Tag Archives: music libraries

Recording of IFLA NPSIG / IAML webinar “Five Perspectives On Music Librarianship” available now

I recently had the big pleasure to co-organize and present on the webinar “Five Perspectives on Music Librarianship” which was hosted by IFLA’s New Professionals Special Interest Group (NPSIG) in collaboration with IAML, the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives, Documentation Centres. Having strong ties to both groups made this a truly special occasion for me.

Geared towards non-music librarians, the webinar offers five different angles on music librarianship that might serve as a starting-point for anybody interested to learn more about this field of our profession. At the same time, it serves as an introduction to IAML and its international community. Here is the full recording along with the list of speakers and direct links to each of their presentations:

As mentioned in the recording, this webinar is only the first of several music related activities that NPSIG is undertaking. The group is also calling for contributions to the NPSIG Music Context 2021 that will be included in a session about music in libraries at the World Library And Information Congress in Rotterdam next year.


IAML Position Statement on Music in Public Libraries

A position statement on music in public libraries entitled “Facilitators of Creativity and Life-Long Learning” is now available on the IAML website. I have co-written this document with a colleague on behalf of IAML’s Advocacy Committee. There are a number of other position statements and plenty of additional useful resources on advocacy for music libraries available on the group’s page!

Impressions from IAML 2019 in Krakow

After visiting Leipzig last year, the international music librarian community gathered in Krakow, Poland, this July for the 2019 Annual Congress of the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres. Over the course of six days, the attendees could enjoy the usual mix of conference sessions, workshops, excursions, receptions and concerts, all set against the backdrop of the beautiful historic city of Krakow with its countless churches and the magnificent Wawel Castle. The conference was hosted by the Jagiellonian University, one of the oldest universities in Europe (founded in 1364), which provided its Auditorium Maximum as the main venue.

Music performance during opening session in the Auditorium Maximum Main Hall

Conference themes

As every year, the conference program featured a multitude of topics and professional issues. In my case, public libraries, advocacy and digital scholarship emerged as three central themes. This resulted partly from the sessions I attended, but also from my involvement in two committees and the paper I presented this year.

Public Libraries

Although I work at a national library, a lot of my tasks and projects can be categorized as public library work. This also inspired my paper “Practices and challenges of providing access to music instruments and recording equipment in public libraries: results of an international survey” which I presented in the public libraries session along with an interesting presentation by Marianna Zsoldos from Hungary about the use of music and rhythm video games in her library. Below is a full (re-)recording of my presentation:

Curious to find out more about the work of the Public Libraries Section, I attended their business meeting. There were only a handful of colleagues in the room which confirmed a general observation at IAML Congresses: Among its participants, colleagues from public libraries are a minority. There are many more attendees from university libraries, music conservatoires and other types of institutions. This shortage and the difficulties of public librarians to make it to the annual meetings due to a lack of funding were discussed during the section meeting. Some colleagues were also alarmed by losing staff and space in their music departments due to lack of understanding by their employers. All of this showed a clear need for more advocacy efforts (more on this below). On a more positive note, I was able to get more involved with the section as an elected officer of the group: The current secretary had to step down recently, so I was happy to volunteer for the position. I look forward to working with the group on tackling some of the mentioned issues and on developing an attractive conference program for next year.


Not only public music librarians can benefit from advocacy efforts, also colleagues in other library types are facing issues that need to be addressed. One example that came up during the Hot Topics Session was the the loss of music librarian positions in universities across different countries as a result of restructuring their organizational matrix. Another area of interest mentioned during the congress is the wording of job descriptions for music library positions. They need to be carefully composed including key competencies such as knowledge in music history or reading music notation. Otherwise, libraries might end up with unqualified candidates which, in certain scenarios, have to be hired because of obligations towards a workers union as explained by one colleague. IAML Congresses make for an ideal opportunity to learn about these and other experiences from the international community and to get a sense for the most pressing issues.

Lively discussion during Hot Topics Session

Within IAML, it is the Advocacy Committee that is responsible for the advocacy efforts of the association. During the congress week, the group met twice to discuss ongoing projects and brainstorm new ideas. The second meeting was held in conjunction with the committees on Outreach and Membership. Recent activities of the group include an application submitted to UNESCO for the establishment of an International Day of Music Libraries and Archives. Several committee members have been drafting position statements during the year focusing on the work of music librarians in academic libraries, public libraries, orchestra and broadcasting libraries and other types of institutions. In addition, a number of topic related statements (copyright, AV media) have been discussed. Once the statements are finalized, they will be made available through the IAML website and can be used as advocacy tools by IAML members. Apart from the statements, one of my main areas of work will be facilitating a series of four twitter chats that will take place until the IAML Congress 2020 next summer. The first two chats will look into 1. experiences of advocating for staff and space and 2. the IFLA 10-Minute Library Advocate series. The committee also discussed implications of the IAML Strategic Intentions 2019-2021 on the work of the group. Possible new projects that came up during the meetings include guidance for job descriptions and competencies and developing ways of promoting success stories.

