Tag Archives: public 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!

My new love for audiobooks – Seven lessons learned

In the beginning of last year, I tried something new and started listening to audiobooks during my daily commute to work. What began as an experiment, soon became routine. Over the course of the year I finished fourteen titles of various genres and authors and the list still keeps growing since then. In this post, I would like to share a few takeaways from this experience, including recommendations on authors and titles I particularly enjoyed, reflections on the joy of listening to audiobooks, and finally some thoughts on why and when audiobooks might be worth looking into for you.

Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors.

I had already suspected it from an earlier encounter with The Ocean at the End of the Lane, but now I know for sure: Neil Gaiman belongs to my favorite authors. The past year gave me the opportunity to catch up with many of his works that had been on my reading wishlist for a long time. Most of his novels can be described as fantasy, often with a dark touch and set in a real-world scenario. They are fairytales for younger and older readers you can get lost in while following the main characters on their journey. Being a well-known advocate for libraries, books and the power of reading, Neil also infuses his stories with these themes every once in a while which adds to their appeal. Reading the books is already a pleasure in itself, but listening to the audiobooks read by the author makes them even more compelling, since he is a brilliant narrator, too. If you want to get started with Neil’s novels, I suggest The Graveyard Book, Neverwhere and The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

The narrator’s voice can make a big difference.

You are going to spend several hours listening to the same person, so you have to be comfortable with the voice of the narrator. Luckily, most audiobook productions from major publishers collaborate with experienced narrators. Although I enjoyed all of the titles that I finished, there were a number of narrators that stood out: Neil Gaiman (most of his own work), Jesse Bernstein (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children), Rupert Degas (The Wind-up Bird Chronicle) and Adjoah Andoh (The Power). The sound of their voices and their narration style got me hooked right from the first minutes. What also fascinates me about them and other professional narrators is with how much ease they can switch between male and female characters and impersonate different dialects. But even if you don’t feel an immediate connection to the narrator’s voice, it might be worth continuing with the audiobook. I had this experience with Khaled Hosseini narrating his novel The Kite Runner: By the time I had finished the audiobook, his voice and the way of pronouncing local names and places made perfect sense, but it took me a while to get used to it in the beginning.

It’s worth revisiting childhood classics.

Childhood classics such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or Winnie-the-Pooh make for a perfect audible delight in between longer titles or if you are short on time. Most of them only last a few hours and, as a prime genre to be performed for an audience, benefit from great narrators (in this case Jim Dale and Peter Dennis). Being only familiar with movie adaptations and other manifestations based on the original works, I greatly enjoyed listening to them for the first time.

It is okay not to finish an audiobook.

What is true for print books, can certainly also be applied to audiobooks: There is no shame in not finishing an audiobook, if you are not enjoying it for whatever reason. The narrator’s voice is not working for you? The book is not living up to your expectations? There are plenty of other titles still waiting for you, so just move on.

If you are frequently consuming podcasts, try getting started with audiobooks.

Before my audiobook experiment, I was frequently listening to podcasts, specifically in long form with up to three hours per episode. I believe this made the transition to audiobooks quite easy, because I was already used to immerse myself into the spoken word over a longer time. If you don’t want to get right into a 10+ hour novel, a good starting point for audiobooks could be popular nonfiction titles. Not only do they tend to be shorter than fiction, their style and content might fall closer to many podcasts that are usually nonfiction. The only title I listened to in that category was a quick, but entertaining 3-hour production of The Little Book of Hygge – The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking.

If you can’t make time for reading books, audiobooks might be the solution.

Having a one year old toddler at home at the time, another reason for me to turn to audiobooks was that I simply couldn’t make time anymore to read print books. Audiobooks gave me the opportunity to satisfy my reading cravings and, in fact, to explore many more titles than I had been able to read before in the same time. Of course, it is also a matter of priorities: I don’t spend much time anymore listening to podcasts or new album releases when I am in the car. But the enriching experience and joy of listening to the mentioned titles and narrators makes it worth all the while.

Libby is a great (free) tool for accessing audiobooks.

One of the biggest motivators for me to give audiobooks a try was the fact that I have access to hundreds of them for free through my local library and I don’t have to use any fee-based platforms. This gave me the chance to freely explore different authors and to move on with other titles in case I didn’t enjoy a particular one. I have accessed all of the audiobooks mentioned in this post through the Libby app from OverDrive which is used by many public libraries around the world. Setting up the app is very easy and the User Interface encourages you to browse through the available collection. You can change the preferences to exclude ebooks and only display audiobook content. Offline access, bookmarks, adjustable play speed, 15 second fast forward/rewind and a number of other functions all add to the ease-of-use of the app. Therefore, if you would like to get started with audiobooks, first get in touch with your local public library to see if they have access to OverDrive or similar platforms.

Zukunftswerkstattsvortrag bei Youtube online!

Cool, meine Präsentation bei der Zukunftswerkstatt in Erfurt ist online! Zwei andere Vorträge und der erste Teil von Fabiennes Präsentation sind auch schon verfügbar. Wenn beim Youtube-Channel der Zukunftswerkstatt alles komplett ist, weiß ich ja schon, was ich die nächsten Stunden dann machen werde… nachholen, was ich mir vor Ort nicht anhören konnte… 😉 Die folgenden drei Videos also noch als kleiner Nachtrag zum Bibliothekartag und zu der Zeit in den USA:

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New York-Spätlese: weitere Bibliotheken

Wie schon häufiger angedeutet, wimmelt es in New York nur so vor interessanten Bibliotheken. Im Folgenden will ich einen chronologischen Überblick über die Häuser geben, die ich innerhalb der sechs Wochen besucht habe, und jeweils kurz erzählen, was mich an ihnen besonders beeindruckt hat. Die Jefferson Market Branch Library habt ihr ja schon kennengelernt. Weiter geht es mit zwei architektonisch sehr interessanten Gebäuden…

Brooklyn Public Library

Als ich an einem Wochenende in Brooklyn unterwegs war, stand ich auf einmal vor diesem Monumentalbau…

Brooklyn Public Library

Brooklyn Public Library

…der Hauptfiliale der Brooklyn Public Library. Da Sonntag, hatte die Bibliothek leider geschlossen…

Brooklyn Public Library

Brooklyn Public Library

…so konnte ich nicht selbst herausfinden, ob das bombastische und leicht einschüchternde Äußere sich im Inneren des Gebäudes fortsetzt. Eine Frau jedenfalls, die gerade dabei war, Bücher in eine Rückgabebox vor dem Eingang zu werfen, meinte auf meine Nachfrage hin, dass sich hinter dieser Fassade eine ganz normal ausgestattete Public Library verbirgt. Passend dazu wirkte die Rückgabebox auch reichlich unbombastisch. ^^ Continue reading