RILM International Center

The RILM International Center in New York City is the organizational hub for the largest music bibliography in the world. Among its principal assets is a staff of experts representing a range of disciplines, languages, and geographic regions. The staff of 34 includes music specialists from the United States, Brazil, China, Croatia, England, Germany, Netherlands, Pakistan, Ukraine, and Slovakia, eleven of whom hold doctorate degrees. Several staff members are multilingual, and many are engaged in a spectrum of musical activities.

Bibliographic records arrive at the International Center in several forms: Committees enter them directly into RILM’s custom-built bibliographic database known as iBis (Internet Bibliographic Indexing System) or send them on paper, in specially tagged digital flat files, or as tagged MARC formatted records downloaded from library catalogues. Authors can also submit records for their publications through RILM’s online submission forms. Finally, RILM has access to several hundred music journals either through print copies received at the International Center or through online repositories; these journals are examined at the office, and relevant material is accessed into the bibliographic database.

The editorial staff comprises Assistant Editors and Editors. The responsibility of Assistant Editors is to verify the accuracy of bibliographic information in records created by RILM committees and submitted by authors, and to enter new records from journals and books that are sent to the office. Records entered into the database do not appear in the RILM online user interface until their bibliographic information is thoroughly checked by Assistant Editors.

Editors work on already-accessed bibliographic records, writing abstracts when needed, translating abstracts that arrive at the International Center in other languages, and providing records with indexing. Their work follows highly detailed standards, and includes a rigorous verification process for all names, institutions, dates, and concepts.

Members of the editorial staff also dedicate their time to tracking current musicological publications to find material that has not yet been entered into the database; organizing and working with the national RILM committees; developing and maintaining the thesaurus; defining indexing concepts and writing scope notes reflecting changes in the current music scholarship; and expanding equivalencies of terms and names to facilitate a better user experience in searching the database.

RILM’s national committees and the editorial staff at the International Center add, edit, and index almost 50,000 records annually. About one third of these records are submitted by RILM’s national committees and individual authors, and about two-thirds are produced at the International Center. The countries with the largest musicological production—and, by extension, the committees with the most work—are China, the U.S., Germany, and Russia. The Chinese and Russian records are particularly complex, because RILM produces bilingual information for publications in all languages using non-roman writing systems. Personal and institutional names in such records require particularly laborious procedures, since their equivalencies are rendered in various transliteration styles.

A number of staff members deal with technological aspects of RILM’s work, such as developing the editorial interface and establishing tools for working with metadata. From its beginning in the 1960s, RILM has always eagerly embraced vanguard computer technologies both for the work of its editors and for the presentation of its database to its users. RILM was already using mainframe computers for the production of its database in 1969, and made its data available for electronic search through the Lockheed Information Sciences Laboratory in Palo Alto in 1979, long before the Internet was commercialized in 1995. This spirit is constantly maintained in the International Office, and more recently most of RILM’s cutting-edge computer applications have been developed in-house.

Training new Editors and Assistant Editors is a relatively long process. The new employee needs to become familiar with RILM’s database and the exacting editorial policies and strategies that RILM applies to a profusion of bibliographic information.

Since its foundation RILM’s International Center has been based at the City University of New York. For a short period of time the office was located at Queens College, but since 1968 it has been at the CUNY Graduate Center. Our current home is on the third floor of the Graduate Center’s building, just opposite the Empire State Building on Fifth Avenue in New York City. We welcome scholars passing through to visit us here, to see the site of our operations and have a conversation about their writings and the scholarship in their countries, enhancing our ability to represent the field in RILM’s products.