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of weeding scores collections — they tend to be high-browse/low circ, and, like literary works, don’t really go out of date, remaining potentially relevant indefinitely.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.