An eleventh-hour appearance by the Omicron variant scotched plans for a hybrid conference of the Music Library Association this year, and obliged us to revert to all-virtual mode. No shortage of informative sessions, though.
In a panel session, we learned of various initiatives to diversify music collections. Some libraries have relied on lists that many music vendors are now offering, although one panelist noted that it’s often not clear how such lists are compiled. Other colleagues have conducted in-house audits, seeking evidence of composers’ self-identification (as well as that of authors of the texts set to music) in the accompanying matter in scores and recordings; composers’ and vendors’ websites; media articles and interviews; BIPOC-led initiatives, publications, and dissertations; and organizations such as the Institute for Composer Diversity. Some colleagues have done outreach efforts, including surveys of faculty and students asking about their experiences with non-canonical repertoire, and barriers to discovery, access, and performance; Libguides; and aids to programming concerts.
A Harvard survey of composers revealed a range of attitudes towards libraries’ efforts to collect their works. While some appreciate libraries’ role (one noted the growing importance of libraries now that many composers are moving away from the major publishing houses and are self-publishing), many remain unaccustomed to working with libraries and unfamiliar with their purpose and needs. Recommendations that emerged: (1) Posting guidelines on library organizations’ websites, indicating how to contact local libraries and library vendors; storage requirements; and explaining the benefits of having one’s works held by libraries; (2) collaboration between libraries and new-music associations, and on issues such as DRS and library discovery systems.
A perennial conference topic is the challenge of weeding scores collections — they tend to be high-browse/low circ, and, like literary works, don’t really go out of date, remaining potentially relevant indefinitely. This year, a colleague noted yet another of those unintended consequences of weeding: she discovered that the works of BIPOC and other under-represented composers had ended up in offsite storage, due to low circulation. I had had a similar experience: I became aware that most of our resident composer’s works had met the same fate (due, in our case, to a preservation policy for WFU authors) when he emailed me, explaining that living composers (and other creatives) rely on the browsability of open library stacks for audience-building and performances.
As always, lots of good cataloging discussions, on topics including the latest revision of the RDA standard and related music best practice; music-related Alma enhancement proposals; and DEI vocabularies.
10 Comments on ‘Leslie at MLA 2022’
Thanks for this great report and for your diligence towards our music collection, Leslie! 🙂
Thanks for sharing and glad that MLA was still able to meet!
Leslie, great observations about how our policies can have unintended consequences! Thanks for sharing!
Glad you were still able to attend MLA, despite the modality change. I appreciate your explanation and insights into the benefits of browsable score collections and the value they provide that aren’t easily captured by traditional stats metrics.
Leslie, I learn so much from your posts! I remember a lot of general discussion about the impact on browsing when we began moving monographs to our offsite storage facility and a faculty member realizing that they were not seeing ebook options when they browsed the stacks and that the nature of browsing was changing to virtual to include online materials. While I remember your saying that there isn’t a lot of content online for scores, I hope to chat with you to learn more about whether catalog records can offer virtual browsability or not for scores. Thanks for sharing your insights!
This is so interesting! Thank you for sharing some of your takeaways, Leslie!
Thanks for sharing, Leslie! I am always fascinated to hear about how different folks approach research, especially in creative fields like music.
Thank you for this informative post, Leslie!
Interesting to hear how what you’re learning relates to what happens with WFU’s scores holdings. Thanks for sharing, Leslie!
Thank you for sharing the strategies and challenges of diversifying collections and ensuring they are representative. It is an ongoing challenge, and I’m glad that there is attention being paid to it at conferences such as these. Thanks for the informative post!