The project that I took during my stay in Cambridge was intended to compare the use of the sound collection of the Pendlebury and the Naxos Music Library, a collection of over 630,000 tracks of music online. The result of my comparison is very significant and interesting: on a sample of about 1,100 CDs borrowed at the library during a period of about 10 months, 64% of the compositionsrecorded on these CDs are also available through Naxos.
Within the genre of operas, for example, 70% of the compositions are located on Naxos too, while only 30% of the borrowed CDs are unique, i.e. these compositions are only available on physical carriers of the library. This can perhaps be explained by the lack of some essential accompanying materials, supporting the listening and studying aspect: on Naxos one lacks the libretto of the opera accompanied by its translation.
For instrumental music (orchestral, chamber and piano music for example), 77% of the compositions borrowed at the library is also present on Naxos. As in this kind of music there are no texts, it is interesting to note that despite online availability, the public seems to favour CDs as well. So why? I would put forward the hypothesis that the users feel too constrained by the use and lack of online support. In fact they also must have the necessary network access, be at their computer, and get the headphones, and so on. Evidently, instead of listening to streaming audio online, classical media, such as the CD, are more convenient. It should perhaps be considered whether there is an educational value of the physical object itself too: the CD. It is probably part of our primitive way of learning to go through physical contact with the objects of reality.
In conclusion, it is undeniable to say that the results show that despite the offer of Naxos, the readers of the Pendlebury prefer to continue to visit the library and borrow CDs available. These statistical results must certainly be explained and interpreted through a deeper investigation of from users need, possibly in form of a survey next autumn.
But I would add that despite the statistics, I think that Naxos is a rich study and work tool, and importantly that it can be of great help in the world of education, not only at the university, but also at earlier level of music education. I consider Naxos a complementary support to the classic sound collections of libraries worthy of being taken into consideration.
Federica Rusconi Castellani
(Head of the Department of Musicology and Music Score at the Bibliothèque cantonale et universitaire of Lausanne; at the Pendlebury between March and July)