An Open Letter to TUBDFTL Patrons # 7

As nearly six months have elapsed since your Librarian's last "Open Letter," I thought it time to bring you up to date on some of the successes, some of the failures, and a handful of changes that have transpired.

As always, I'll start with a few statistics. The Library now boasts over 3,000 Patrons. Some 1,888 requests, totaling 2,701 tapes, were serviced during the period.

Now, on to the good stuff.
The Library's new Internet provider has proven to be rock solid and, to the best of my knowledge, the Library's primary web site (http://freelib.org/dylan/freelib.html) has yet to suffer any down time. Both the East Coast (http://newtekinc.com/dylan/freelib.html) and West Coast (http://key.cyberg8t.com/simon/dylan/freelib.html) mirror sites continue to be maintained.
List Server facilities have been activated and are currently being tested. Those that wish to jump the gun a bit, and get things started, can subscribe to "The Unofficial Bob Dylan Free Tape Library Patron's Discussion Group" by sending an E-mail to dylan-request@freelib.org. The first line of the message (leave the Subject blank) should consist of the word subscribe.
A new CGI script has been implemented for Patron Id requests and others; that will permit submitting requests online; are being tested. In that vein, you will note that recent listings now include a "Request Number." This has been implemented to mitigate possible confusion when more than one recording exists and will, in time, serve as a link through which you will be able to submit requests. For the time being, you may continue to use the date of the venue (in MM/DD/YY format - not M/DD/YY, MM/D/YY, nor MM-DD-YY) or use the new "Request Number," as you see fit. Do NOT make up a "Request Number" if it doesn't exist in the listing. The system will not recognize it and the request will not be processed.
The Library's Listening Room is now open and operational. Available for Patron's use are a CD-R, cassette dubbing decks, a Reel to Reel, and a turntable. Internet access is also available if the CD-R is not in use. If you find yourself in the neighborhood consider stopping in for a visit. All you need to bring are blank tapes and/or CD-Rs. If you want to copy video tapes, plan on bringing your own VCRs. Hours are by appointment only, but the facilities are generally available from 5 AM until 3 PM.
The archiving of the Library's tapes to CD-R is underway and, though progress has been painfully slow, The CD Lending Library is actually online and being bulletproofed by thirty intrepid "testers." A tip of the hat to them for taking quite a few arrows in the back!
You'll likely notice that the tapes (if listed after December) you receive are somewhat cleaner than previously. In the past I made no attempt to clean up the audio prior to preparing Masters. In short, you got pretty much what the Library received. With the advent of archiving tapes to CD-R, all tapes are dumped to hard drive and then, unedited, written to CD-R. These RAW copies are maintained in the Archives, as are the source tapes if they originated directly from the taper's Master. The audio files are then edited (fade-in, fade-out, elimination of dropouts, and etc.) and written to CD-Rs (one for each side of a tape). The resultant CD-Rs are then copied, through a Graphic Equalizer, by a Sony K677ES to produce the analog tape Masters. The primary drawback is that it generally takes a full day to complete the process. In the past, on a good day, I might add two or three recordings to the main listings.
The third raffle was closed on schedule and the winners awarded their prizes. This time around, a tad over 6% (157 Patrons) of the then active Patronage participated. Without their generous support, I don't think we would have scraped through. We are in their debt.

And the not so good stuff.
Anticipating a relatively slow November, in order to generate a bit of extra income to "jump start" the CD Lending Library, your Librarian naively took on a couple of short term (at least that was the intent) programming projects. Both proved more time consuming than anticipated as did the demands of the Library. As a consequence, there was little time left to do other than service Patron Requests. By the turn of the year it appeared that normalcy was just around the corner so, with both feet, I jumped in to the quagmire of archiving of the Library's tapes to CD-R. Finding no CD-R burning software for OS/2, the Library's (and my preferred) operating system, I threw together a 233 MHZ Pentium with 64 meg of RAM and installed Windows 98. As IBM's support for OS/2 has dwindled, it also seemed prudent to consider migrating the Library's system to a Windows platform. After a couple of weeks of frustration, and with the hope that NT's new Service Pack 4 might provide the stability and reliability that I've enjoyed for so long with OS/2, I gave NT 4.0 a whirl. The end result was reinstalling Windows 98 and dedicating the system to CD-R creation and audio editing, both of which it performs with some reluctance. Lynne also uses the system, from time to time, to play a bit of Windows Solitaire which, she informs me, works quite well. The main Library system remains OS/2. Alas, the time spent fiddling with "Bill Gates Revenge" has been considerable and, yet once again, the "Uncatalogued Material and New Arrivals" page continues to grow and the backlog of uncatalogued material has reached intimidating proportions. Accordingly, the Library must temporarily limit the time and resources normally reserved for engaging in swaps. Until the backlog is cleared, please, only propose a swap if you are the taper or are in a position to provide an unedited dub directly from the Master recording and so state in your proposal.

As always, the expeditious servicing of Patron requests comes first. If properly submitted, it is reasonable to expect your dubbed tape on the way back to you within a couple of days of receipt if a single tape is involved. The dubbing of two or more tapes will likely take a day or two longer. I make no promises on turn around time for tapes that are not properly submitted. If you want to inquire about the status of your request, telephone. Do not E-mail! Your Librarian's arthritic fingers are limited in the number of keys they can strike in a day. In fact, consider using the telephone, instead of E-mail, for anything that requires a personal response, particularly if an immediate response is sought. The bottom line is that there are over 3,000 of you and only one of me. Let's use my time and energy doing what's most important to you - spinning tapes!

What's over the horizon?
Over the next few months I hope to get the necessary code written and move the CD Lending Library from the testing stage to a limited implementation. Once the logistics are worked out, I'll post to "The Unofficial Bob Dylan Free Tape Library Patron's Discussion Group" and invite another score of Patrons to join the ranks of the testers and give the code a rigorous shake down. As soon as the code is deemed bullet proof and finalized, I'll gradually open it up to the Patronage at large.
Also expect a concerted effort aimed at bringing The Glynn D. Lee Memorial Video Branch up to snuff. A substantial portion of the proceeds from the next raffle (which is now under way - see the link below!) will be channeled toward that effort.
In the short term, considerable attention will have to be given to the Library's computer system in general. An operating system upgrade is long overdue and the storage capacity (now roughly eight gigabytes spread over six SCSII drives) needs to be increased. It is my intention to tackle the system related issues over the next several weekends after Friday afternoon backups have completed. Accordingly, it is conceivable that the system will be down from half past two on Friday afternoons until sometime early the following Monday morning. During that period, as they are are processed locally, requests for Patron IDs and Library Dubbing Services will be queued until the system is back on line. I'll make it a point to announce such scheduled down time by posting to "The Unofficial Bob Dylan Free Tape Library Patron's Discussion Group."
On a personal note, Lynne and I celebrate our Silver Wedding Anniversary on May 11. It is our intent to commemorate our quarter century of connubial bliss by consuming excessive amounts of various intoxicants. It is therefore reasonable to assume that the Library will likely suffer some neglect on the eleventh and, very possibly, on the next day or two there after. Your indulgence for our anticipated overindulgence will be most appreciated.

As always, your comments, criticisms, or suggestions are always welcome.
Until the next time, Take Care!
Simon
03/01/99

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