As usual, some fine presentations at the Southeast Music Library Association’s annual meeting, which I attended virtually this year:


Colleagues at Vanderbilt described a collaborative venture with the National Museum of African American Music (also in Nashville TN). Vanderbilt’s Special Collections created a new fund for the purchase of African-American musicians’ papers and related materials. The partnership also resulted in new course offerings, collaborative programming, increased interest in performing African-American music in Vanderbilt’s music school, special museum tours for Vanderbilt students, and new library donors. Some things our presenters wish they had had a better understanding of going in: power structures and the unintended consequences when a large, well-resourced institution partners with a smaller, fledgling one; and the biases revealed in traditional archival practices.

UNCG’s world-class collection of cello music provides a remarkable window on issues of gender equity in archival representation. In a presentation titled “Women Cellists Wanted,” colleagues noted how few women were represented in the cello collection, which got them wondering: (1) Is it how we’re collecting? or (2) Is it the environment for women in the classical music and/or cello world? Further research in their collection revealed:

  • Certain instruments (such as the cello and guitar) have historically been viewed as “manly” — women aspiring to a career in performance endured very difficult conditions.
  • Women performer/donors peaked early in their performance careers, then transitioned into other fields (teaching, scholarship) for which they ultimately became better known.
  • Donors’ social networks have historically been male-dominated; the library’s own events and social media have attracted a more diverse community of supporters.

Our colleagues hope to rectify the collection’s imbalances with a deeper understanding of the career trajectories of men and women, and how women navigate the classical music world.


A colleague at Florida State studied how academic libraries have customized their discovery systems to support music-related information-seeking needs. Some strategies found to be most successful in aiding discipline-specific discovery:

  • A “Bento box” search screen
  • Facets for specialized data
  • Name/title browsing (for disciplines that have lots of generic titles, e.g. Beethoven’s 5th symphony, Tchaikovsky’s 5th symphony…)
  • “Did you mean…?” assistance (in disciplines that have polyglot literatures, a surprising percentage of failed searches result from misspellings of foreign titles)


Noting that music students often accumulate large collections of audio files, and will continue to work with such material in their professional careers, a colleague at the University of South Carolina has integrated data management into her BI for music students. She covers storage of digital audio files; management plans (backup, preservation, etc.); intellectual property and publishing rights; and venues for sharing one’s work.

A colleague at Middle Tennessee State used the app Awesome Table to embed a Google-sheet finding aid in LibGuides.