- Reviewed by
Avalon Media System (Avalon), developed by Indiana University and Northwestern University, supported by a combination of grants over recent years from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is an open-source audiovisual (AV) access system that enables streaming of digital audio and video content via a Web-based interface. At the time of writing, Version 6.0.1 is the current release (released in April 2017). Following a successful pilot (Version 4.01) in fall 2016, the Gilmore Music Library (GML) at Yale University Library (YUL) launched a production version (Version 5.1.4) of Avalon in January 2017, http://avalon.library.yale.edu (URLs cited herein accessed 11 July 2017). This review is based on the author’s experience implementing and launching the GML instance of Avalon (still Version 5.1.4). GML currently uses Avalon solely for serving audio e-reserve content. Further planning and testing to explore using Avalon more widely is underway, notably for public and institutional-only access to special collections audio and video content within GML’s collections.
Avalon is the successor to the Variations digital music library system. Variations, developed by Indiana University in partnership with IBM, was launched in 1996, and ultimately adopted by a number of music libraries to provide access to streaming audio as well as digitized score images over a local network via a client application installed on computer terminals in the library. After 20 years in production, development, and support of Variations was formally ended by Indiana in December 2016. Because Variations relied on outdated technology (including QuickTime for Java, which was dropped from Apple’s development and support cycle some time ago), it could no longer run on updated versions of Windows or MacOS. Additionally, expectations had changed significantly since Variations was launched in 1996; today users expect the ability to access media content online via a browser, on any device and in any location.
Avalon does not include many of the pedagogical tools that were available in Variations such as the Timeliner, Listening Drills or support for synchronized scores. It does incorporate, however, numerous updated features not available in its predecessor such as support for video, granular access controls, integration with learning management systems, an embeddable media player, and a Web-based interface. It is also now compatible with any platform or mobile device.
Constituent Parts of Avalon
Avalon’s structure combines multiple open-source technologies, many of which are components of the Samvera (previously known as Hydra) repository framework. These include: Fedora, which acts as its main repository underpinning used for managing the digital files to which the system provides access; Solr, used for indexing metadata for search and discovery; Opencast Matterhorn, used principally to transcode ingested AV content to a format suitable for streaming; Opencast Matterhorn Engage player for media playback; Red5 Media Server, which enables streaming; and Blacklight, a discovery platform employed for the end-user interface. [End Page 296]
One of Avalon’s strongest assets (making it highly attractive to libraries and archives) is its ability to provide granular levels of access control to streaming media content. Items can be made available publically or can be restricted to: current members of an institution (Avalon supports multiple Single Sign-On solutions, including Shibboleth which is utilized by many institutional authentication services), a specific group of internal or external users (e.g. enrolled students and faculty in a class), an individual internal or external patron, or a specific IP address for access on designated computer terminals (e.g. in a reading room). Access can also be limited to specific dates for any of the groups or individuals listed above. For e-reserve content supplied by GML, access is restricted to course instructors and enrolled students for the length of the class after which access is automatically ended. This is in line with the Music Library Association’s (MLA) Statement on the...