production Variations workflow, we will make our mapping algorithms freely available for study and use by others.


Activity 21 (July-August 2006)

Purchase and configure servers for test sites


Configuration completed for all test sites.


Activity 22 (August-September 2006)

Develop requirements for technical and administrative metadata for version 2


Given other development considerations, the Variations project team has determined improvements to technical and administrative consideration are not a priority for development resources.


Activity 24 (ongoing)

Disseminate preliminary project results via conference presentations and other means


We created and delivered a poster presentation at the annual Music Library Association meeting in February 2008, generating quite a bit of interest in the project.


Activity 25 (ongoing)

Participate in IMLS conferences and workshops


Talked with other institutions as Webwise 2008


Activity 27 (October-December 2006)

Develop set of sustainability models


See activity 15, above.


Activity 33 (December 2006 – January 2007)

Complete requirements analysis for version 2


Completed. The main requirements are to provide a web-based client and to separate the discovery tools from the use tools.


Activity 34 (January-July 2007)

Solicit input from relevant communities re. sustainability models


See activity 15, above.


Activity 35 (January-May 2007)

Visit test sites to observe use and gather feedback


Two visits were planned for April 2008 to the test sites running Spring pilots.


Activity 36 (February-September 2007)

Develop model for handling user-contributed metadata and continue to improve definitions for metadata import for version 3


Initial specifications for user-contributed metadata were developed during late 2006 and early 2007. No development resources have been allocated to implementing this feature, so specifications have not been more fully developed since this time.


Activity 37 (February-June 2007)

Conduct design and implementation of version 2


The Standalone Timeliner (a.k.a., the Variations Audio Timeliner, or the VAT) was released as Open Source in February 2008. Also, two new bug-fix versions of Variations were released to test sites in December 2007 and March 2008.


Activity 38 (March-September 2007)

Develop specs for integration with additional subscription services for version 3


We continue to hold phone meetings with DRAM to work out the details of our integration. We also spoke with other subscription services, but they are not inclined to work with us until we have a large installed base.


Activity 39 (July-August 2007)

Conduct systems testing for version 2


Deferred until summer 2008.


Activity 40 (July-August 2007)

Conduct usability testing for version 2


Deferred until summer 2008.


Activity 41 (August-September 2007)

Develop sustainability plan


See activity 15, above.


Activity 42 (August-September 2007)

Obtain outside feedback on Variations2 data model


As a result of feedback from the Variations3 Advisory Board and informal communications from music librarians and library discovery system designers, the Variations team became convinced that moving the Variations metadata model to a fully FRBR-compliant state would provide great benefit to the sustainability of the Variations software and to the library community as a whole. Therefore, during late 2007 and early 2008, the Variations team put together a follow-on proposal to IMLS to fund this large-scale rearchitecting of the system. Jenn Riley, Metadata Librarian, who leads the metadata research in the Variations3 project, would serve as Principal Investigator for this new project.


Activity 44 (August-September 2007)

Test sites install version 2


Test sites continue to install bug-fix versions as we release them. Version 2 will be a parallel product with a web user interface based on a web-services back end. Installation by test sites is expected during Fall 2008 by participating sites.


Activity 45 (September 2007)

Visit by test site staff to IU for training on version 2 and input on version 3 requirements


Test site representatives will attend our June 2008 advisory board meeting to provide input into future releases. In addition, feedback will be gathered during late Spring, Summer, and early Fall by visiting each test site that runs a pilot.


Activity 48 (October 2007-December 2007)

Solicit additional input from community re. sustainability plan


The Music Library Association meeting discussions provided a good opportunity to explore sustainability options.


Activity 49 (October 2007-January 2008)

Evaluate metadata features implemented in version 2; develop add'l input for version 3 requirements


Project experience to date has suggested implementation of the planned cooperative cataloging model for test sites and production use of the MARC work and instantiation identification algorithms are the highest priorities for metadata features in the next version of the Variations3 software. At this time, it is unclear whether any development resources will be devoted to these features, however.


Activity 50 (October 2007-September 2008)

IU and test sites create metadata records


The following Variations3 metadata records were created at IU during this reporting period:






































Test sites are just now beginning to use the cataloging features of the Variations system; no cataloging statistics are available for these institutions at this time.


Activity 51 (October 2007-November 2007)

Complete high-level planning for version 3


Due to project late start, loss of personnel (and subsequent hiring), and slow test site adoption, we are still working on version 2.


Activity 52 (October 2007 – September 2008)

Support of test sites


We have continued with ongoing test site support, mainly by phone, although we also sent two technical personnel to the New England Conservatory and one to Ohio State for short visits to complete the configuration.


Activity 53 (October 2007 – September 2008)

Test sites load content into system, create metadata records, and provide access to users


Three of the four test sites have loaded some content on their systems, creating the minimal records necessary for the system to function. Two sites ( Ohio State , Tri-Colleges) ran pilot projects in Spring semester/quarter 2008 for multiple classes.


Activity 54 (December 2007 – January 2008)

Conduct requirements analysis for version 3


See Activity 51.


Activity 55 (January 2008 – February 2008)

Develop final sustainability plan


We are continuing to investigate hosted solutions and are also exploring endowment as an option for long-term funding.


Activity 56 (January 2008 – May 2008)

Visits by IU staff to test sites for observations of use


See activity 45.


Activity 57 (February 2008 – September 2008)

Continue to evaluate metadata features; conduct final evaluation of sustainability of metadata model.


This activity has been delayed due to overall project delays. We have made the decision to move to a FRBR-compliant metadata model, as described in Activity 42, however, and have adjusted other metadata activities to reflect this decision.


Activity 59 (February 2008 – June 2008)

Conduct design and implementation of version 3


See activity 51.


Activity 60 (March 2008 – September 2008)

Conduct design and implementation of version 3


See activity 24.


Activity 61 (March 2008 – September 2008)

Implement sustainability plan.


See activity 55.


In submitting this report, I certify that all of the information is true and correct to the best of my knowledge.


Name and title of the person submitting the report and date of submission:


Mark Notess

Development Manager, Digital Library Program

May 19, 2008