Episode 11 - Personal Collections with David and Lori
Hello friends, welcome back and thank you again for joining the podcast all about metadata. I am very excited d today to bring you some guest speakers and this is just for fun. I met these two at a conference this last march. Enterprise Data World in Boston to be Exact. Enterprise Data World is put on by Dataveristy and I presented a workshop on Design Thinking for metadata that these two attended. And that evening the three of us ended up finding each other and having this really magical connection that has lasted until this day. And I am daily fascinated by the passion that these two have. And I’m not going to spoil it, I am just going to get right in. And as I said, today’s interview is just for fun. And we’re going to talk about organizing personal collections because these two have made it clear to me that they have these amazing personal asset collections, you’ll hear about it.
So before I get into it. I want to introduce our guests. Lori Baluta has spent nearly two decades working in digital asset management, the last 15 years with Discovery’s in-house agency. Included in the DAM-related roles she holds at Discovery are those of system admin, business analyst, subject matter expert, technical writer and trainer. A technology evangelist enthused by the intersection of people, process and tech, Lori helmed an implementation of enterprise project management software, and thereby discovering an interest in that discipline, earned a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification in November 2018. She holds a BA in archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania and firmly believes crosswords must be done with a pen. If pressed to rescue only one of her 3000+ books from a fire, she would choose her first edition of Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death”. So Lori, thank you so much for joining us.
Hi Mindy, I’m excited to be here. Thanks for having me.
David has been working in the data management field for over 2 decades. After management consulting experience at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), he took a senior global director role at Warner Bros. His roles included technology strategy, global implementation of SAP financials and supply chain management, heading up data governance roles in master data management (MDM) and data quality management (DQM) using lean six sigma. After 13 years at Warner, he entered the healthcare industry where he took a data officer role at Molina Healthcare. Most recently, he moved on to Toyota Financials where he is leading enterprise data strategy and data governance. David holds a BS in Electrical Engineering and Material Sciences from UCLA, a Masters in Electrical Engineering from University of Southern California, and a condensed Executive MBA certification from UCLA. He has a passion in collecting books, fine classical music recordings, films on video, travels, museums, fine dining, and performing arts. He takes pride in his two home theater set up and his entire collection of 3D films.
It’s absolutely my pleasure.
OK so this episode came about because we have this group chat on LinkedIn since we’ve kept going since March, wherein you two can just keep going on for days about your personal collections of books, of records, of images. Can each of you tell me a little bit about your personal asset collections?
So I have over three thousand books and I always have to make sure that wherever I live, there’s a second bedroom, which I have as my library and refer to it as such. And it’s kind of overwhelming, my collection can be, so I have to catalog all of my books to make sure that I don’t buy something twice, and plus I just love to be able to look at a digital record of what I’ve got. In addition to books I’ve got a lot of records. I’ve got maybe two thousand of those, some really strange stuff. And I also have quite a few movies – blue rays and DVDs. I love the idea of organization, and categories and classification. I’m in heaven when I’m in spreadsheet mode. It’s exciting to me to talk about my collections of books or records or moves with other people who are like minded. As far as the content of my collections, for books I have a lot of eighteenth and nineteenth century British authors. I have a lot of books on the history of religion and Medieval times, as well as a lot on archaeology. I have a lot of dark fiction too, Poe and Baudelaire and Lovecraft and all sorts of things like that. I have a wide range of things.
That’s great. David, how about you?
This is just as interesting for me. I collect books, books, CD/records, for the most part, and, like Lori, I have amassed an immense collection over the years. Much to my amazement, I have a number of duplicates in my collection, not to my regret because sometimes they’re so precious that I don’t mind having multiple copies of some things.
In the areas of books, I have actually started with literature. I really enjoy the eighteenth and nineteenth [century] British novels and I have started to collect copies of those. Ones with very little crease marks and fingerprints, right? To stay as immaculate as possible, to be revered on my shelves. And of course, I have developed an interest in literary criticism along with the novels, since high school, and my interest has never diminished in that area as well.
So in fact I have more literary criticisms than the actual novels themselves. Notable are the Jane Austen and the Bronte Sisters, and I have two other British authors that I collect as well, there is Thomas Hardy and Henry James, so that is my real big four there.
And other areas I have a devoted interest in performing arts, which is in the classical realm of musicians, composers, and ensembles. And I really enjoy fascinating figures historically, so I have a tremendous area in the biography section as well. Mostly authors, classical performance composers, and also some political figures as well as scientists. It’s really limitless as far as very impactful figures who have really transformed our civilization.
