Library of Congress launches National Jukebox

Todd Vandenbark

Screen shot of new National Jukebox website.This week the U.S. Library of Congress (LOC) launched its National Jukebox website, and it is a refreshingly simple, thoughtful design. The home page offers a music player and sample list of songs; with one click the visitor can be listening to music from a century ago.

Visitors can browse all songs, or by genre or artist; and it offers both a basic search box, and an advanced search page. One other fun feature of this site is their “Jukebox Day by Day,” where you can pick any date and month and see what was recorded on that date in this collection. Finally, in all search results, the icon chosen to represent the song is the actual record label for that song.

Music is not the only media featured on this site. It offers an interactive version of the 1919 version of The Victrola Book of the Opera, which describes more than 110 operas, and “includes plot synopses and lists of recordings the Victor Talking Machine Company offered in 1919.” And if the book lists a song in the Jukebox collection, the interface provides a quick link to that song.

Two frustrating shortcomings of this site are typical of current design trends in color and layout choices. First, the white basic search box on a so-pale-its-nearly-white turquoise background was very easily overlooked at first glance. The music player widget and its adjacent playlist is more noticeable than the search feature. Second, evaluated using the web accessibility evaluation site WAVE, four accessibility errors are found. Three of them are links with no text, “alt” or otherwise. For the fourth, the home page has two search boxes, one for the site and one for the LOC; this can be confusing for all users. The accessibility problem is that the LOC search box lacks a corresponding form label, making it unclear for persons with disabilities using assistive technology what exactly is being searched.

Normally, this blog focuses on medical resources and technology, but this great new resource deserved a brief mention. If any of our readers are music aficionados, what do you think of this site?