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Debra O'Leary
IU Libraries

Last modified: Monday, September 20, 2010

Planning grant paves way for open source Variations on Video project at IU Libraries

Sept. 20, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A $49,504 grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services will enable the Indiana University Libraries to plan the next phase of development for its Variations digital music library system.

Variations is an open-source system providing online access to selected sound recordings and musical scores. It was developed at IU and is now used by multiple college and university libraries.

In collaboration with Northwestern University Library, staff in IU's Digital Library Program will develop a roadmap for adapting the software to manage and deliver digital video collections through the new Variations on Video project.


This project builds upon the past success of Variations as well as on IU's and Northwestern's extensive histories in providing access to digitized audio and video collections.

The collaboration will include participants from the University of Miami, New York University, Ohio State University and Stanford University, as well as representatives from DuraSpace and Opencast Matterhorn, two higher education open source initiatives focused on content management.

Expanding beyond the music focus of the current Variations system, Variations on Video will investigate the needs of those who would benefit from improved access to digital video collections managed by academic libraries.

"Because of the explosion of demand for digital video access, university libraries are looking for a way to more easily integrate library-managed video collections into teaching, learning and research activities," said Jon Dunn, director of Library Technologies and Digital Libraries at IU and project director for the new grant.

"Users of the system will be able to control access to their collections according to license agreements, copyright and local institutional policies. In addition to the input from the planning group, user data from surveys, observations and interviews of faculty and students will help us tailor a suite of interactive video tools that will be superior to the common Web video players that only allow limited interaction and control."

As part of the project, the planning group will engage librarians and technologists to help identify the technical needs for a digital video collections delivery and management system. According to Claire Stewart, head of Digital Collections at the Northwestern University Library and project lead for Northwestern on the grant, technologies and standards for digital video delivery over the Web and to mobile devices are a moving target.

"Making sound technical decisions will be one of the key challenges the planning group will face," Stewart said.

The team will also develop a plan for the software development work required. In order for the project to be successful, universities will need to collaborate on the development and ongoing maintenance of the system as well as on testing and evaluation.

Brenda Johnson, Ruth Lilly Dean of University Libraries, is confident the project is important to universities and other institutions. "There is a great deal of interest and demand from implementers and evaluators of Variations as well as from additional institutions that we have contacted in developing this proposal. Adding support for video to the existing rich set of pedagogical tools will broaden the appeal of Variations beyond music to other subjects."

The IU Digital Library Program is a collaborative effort of the IU Libraries and the Office of the Vice President for Information Technology, with faculty leadership from the School of Library and Information Science and the School of Informatics and Computing.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, please visit

For more information on the Variations on Video project, see