product header background

Summary of Activities, 1993-94

Adam P.J. O’Connor, Editor-in-Chief

A review: Over the past few years, the International Center has had to meet several challenges: the tardiness of the publication, the outdated computer system used to create the publication, lack of financial resources, committee malaise, staff malaise, lacunae in coverage, and revolutions in online and CD media.

Acceleration of publication: In 1991 RILM Abstracts was being issued six years behind the material abstracted. We will issue the 1991 volume in November 1994, three years behind the publications abstracted. The goal of a six-month volume seems impossible to reach, perhaps because the staff has been distracted by the (wholly necessary) development of the new computer system, though almost certainly the volume’s near doubling in size is the main reason.

Eight months seems to be the length of the volume cycle. The new computer system is fairly settled now, and the attendant abandonment of several old methods is saving staff time. Vol. 26 is 20% accessed, and it may go more quickly still than vol. 25. If we issue the 1992 volume in May 1995, that will mean the December material is being abstracted two years and five months after publication (assuming that a given journal’s nominally December material actually appears in December). If we can issue the 1993 volume in December 1995, the December material will then be abstracted two years after publication, which many have said would satisfy them. Perhaps even this gap can be reduced. In any case, the delay is being steadily eliminated thanks to the efforts of the committees and the staff.

Computer system: The computer system designed by Paul Petersen has been a struggle, but the more it is amplified, the more the editors appreciate its great powers and relative convenience and user-friendliness. As the system is perfected and expanded to include the national committees (especially those submitting abstracts in English), the rewards will be all the greater. We have benefited from three fortunate circumstances: (1) the swift increase in the power of hardware and software, (2) the sudden decrease in the cost of hardware and software, (3) Mr. Petersen’s enthusiasm, knowledge, and generosity. We will make every effort to update the system in a nonextravagant way so that it never again becomes a dinosaur.

Finances: The finances of the International Center are now stable. It is time for the national committees, the International Center, the Commisison Mixte, and the sponsoring bodies to consider the state of national committees and their finances.

National committees: The number of national committees has increased from 32 to 50, some by splitting, and some new founded. Some revived committees (e.g. Ireland and Israel) appear to be doing quite well, others less so. Spain at long last appears to have a committee. Slovakia’s newfound sovereignty has regrettably meant the death of its committee. Several efforts at founding committees in China and India have failed. The steadily productive committees continue to build the publication.

Regrettably, in some countries (especially rich countries), eminent scholars appear content to preside over moribund committees. Their motives are unclear.

The question continues to lurk of whether RILM can help support the committees. At the moment it cannot. The fact that the question is taken seriously by RILM cannot be regarded as a declaration of its ability to meet committees’ needs, or even to undertake to meet them. It has never been officially suggested that it should, though committees that are having a difficult time clearly look to the International Office as a potential source of support.

The sole source of RILM’s income is subscription fees. In order to provide support to national committees, we would have to raise the price of the book over and above the amount we need to support and improve the functions of the International Center. We are not by any means opposed to this idea; but it is a simple relationship: to the extent that we increased the price of the publication, we could help committees. We could consider–besides the increases in the subscription fee designed to preserve and improve the International Center–implementing increases earmarked for national committee support.

The committee situation is a delicate one. It seems a shame to be building a modern system and an excellent staff to manage material that we’re not being sent: we at last have a fluent Russian reader, but next year will we have no Russian material? We urge the members of national committees to communicate their economic situation both to us and to the IMS, IAML, and ICTM. We will undertake some diplomatic efforts from New York this year in the hope of piquing the interest of governments and organizations in the committees.

Staff: The departure of Dr. Platt leaves a great void; it is very likely the publication would not have survived without her efforts. It is, however, a tribute to the good work she has done that her departure is not a disaster. Barbara Mackenzie will take over her duties as Managing Editor. The first new project Dr. Mackenzie is taking on is the installation of a unified accounting and subscription system. We have recently hired three new editors, J.Graeme Fullerton, Sara Sterling, and Ian Quinn. We have especially high hopes for Mr. Quinn, and hope you will be hearing more of him.

Coverage: Our efforts to increase coverage (of, e.g., British and Canadian dissertations, ethnomusicology, popular music) continue. Something approaching 20% of the volume is being generated by two editors in New York, Daniel Avorgbedor and Zdravko Blažekovic. It seems we can support this effort, though the work might be better done by national committees.

Online media: No arrangements have been completed on regaining an online berth, though negotiations with several parties are underway.

CD-ROM: Subscriptions are steadily increasing.

Index: The product of our recent and ongoing indexing reform is represented by the draft Indexing Style Sheet. This and sucessor documents are available on request. The reform emerged as truly a reform, neither a revolution nor a reaction, and we seem to have realized significant gains with few or no losses

Adam P.J. O’Connor