Music library of the future

Since the start of the ‘Låtlån’ (‘Borrow a Tune’) project in March this year, 6,457 library users at the Deichman Library in Oslo and the public library in Bergen have taken advantage of this new service. The project allows registered borrowers at these two libraries access to 50,000 musical recordings. In the first five and a half months no less than 42,106 loans were registered, showing this to be a very popular service.

The scheme was operated for a test period of six months from March to August 2004 and represents the final phase of a project stretching over several years, partly funded by the former Norwegian Directorate for Public Libraries in 2001 and 2002 and by the Norwegian Archive, Library and Museum Authority in 2003. The first part of the project was based on cooperation between the Bergen public library and Phonofile, an organisation set up by almost 100 Norwegian-owned recording companies specifically to manage their digital copyrights. In this early phase of the project a centre was established in the Bergen library, where members of the public could tune in to tracks from Phonofile’s musical database of 50,000 Norwegian works. In the final phase of the project cooperation was extended to include the Deichman Library in Oslo and the service was upgraded to make it possible to lend out musical tracks.

Lending takes place by streaming on users’ computers, so that the loan period lasts just as long as it takes to hear the track. Registered borrowers at the two libraries must log on to the service via MappaMi, an existing Internet service for reservations, renewals, etc. connected to the library system, Bibliofil. The process of logging on to MappaMi means that access can be restricted to registered library users and that the library can, if necessary, control the individual borrower’s use of the service.

If in future this service is to be extended to more libraries, developing similar access functions should not represent a problem to other suppliers of library systems. The main challenges will therefore lie in reaching satisfactory agreements with Phonofile concerning reimbursement for the use of their database and how to finance these costs. In addition solutions should be found which are not dependent upon the use of Windows operative system and Windows Media Player, since the situation today constitutes a technical limitation on public access. For musicloving library users it will be interesting to follow further developments after the end of the project.

Translated by Eric Deverill

Senior Adviser National Library of Norway