MLA Newsletter No. 188, November/December 2016 now available


The latest and greatest issue of the MLA Newsletter is out!
There are some great things inside, including student stories, collection news, a great piece about our upcoming meeting in Orlando, and much more!

BUT…This issue comes with a BONUS SUPPLEMENT!
The No. 188 Supplement issue,Taking Part: Involvement and Service in MLA is a complete listing of all of the possible ways to get involved in the organization, from interest groups, to committees, to special officers, to editors, and even the board. PLUS, engaging, down-to-earth explanations of what each person or group does and why it is important (and even fun!) to Take Part in MLA. Don’t miss the prologue and epilogue!

Michelle Hahn
Newsletter Editor, MLA

Naxos Works: A Treat

Naxos Works Database (NWD) serves as an index to information about nearly 70,000 works (mostly orchestral and chamber, but there’s quite a wide range covered) and brief biographies of more than 4,000 composers. It was launched last year and Naxos is continuing to add a few hundred pieces every month, so this number is continually growing. In fact, you might even say that Naxos Works is never done!

The structure of the database suggests two main uses, though I’m sure enterprising users will come up with more: researching a known piece, and finding a piece that fits into a certain set of criteria. The general search should suffice for most of the former, though the advanced search does allow the user to search by composer, arranged, lyricist, title, publisher, and many other criteria in the case of particular arrangements. There is currently a bug in the system that causes issues when searching for both a composer and a lyricist or arranger, but when I presented this information to the Naxos staff, they very promptly reassured me that their developers are already on the case.

Someone looking for more information on Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 1 as arranged for orchestra by Schoenberg would land on a page that looks like this:


Some pieces have more extensive notes and metadata fields than others, but most include instrumentation, year composed, duration, and publisher, if known.

Those seeking an as yet unknown piece meeting a certain set of criteria can turn to the advanced search, which allows users to search a variety of fields, including composer country, duration, year composed, period, category (i.e. ballet, chamber, choral, concertos, etc.), and featured instrument.

Someone looking for a short (0-10 min.) chamber piece featuring accordion could set up a search accordingly:

Advanced search

And discover, amidst the sea of Piazzolla, that there is an accordion and guitar arrangement of Bach’s Goldberg Variations:


As an added bonus, you also get a series of charming composer caricatures on the homepage (one can only hope they continue to add these as well as new database content!). Click on any of the caricatures or a composer name in the database to get to a biographical sketch, like this one on Charles Ives:


In spite of some gaps in coverage and bugs that should be shortly resolved, Naxos Works Database is a valuable reference tool for librarians, performers, conductors, and musicologists and I look forward to watching its continued growth.


Lindy Smith, Reference Archivist

Bowling Green State University Music Library and Sound Recordings Archives

A Treasure Not to Be Forgotten: The Great Song Thesaurus

The electronic resources now available to music reference librarians are unquestionably formidable. In our understandable zeal for them, however, we should not overlook the excellent print resources that continue to be ideal for finding answers. A recent query at our music library provides a good example. In preparing for our 75th anniversary, we are planning a jazz concert featuring songs from 1941. Our conductor asked us for a representative song list, and I knew from experience that The Great Song Thesaurus by Roger Lax and Frederick Smith (2nd ed., Oxford University Press, 1989) would more than fulfill her request.

This book is a fascinating source of well-researched information for popular songs from 1558 through the 1980s, with emphasis on the twentieth century. Chapter I, “The Greatest Songs,” presents a chronology of the most significant songs for each year. The heart of the book is chapter V, “Song Titles,” a list of about 11,000 songs with details such as composers, lyricists, dates, and for many, shows and movies in which they were featured, as well as artists who popularized them.

Other lists provide useful information beyond the basics. Chapter IV, “Elegant Plagiarisms,” identifies popular songs based on works of classical composers. Many of these derivations are little known. Chapter VII, “Lyricists and Composers,” lists many writers’ best-known works. Two other chapters in particular, chapter IX, “Thesaurus of Song Titles by Subject, Key Word, and Category,” and Chapter X, “Lyric Key Lines,” are helpful for song-selection and song-identification questions.

I learned about this resource from an excellent jazz-history student who worked for us years ago. When I consulted him about song questions that stumped me, he always asked, “Have you checked The Great Song Thesaurus?” Finally I got the idea. That person is now a distinguished jazz museum director, and I think of him gratefully every time I check it and the answer is there.