And of course I have my set of business books, which is also very dominating, as well as technical references, which never ceases to amaze me. And that really sums up some of the key areas in which I collect.
And also in the film industry, which is a huge passion of mine, which luckily, back in the early eighties, the birth of the video library, starting with VHS you can actually own films. That is where it really started to kick off. And then of course I moved on laser disc for better quality, finally to DVD, now Blue Ray. I especially enjoy the 3D genre. I have quite a collection of that, in fact, most that are on the market today. And then the coming of 4K content, which really doesn’t excite me as much because I think the Blue Ray actually, is enough for our home viewing, and so from that, I have also found duplicates that really forces me to documenting them and collecting the metadata so that I am now aware of my acquisitions.
And of course, not to overlook the importance of music. My music library is very extensive, starting with vinyl and then later to CD collections as well. So that kind of describes the three media types that I am actively maintaining and cherishing to enrich my life.
That’s incredible. You two keep so many more artifacts and assets of the content that you find so fascinating, so much more than I do. Of course, my little Brooklyn apartment is not super conducive to having large libraries. But I’m curious, do you put any special effort or thought into the means of acquisitions for the items in your collections. Some of the items that you’ve mentioned sound kind of rare or hard to find. So how do you go about getting those last items to make your series and your collections complete?
It’s both exploratory and research online, especially now that the internet is a really fascinating and prolific resource, comprehensive I might say, to locate things that are rare or hard to find. I will say that EBAY has been a tremendous source, especially for books. Because thanks to the digitization phenomenon, everyone is so willing to dump books, in the last two decades or so. And thank you for that because now it becomes even easier for me to acquire these hard to find, and especially no longer in circulation, non-published books and texts. And of course, early on, for the past few decades, one of my favorite stores in New York City is none other than The Strand on Twelfth and Broadway. That’s where I have acquired a number of my book collections.
Now I think this also deserves a little explanation. I personally enjoy that book in my hand. I am a big fan of PDFs and electronic media for fast research and quick answers, but when it comes to enjoying a book, that is a physical book to me. And that really continues to sustain my passion in the acquisition. So it’s almost like a trophy when I find this copy of this rare book. It’s just like Lori holding onto a first publication of a Poe. That is really a prize and I think we share that common passion there. And you would be amazed how many of these out of print Jane Austen literary criticisms that I have are really such rich content that is not found in the latest publications.
And on the video side, it’s really not as rare as books because books have been around for centuries, if not thousands of years, that kind of span. Video and musical media is less of that kind of tenure in our civilization, so there are less of those rare incidents that you can acquire. I think that kind of sums it up.
Where do I acquire these? Again, many of them are on EBAY. I do want to mention, [when I say] “Rare,” what I am fascinated with is the ability for studios in the past, you know, sixty/seventy years ago, of a rare performance of an artist, and that really excites me. For instance, there is an Italian violinist named [Gioconda de] Vito, who actually had a rare German recording of a Beethoven Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61, that was just released a few years ago and I have been searching all over the world for recordings of that, which she did not make a studio recording of, and that recording is so well made just from a live recording, that it is a big staple in my collection. That’s an example.
I can identify with so much of what David just said, especially the part about reading being a tactile thing for me. I love e-readers. I love how it makes things so portable. I love that it is good for the environment, but I have to have a book in my hand. I absolutely love that. To me it is the smell of the pages and the heft of the book and touching the pages. I used to joke that if you were to blindfold me, I could tell whether a book was a Penguin or an Oxford paperback just by the scent of it. That hasn’t really been tested, but I think I might be able to do that.
As far as where I get my stuff, like David, it depends on what we’re talking about. So I mentioned my records, my LP collection, and one of the things that I love to focus on are readings, I guess the early versions of audio books, so readings of short stories, and one of the labels that was big for maybe fifty years was called Cadman Records, so I have quite a few of those. My focus started with Poe and so I’ve got James Mason and Vincent Price among others who are doing readings of Poe. But I have also spread out and I like to get stories that are read by their authors. I particularly like Sherly Jackson and I was able to find an album of her reading, I think it’s The Demon Lover. And that’s wonderful. And I have Sylvia Plath reading some of her poetry and Dorothy Parker reading some of her stories.
So where I find those, EBAY is my biggest place. Sometimes I’ll put in search terms like “spoken word” and see what’s out there, I have quite a few different kinds of things, and some unusual things.