Digital scholarship

While digital scholarship in music does not play any role in my day-to-day work, I was absolutely fascinated to learn about the latest initiatives in this field, mainly through presentations in the sessions New digital resources and tools for early 20th-century musicology: Digital Delius and beyond, Digital scholarship and the #digitalIAML workshops. Here is a selection of projects that were discussed (in the order of their appearance in the conference program):

  • Loukia Drosopoulou (The British Library, London) and Joanna Bullivant (University of Oxford) shared their experiences of setting up the British Library’s online exhibition “Discovering Music: early 20th century“. One of the great advantages over a traditional exhibition was to be able to provide additional information and context through a meaningful combination of text, picture and sound.
  • David Lewis and Kevin Page (University of Oxford) took this approach to the next level. In an exciting talk, they explained their MELD framework (Music Encoding and Linked Data) for building music related web interfaces. As a demonstration, they had created an enhanced version of the article “Delius in Performance” in the above mentioned online exhibition by introducing interactive and functional connections across different types of media, for example synchronizing a score and a recording. Their overall vision with this is to add new possibilities for driving the narrative of music research output.
  • André Avorio (Alexander Street) presented a newly created module of the Open Music Library that aggregates performance history data sets from a number of orchestras. The data can be analyzed by individual orchestra (showing the number of performances of certain composers) or by composer (showing the number of performances across all orchestras over time).
  • Joseph Hafner (McGill University, Montréal) gave an introduction to using Bookworm for Digital Humanities research in the HathiTrust Digital Library. Bookworm is an online tool for visualizing trends in language over time. Also see this LibGuide for more information.
  • Craig Sapp (Stanford University) facilitated a workshop about digital score preparation in the Verovio Humdrum Viewer and dynamic music-notation display on webpages using the Humdrum Notation Plugin. Sample projects built with these tools include bach-370-chorales and the Tasso in Music Project.
  • Laurent Pugin (RISM Switzerland) introduced Verovio, an open-source library for engraving MEI scores. The tool can be used in various different ways as this selection of projects shows.

All those examples illustrate how much music research can benefit from digital tools, as they enable us to both present and analyze music related data in new and exciting ways.

Cultural program

Across the street from the conference venue, IAML participants could visit the exhibition “From theoretical treaties to musical masterpieces – Musical collections in the Jagiellonian Library through the ages“. Organized on the occasion of the IAML Congress, it presented manuscripts and other items related to Polish music history and, at the same time, provided insights into the chronology of acquisition and growth of the library’s collection. Below are pictures of some of the autographs on display which included works from Chopin, Lutoslawski, Paderewski and Bach.

One great side benefit of IAML conferences is that apart from evening receptions the program also includes several concerts over the course of the week. The organizing committee in Krakow put together a great series of concerts that featured a wide variety of music. Three very different, but equally stunning churches located in the Old Town built the perfect stage for each of the performances (as shown in the pictures below). We could listen to piano quintets by Schubert and Nowakowski in the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, organ music from the 16th to the 18th century in St. Anne’s Collegiate Church and string orchestra repertoire from the 19th and 20th century in St. Catherine’s Church.

For their Wednesday excursion, participants could choose between two walking tours through Krakow, a visit to Rynek Underground and trips to the Wieliczka Salt Mine or to Pieskowa Skała Castle. The Musical Krakow Walking Tour was the ideal chance during a packed conference week to explore Old Town Krakow and the Wawel Castle. Along the way, our guide introduced us to many of the more than 120 churches located in the city which is also called “Northern Rome” or the “second Rome” for this very reason. The musical part consisted of an organ recital in one of the churches and a number of musical anecdotes, such as the story behind the St. Mary’s trumpet call.

