UC Santa Barbara music students will no longer have to pack six-deep into a listening room at the Music Library trying to learn a piece of music the day before a test.

Beginning in fall 2001, the Music Library made required listening recordings available to students through the Main Library’s electronic reserves. Rather than going to the Music Library to listen to the recordings, which cannot be checked out, they can listen to streaming audio files online.

“It seems to work very well. Students in Music 15 [Music Appreciation] are basing their papers on it. We have been using it for a couple of years now. I think it’s wonderful,” music Professor William Prizer said.

Before the electronic system, Arts Library Recording Technician Barbara Hirsch made cassettes or CDs of the required listening for the classes. There would only be one copy and students could not check them out because of copyright regulations. The library still takes copyright issues into consideration by making the files password-protected and streaming the music in real time so that it cannot be downloaded.

The files are in QuickTime format and a high-speed connection or 56K modem is required, however, the quality of the connection affects the quality of the audio.

“Most of the recordings are in stereo. With a high-speed connection, the quality is pretty good. With a 56K modem it is not great, but usable,” Hirsch said.

The files are streamed from Instructional Development’s server. Hirsch creates a sound file by using the library holding and then transferring it to the server.

“We eventually would like to have our own server, which would give us a more permanent footing,” Eunice Schroeder, music librarian, said.

To access the files, students must go to the Main Library homepage and follow links to the music source. A course number is required before students can gain access to the reserves.

“People can come back to the same listening, no more cramming. They can come back to it easily many times,” Hirsch said. “The only drawback is they might only listen to the beginning of the piece in preparation for a listening test.”

However, easier access does not prevent students from procrastinating before an exam or a paper is due. The library has very high usage statistics the day before an exam or paper due date, sometimes with over 1,000 hits a day, up from a few hundred on a typical day, Hirsch said.

The server has gone down several times as a result of the high usage and the library keeps a CD of the required listening just in case this happens.

The only cost involved in the service was the purchase of the computer and software Hirsch uses to create and compress the files, as well as the cost of paying Hirsch for compiling the files. The system includes two hard drives, each with 40 gigabytes.

“The computer and software cost a few thousand dollars and was paid for out of library funds” Schroeder said.

The streaming audio program took two years to perfect. Many academic music libraries had been using the technology, giving Hirsch and Schroeder the idea to try it. However, Hirsch wanted to wait until technology had improved.

“Five years ago, the quality of real time was bad. I don’t think students should learn about classical music with poor audio,” Hirsch said.

Though the files are password-protected, those interested can listen to a demo by going to the ERES page, selecting “search,” entering “demo” in the Quicksearch window, then using the password “demo.” You may need to configure your computer for QuickTime streaming. Instructions for this are linked to the course page.

“The great thing about this is that students have control over their own feedback,” Schroeder said. “We’re excited because it’s a better learning experience.”