In the fifties there was a trend towards playing dramatic music with someone speaking over it, and those are really bizarre and I have a lot of those. In particular there was this Italian gentlemen who went by the name of The continental. Christopher Walken parodied him on Saturday Night Live so you can pause this and go check those videos out on Youtube. The Continental was this Italian-accented man who essentially said very romantic things geared towards women over some sappy organ music, and to me that’s the most wonderful stuff. I love ephemeral things, or things that are very clearly out of date and for that reason unusual and special. So EBAY is the easiest place to find those.
One of the reasons I love records so much is because they tend to be very inexpensive and so if I see something and I want to take a risk on something I have never heard of and I’m in a record shop or a thrift store, it might just be an investment of one or two bucks for me to do that, so I also do go into thrift shops and used book stores and go through their stacks.
For the really focused stuff, when I know exactly what I want, I’ll go to EBAY. For books, EBAY, I love used book stores. These are places to be enjoyed independently, so if you go with someone, separate until a few hours have passed. I love to go to thrift shops, I still love brick and mortar brand new book stores. David mentioned The Strand, which I have actually never been to, but there are some wonderful places in the DC that I like to visit.
For my Poe first edition, and for other interesting old things like that, I tend to search on EBAY. A lot of it is serendipity, sometimes I don’t know what I am looking for until I find it. I will enter search terms and see what comes up. People who searched for this also looked for this. I also look to bibliographies of books that I am reading. I will often pick up books that are listed in the back. If am reading a book on the black death, I will look and see what other works the author has referenced and I will often pick those up, so that’s another place. I have a lot of fun with trying something new, and the whole idea of serendipity and not really know what I am looking for until I find it.
And I’d like to add to Lori’s passion on serendipity. It’s very similar to what I do with discovery. I think it’s a cascading effect. Once you discover something you get into it, and then guess what, there is something adjacent to it that becomes very interesting and over the years and, similar to Lori’s interest, it kind of expands the horizon. And that’s why, through decades of collection and things of that nature. The whole portfolio really grew exponentially. Nothing is diminished as far as how balanced our interest and passion is.
Speaking of local bookstores around the Dallas area here, we have Borders and Book Stars, some of the original ones that are here. Of course they disappeared thanks to demise of the physical media. What is growing here is half price books and that has expanded to different cities along the west coast, and may be hitting some of the east coast cities toward the south like Atlanta. I am not familiar with the northeast region per se, but I think there is a resurgence of book stores, of course the many local ones too.
This past summer I traveled with my family to Paris and I shared with Lori and Mindy how exciting it was and passionate fellow book lovers inside that Shakespeare book store right by the River Seine. It’s just a very joyous moment when you’re in the same spirit with other books lovers so to speak.
One area also in addition to EBAY that is online is Amazon. The marketplace has a tremendous amount of sellers that are selling the very same title. And that gives me the liberty to decide if the pricing is correct, or if I can afford two instead of one because the other one is a little too expensive. So it gives you a little bit of shoppers delight in going into multiple outlets and channels to acquire your treasure.
One thing I wanted to also mention is that, once you have acquired so much in your living quarters, how does one organize that? It’s very individualized. I am sure that Lori can share her style of organization. For me, I think that a central location is one and foremost. You have one place conveniently to enjoy the whole sight of your whole collection in front of you.
How I segment or segregate them out is probably by area of interest. I currently have four book cases. I separate them into business technology, because that’s work stuff, the boring stuff, jokingly. And then my passionate stuff, I keep in my media room where there is absence of light, because I’ve noticed over the years that light destroys the spine coloration and I don’t want any fading happening to my precious collection, especially my Austen collection.
I also want to make mention that one of my favorite literary critics is Harold Bloom from Yale University. He’s one of the more popular ones and you can always find his publications online. So in that dark room is where I have my biographies, my musicians, the literary figures, philosophers and I also have a huge impressionist art collection, those coffee table books, I have a lot of those too. And that is where my prized collection goes.
Now my cookbooks and my sports and my other more academic reference material I keep in my game room where there is a little more ambient light, which I really don’t care about because they are not as precious. That’s how I organize my books. My audio CD collection is part of my bookshelf alongside my audio system and my video system, and so thank god the VHS and laser disc went away because they those objects take up a lot of space and housing them becomes a problem when you have thousands in your collection like Lori and I have. I think that the more important and interesting ones we keep in a section so that I can always keep my eyes on it, and keep me delighted. The not-so-important ones, or the ones that are more generic in nature, I box them away or put them on other shelves where I need to really go out to get them.
Now one of my really prized collection is my Hitchcock collection. I have yet to get some of his older films that he made in England prior to moving to Hollywood in the fortes. I think there is a resurgence of some of the movies that are made available on Blue Ray, especially in the Criterion Collection. They are really great collections and the quality of the images are superb. So, anyone with the same passion, I really highly recommend you to go after that collection. You will have a lot of pleasures viewing it. Some of the Mack Sennett silent films, Charles Chaplin, those are really good content to get on your shelves.