Walking tour through Old Town Krakow – St. Mary’s Basilica

Overall, I really enjoyed this conference. There was a good balance between paper presentations and work meetings which let me take away useful impulses for my workplace, but also follow up on committee work. It was great to see some new additions to the program such as live-streaming of the plenary sessions and the introduction of the unconference format through #digitalIAML, both of which are worth further exploring in upcoming meetings. We had excellent catering this year which was fully included in the conference fee. Having all attendees in one central place for lunch and coffee breaks made networking and catching up with colleagues very easy. The concerts were another highlight of the conference week. I love the fact that IAML attendees can share their passion for music not only through discussing professional issues during the conference sessions, but also by experiencing live music performances as a group. I would not want to miss this part at any IAML Congress. Many thanks again to the organizers this year for doing a great job!

Spotlights from the IAML Congress 2018

From July 22-27, me and more than 400 music librarians and specialists from around the world attended the 2018 Annual Congress of IAML, the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres. We met in Leipzig, rich in music history as the domain of Bach, Schumann, Mendelssohn and so many other important figures, which would set the tone of the whole congress week. Overall, I really enjoyed the conference. It had been three years since my last IAML Congress. At the same time, many members of the German IAML branch gathered in Leipzig, so this was an excellent opportunity to catch up with colleagues, both on a national and international level, and make most of the conference program. Here are some spotlights from the congress week.


One of my main reasons to attend the conference was to participate in the activities of the IAML Advocacy Committee as a member of the group and to present a work related project during the poster session. For the past two years, the Advocacy Committee has been laying the groundwork for its future activities, among others by formulating the terms of reference and goals of the group, by gathering basic feedback from the IAML community, by documenting good practice related to (music) library advocacy and by building a network of advocacy liaison contacts around the world for local outreach and feedback. During the working meeting in Leipzig, we mainly revisited the ongoing efforts of the group and agreed on further points of action for the upcoming year. One major project will be to create supporting documents built upon the examples of good practice that can be used by music librarians around the world in different scenarios.

During the first poster session of the conference week, I presented my poster “Curated Naxos playlists for philharmonic concerts – A unique collaboration between Qatar National Library and the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra”. Since 2017, Qatar National Library (QNL) is providing playlists on Naxos Music Library (NML) that are tailored to the concerts of the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra (QPO). Residents of the country have free access to the library’s resources (including NML). While the playlists mean added value for the concert audience who can preview and revisit the music of the performances, QNL benefits from reaching out to a new user group. More information about the project can be found on the QPO website. During the poster presentation, it was interesting to talk with many colleagues about their experience with Naxos Music Library and to learn from a few other libraries who provide a similar service – usually within one particular city rather than nation-wide. Visiting the conference exhibition or one of the vendor lunch talks was a perfect follow-up to this, since you could get the latest updates on music streaming services and platforms for digital sheet music.


The evening program was rich in music, too, and included a total of three concerts that varied in style and location. My favorite performance by far was the concert of amarcord who presented a huge spectrum of vocal music spanning from chorales from the Thomas-Graduale to vocal compositions by Leipzig Conservatory teachers. Location-wise, the concert “Catholic Church Music from the Dresden Court” was most impressive, as we could listen to the pieces in the newly openened breathtaking building of the Paulinum (see photos below). But the musical performances didn’t stop here. There was plenty more to discover during the week just by walking through the streets of Leipzig which included everything from string quartets, flute duets, pianists and guitarists to singer-songwriters, pop bands, Russian folk songs and even tango dancers.


Despite the ongoing heat wave in Germany, walking was a constant during the congress week, mainly because Leipzig is a very walkable place and the sessions and meetings took place in different locations covering the area of the University of Music and Theatre »Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy«, the Lepzig University Library (Bibliotheca Albertina) and the Leipzig Public Library. Adding to this, the conference program included a large number of tours which featured a variety of libraries, but also paid tribute to the rich music history of the city. I was able to see the German National Library (including the German Music Archive), the Leipzig Public Library, the Bach-Archiv as well as the Schumann-Haus and the Mendelssohn-Haus. While the libraries on this list were already fascinating, for me and many other attendees visiting the homes and places of creative work of Bach, Schumann and Mendelssohn was undoubtably the highlight of the tours. Below are some impressions from the Mendelssohn-Haus showing rooms of the apartment (first three photos: salon, study and bedroom), parts of the recently opened exhibition about Fanny Hensel (next two photos) and the “Effektorium” which lets you conduct a virtual orchestra.


Following their motto “It’s all in the mix.“, the organizing committee of this congress managed to come up with a great mixture of conference sessions, musical performances and tours that showcased the best of what music history and libraries in Leipzig have to offer. All those great memories make me look forward even more to the upcoming IAML Congresses in Krakow, Prague and Stellenbosch. See you next year in Poland!