Technology speeds audio preservation

2 min read

Students, faculty, and researchers can now access audio materials faster than ever before, and audio engineers working in Loeb Music Library’s Audio Preservation Studio (APS) are enjoying streamlined workflows – both are the products of a nearly two-year-long collaboration between APS staff and Harvard College Library’s Information Technology Services (HCL ITS) unit. The end result of the cooperative effort was the installation earlier this year of a computer system designed to allow engineers to seamlessly work with digitized audio on both PCs and Macintosh computers, simplifying what had once been a frustratingly complex preservation process.

“Life is definitely easier now with the new system,” APS Lead Audio Engineer David Ackerman said. “The system we had was something we made work because we had to make it work. The new system is much more efficient, and easier to use.”

Known as a SAN (short for Storage Area Network), the system is essentially a large shared storage device which serves as the digital workspace for sound engineers. Hardware, however, is only half of the equation. For the storage system to work, software is also needed to ensure engineers can read, write, copy and otherwise manipulate the stored files.

Ultimately, it is the patrons who will see the benefits of the new system, Ackerman said.

“With our previous system some tasks became impractical once the work progressed past a certain point,” he said. “In the current environment, there is no such impediment. Aside from a few quirks, the new system behaves the way any hard drive on any computer behaves – all the technology is invisible. The cross-platform capability of this new system will benefit library users by allows us to further refine and improve the audio materials we provide to patrons. It’s definitely resulting in better output.”