One thing I wanted to say David, is that there is actually a Bleu Ray release of some of Hitchcock’s silent films coming out in December and I think it is Kino classics, which is a really good label. I have already pre ordered it myself
Yes, I am familiar with that label, who specializes in the early films publishing. Thank you. I will definitely keep my eyes on it.
OK, so David, you actually already touched a bit on what my next question was, so you guys have named so much content, you’re both such passionate collectors, and you mentioned, David, how you go about organizing. So you mentioned how you organize, so I would love to hear how Lori organizes, as well as if you guys use any tools to manage your collections, whether it is just a spreadsheet to capture metadata or if you have any built-to-purpose tools that you use.
So with the way that I order things physically, I do not have a whole lot of space, and so I actually tend to shelve my books my publisher, since they all tend to be about the same size. New York Review of Books Classics will all be found in the same place and Penguin Classics in the other. My dream is one day to have a place where I have everything singly shelved, because right now it is triple and quadruple shelved and I have to pull a lot of books out often to find ones that I am looking for.
As far as digital catalogs that I have, I have a couple of different tolls that I use. I use Library Thing for my books. Library Thing has been around for ten years or so, and there are a lot of users and it is great from a community aspect because you can compare our library with that of other users, and you can add tags and search terms and they also provide information so when you enter in your author, you scan the bar code for your book. There are different ways that you can display the information, so I think they pull some from existing cataloging systems. Now what I do, is I include only books, and only books that I own, in my Library Thing catalog. I am connected to other users’ libraries who will include other books they’ve read or borrowed or books on their wish lists. I think that is ridiculous. It has to be books that you have. Or they’ll branch out and include films or records in theirs. And I’m a purist when it comes to library Thing for some reason. For me, it has just got to books that I own.
Then if I ever get rid of a book, or get a duplicate, I actually decommission it from my Library Thing collection to make sure that it is accurate in the number of physical books that I have. It still needs some work. I can really, really enjoy myself. I have a particular way that I sort those, so there are different view options. I like to view my books sorted by author with the last name first, and Mindy and David, I was telling you both the last time we spoke about one of the things that I am obsessing about right now is trying to figure out the right way to sort things. I have been a bibliophile for most of my life. Twenty, thirty years ago I used to take those Marble Composition Books and try to write down the title of every book that I had and it would be great when I started off, but when you’re physically writing things down and something gets out of alphabetical order, it gets messy or you make a mistake. So I think I still have a few half-started catalogs of my collections from decades ago.
Now that I do it online, it’s much simpler, but one of the things that I have come across is how exactly do I want to list an author’s name. One of the specific examples was, say Guy de Maupassant versus Thomas De Quincey. And de Maupassant should be sorted by M as opposed to D, but De Quincey should be sorted by D, at least according to my research. And this is because de Maupassant wrote in French and Thomas De Quincey was British and wrote in English. There are all kinds of things like that, so where someone has a compound name. Gabriel García Márquez, is that G or is that M? I really sometimes get paralysis by analysis, get lost in thinking “What is the right way to do this?” But I enjoy those kinds of problems and I actually have a few books in my Amazon wish list on cataloging.
For my records and my films, I use spreadsheets. Excel is just very relaxing for me. The sorting and the analyzing data. And especially for films, I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t buying duplicate versions because I have so many. So I have come up with this system where I have this master sheet that includes all duplicate versions. I might have an upgraded version by Criterion, and then I might also have an upgraded version by BRI – The British Film Institute, for instance and for whatever reason I will keep both of them. I can look at this spreadsheet and see whether the copy that I have is in the public domain. The Alfred Hitchcock that I was talking about earlier. I have a lot of silent films that are in the public domain. That are in poor resolution, but I will remove those from my collection once I get the upgraded Blue Ray version that I think it’s Kino is putting out.
So I just have a lot of fun looking at different ways of sorting my collections. For the films, I include the director, the year, and if there are alternate titles. And now that I have all of that information… For my films, there are about thirty-five hundred different individual films that I have. It’s interesting for me because when I have it in a spreadsheet, I can see how many films I have by a particular director, which directors do I have most represented in my collection? What are the years that I have represented the most? And that is interesting to me to see what else the collection can tell me to kind of contextualize things.
