notation du mouvement

Jill Cirasella is the Librarian of the Dance Notation Bureau. She is in charge of archiving, cataloging, and circulating scores, as well as fielding reference questions and maintaining the web site.
Jill, could you give us an overview of the Dance Notation Bureau Library?

The Dance Notation Bureau Library is an interesting hybrid between a library and an archive.
Like most libraries, we circulate materials to our members and help them however we can with their research. However, like most archives, our materials are mostly unpublished manuscripts, which should not be handled too often or by too many people.
Because we take very seriously both our responsibility to our members and our responsibility to choreographers and their dances, the DNB devised a system that honors both obligations.
First, the DNB Library stores all original Labanotation scores in acid-free folders and acid-free boxes, which protect the scores from light, dirt, oil, and human errors. These boxes are almost never opened, not even by DNB staff.
Second, acid-free copies of the archived scores are stored in filing cabinets, alongside supplementary materials such as articles, programs, and costume swatches. We call these files our master files, and they are regularly accessed by DNB staff and shown to patrons, but they are never browsed by patrons themselves.
Third, we copy scores from the master files to make circulating scores. We loan these scores for research and stagings, and we can do this without worrying about their welfare. Of course, we expect borrowers to handle the scores gently, but, if a score is damaged while it is on loan or in the mail, we can easily make another copy from the master file, without even touching the archived copy.
So, thanks to our custom three-tier system, the DNB can simultaneously preserve and share information.
In addition to the scores, articles, programs, and fabric swatches mentioned above, the DNB also collects books, journals, photographs, videos, music scores, music recordings, and anything else that might inform future stagings and research.
People are welcome to visit the Dance Notation Bureau, but they seldom do, so one of our most important features is our Web site. It is the “face” of the DNB that many people most often see. And we are very grateful to you, Marion, for helping us make that face attractive and inviting.
You studied librarianship, with the aim of joining a library related to dance. What are the facets of your work?

The DNB Library may be small, but its collection is full of treasures and surprises.
As a result, my job does not follow the script of a traditional reference librarian or a traditional cataloging librarian.
In library school, I studied cataloging, reference, archiving, preservation, and user instruction, and I practice all of those skills here. Moreover, I work with many different materials, including books, journals, clippings, institutional records, music recordings, films, pencil scores, photographs, and electronic files and storage media.
I am the DNB’s only librarian, but I do not work in a vacuum. There are two support communities for librarians like me: the arts documentation community and the network of "Lone Arrangers", or archivists who work alone. These groups understand the challenges of working with unusual and irreplaceable materials, but they of course do not know the specific challenges presented by the DNB collection.
Indeed, I am now one of only a very few people with intimate knowledge of the Library’s holdings and quirks. With that knowledge comes the responsibility to see and foresee what is best for the collection. That responsibility is the crux of my job, and it is both exciting and intimidating.

The catalog of your collection can be downloaded from your web site. What is in the catalog? What isn’t?
Our Notated Theatrical Dances Catalog lists the almost 700 theatrical dances in our collection. By "theatrical dances", we mean dances performed for an audience on stage, such as ballets and modern and jazz dances.
For most dances in the catalog, we provide information about music, running time, casting, difficulty, and score status.
In the near future, the DNB will mount a searchable catalog on its web site, so curious browsers can quickly learn, say, how many duets we have with music by Brahms.
For now, though, the catalog must be downloaded. However, the introduction to the catalog, which defines and explains copyright and public performances, is posted separately from the catalog and can be downloaded very quickly.
I mentioned above that our catalog lists only theatrical dances. The DNB also houses scores for folk and ethnic dances, social dances, dance techniques, and teaching tools. These scores are listed online too, in finding aids in the library section of our site.

You first studied computing. Are the documentation professions moving more and more toward new technologies?
Yes, libraries and archives everywhere are embracing new technologies… but cautiously. Everyone agrees that documents created on computers are easier to read, copy, and share than handwritten documents. Therefore, many collections are enthusiastically transcribing and scanning old, delicate, and illegible documents. However, I suspect that very few of those collections save only the electronic copies of their digitized documents. By now, everyone has witnessed a disk fail or a computer crash, and people, even those who love the versatility and portability of electronic files, are losing their illusions about the permanence of electronic data.
So, at the DNB, we have transcribed hundreds of pages of handwritten Labanotation into LabanWriter, but it is the printouts of the LabanWriter files, not the electronic files themselves, which we file in our archives. We of course save the electronic files, and we will probably be able to access and edit them for ten or twenty years, but we will definitely be able to read the printouts for hundreds of years.
As you said, I studied computer science, and I strongly support digitization projects. But, as DNB Librarian, I am asked to protect visual information, and, right now, I have complete faith only in what can be read by the human eye--without the
assistance of advanced technology.

Interview by e-mail, April 2002, by Marion Bastien