I am always trying to find improvements in the way that I do that. I am doing that now with my records. I use this site called “Discogs”, which has the record label and the year it was released and different versions and I am trying to catalog my record. I haven’t found exactly how I want to do that yet, so I am still working on that. But it is part of my OCD. It really scratches that itch to catalog and organize my things. I really love it. It is very relaxing for me to get out a spreadsheet and look at my data and see what I can do with it.
So, yeah, Library Thing for my books and Excel for my records and the films for now.
I will also add to that exciting collection method that you have that, similarly, I used a tool that was available many years ago. It was a fifty dollar tool that was designed to store a catalog of books, videos and CDs. I don’t know what happened to it. I can’t find it anymore, quite frankly. But it enabled me to enter the metadata for quite a while, and one reason I really liked that was because the extensive DVD collection I had, having worked at Warner Brothers, they made it easy for us to acquire very good titles for a very reasonable price. So it allowed a scanner to scan in the barcode. So the server would go and scan the internet across all the outlets, Amazon, etc. to pick up all the director, talent, year of production, label, all the metadata, all in one snap. That to me was heaven-sent, and really accelerated the cataloging process, which is very much a manual process. I am sure that is also enabled for the books where you can scan in the bar code and it will look up the Library of Congress code and of course the ISBN, 9 and 13 digit standard now. All of that. I am sure the CD, if it has a bar code, it would do that.
I did that for a little while, but I got too busy and never returned to it, so now I am really longing for that facility. A spreadsheet is one easy way to do it, like Lori. I do it for all of them, so I can prevent myself from getting duplicate copies. Documenting the title, the studio, the author, artist, year of release, of publication, ISBN for uniqueness, date of acquisition, and date sold or loaned, that is really the top ten data elements that I include in the spreadsheet for very quick and easy manual maintenance. Those are some of the areas that I definitely recommend for anybody who wants to start cataloging their stuff and collecting metadata. That is the way to go. And of course, there are many of these online tools now that enable this. I think, if I am correct, there have been some iPhone apps, some apps on Apple, or Android, that does some of that so you can use your iPhone camera to scan in the barcodes and things of that nature. So that’s one area that I think we can also look into.
And I just wanted to say, David, that Library Thing actually has that feature where you can use your iPhone to scan barcodes. I used it for books but I am sure you can use it for films as well. Another thing that I love about Library Thing is, in addition to that really important information that you’re talking about pulling in. Whether it is date of Publication or the director of the film. Library Thing allows you to create your own tags, and I find myself doing that a lot. An important tag for me is “books on books.’ I love books that are about books. You were talking about Harold Bloom, he wrote something called The Western Canon, and that is a collection of recommended books over the centuries, and that is something that I have catalogued as books on books. That is really useful for me.
There is another fun feature and I don’t know if it still on Library Thing, but it kind of brings your collection into the real world and I remember reading one statistic about my library. If all of my books were stacked one on top of another, that it was actually taller than the Statue of Liberty. So, something like that. I don’t’ remember specifically, but there were all sorts of fun little things where you could look at your book collection in a different way. I think that using online tools like that is really helpful and you can get so much out of it. And then there is the whole community aspect ad you can get recommendations and see how other people are classifying books and it opens up new doors for you.
You guys I have enjoyed this so much., I am so glad we were able to connect and make this group conversation happen because it has been so good to have you both on today. So, with that, do either of you have a reading recommendation for our listners?
So I was saying how I didn’t get to sleep until about six am, because I was up all night reading a book that I am really enjoying, so I’ll put that one out there. I am reading the latest biography of Charlotte Bronte, called Charlotte Bronte, a Fiery Heart by Claire Harmon. I am really enjoying the way that she is making the world of nineteenth century Howarth Parsonage something tat feels like it is around today. That is my recommendation
Similar to Lori, I am recently reading the Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsely. She is one of the historians and curators, and she actually had a couple of segments on historical figures, namely Henry VIII, on PBS network, so it is a really fun reading, which also offers a different insight into how the subject – Jane Austen in this case – relates to the society at that time. This is actually, to coincide the recent release in the U.K., on their television, of her last unfinished book. So it is actually very interesting for any fans of the regency era, Austen fans out there, I highly recommend that.
That’s fantastic, thank you guys so much, and again, thank you so much for joining today.
So, as always, you will be able to find a link to these reading recommendations on the web page for this episode on inevermetadata.com. There are no sources again for this week because we just had a great conversation. You can email me at email@example.com with questions, comments, concerns, and you can find me at inevermetadata.com as well, where you can find all past episodes, episode transcripts, and to connect with me. David, Lori thank you both so very much.
Thank you Mindy
Thank you, it was so much fun
Yeah it was. Alright, and as always, remember, to apply metadata is to believe in tomorrow, bye.