Donna Arnold, Music Reference Librarian

University of North Texas Music Library

Countdown to Cincinnati: The Final Hours!

The weekend many of us wait all year for is finally here! In just a couple of hours we will officially kick off the 85th MLA conference with our opening reception!

The city of Cincinnati has warmly welcomed us to town!


For those unable to make it to the meeting, or if you want to check us out and see what music librarianship is all about, follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Look under #musiclib2016 for announcements, photos, session updates, and whatever else we might get into here in Cincinnati!

2016 Conference Countdown: General Sessions and Information

We are down to the final days and there is still time to register and join us in Cincinnati!

In addition to the large plenary sessions, there are so many excellent opportunities throughout the conference to engage with other members on topics related to special projects, collection development, the future of various collections in music libraries, music publishing, librarianship, and so much more! The full schedule is available with links to detailed information for each session.

Not going to be able to make the conference?? Sessions (including the plenaries) happening in Pavilion/Caprice will be streaming live on our Vimeo Channel. Have a question during the presentation? There is a chat box for you to post your comments/questions which our volunteers for each session will monitor. Thank you to Alexander Street Press for your support to bring MLA 2016 to those unable to attend!

Finally, the Cincinnati Guidebook for the meeting is available! This is your one-stop shop for organizing your schedule, looking for restaurants, sending messages to attendees, and engaging via social media during the meeting! If you’ve never used this app for a conference, now is the time to check it out! After downloading the app to your Android or Apple device, search for “MLA Cincinnati 2016” or you can enter the code oonoaixf.

Safe travels to all coming for #musiclib2016 and a mighty “we will miss you!” to those who won’t be able to join us! Stay connected with MLA all the time via Facebook and Twitter!

2016 Conference Countdown: Plenary sessions

We are two weeks out from the start of the 2016 MLA meeting in Cincinnati!  There is still time to register!

As a part of each MLA conference, a plenary session is scheduled for Thursday and Friday mornings. These sessions bring together the membership to engage in a discussion of interest to the collective. This year our two plenaries address topics related to diversity and linked data. Both will be streamed live on our Vimeo channel!

“Diversity in MLA”

Thursday morning (March 3rd) a panel will discus how the MLA Diversity Committee has approached advancing the organization’s diversity initiatives, particularly as it relates to the overall health of the organization, historic diversity projects, and future efforts of the committee.

Speakers include: Jorge Schement (Vice President of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, Rutgers University), Mark Puente (Association of Research Libraries), Jonathan Sauceda (Rutgers University), Treshani Perera (University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee), Joy Doan (California State University, Northridge), Patrick Sifuentes (Northwestern University)

“Practical Application of Linked Data”

Friday morning (March 4th) will feature a discussion of how several institutions are using linked data to discover known and new information.  Two music projects will be highlighted, Linked Jazz project and the Hip Hop Collection at Cornell University, in order to showcase ways music libraries can take on projects in their own organizations using Linked Data.

Speakers include: Steven Folsom (Cornell University), Karen Hwang (Linked Jazz Project), James Soe Nyun (University of California, San Diego) and Kimmy Szeto (Baruch College)

Next week’s Conference Countdown will highlight some of the other sessions happening throughout the meeting! Stay tuned as we prepare for #musiclib2016!

Countdown to Cincinnati 2016!

In just three weeks the Music Library Association will hold its annual meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio!

Visit the conference website to register, plan your meeting schedule, and find our more about the area. We will again be streaming some of the sessions during the conference, so check back in the Media section or our Vimeo channel once the meeting begins.

If this is your first MLA meeting, Welcome!  We are glad you are coming to spend quality time with some amazing music librarians!  Your first conference can be overwhelming, but one way you can meet more people is to sign up for a mentor.  If you are interested, please provide some information about yourself so we can pair you up with one of our members.  Current MLA members, if you would like to be a mentor signup!  The deadline is February 24, 2016.

Want to know more about what there is to do in Cincinnati? There are some great resources on the conference site that will help you plan your visit, when you’re not in sessions, of course!

Stay tuned next Wednesday for a brief look at the conference program and all the exciting topics we will be discussing!  In the meantime, get your Facebook and Twitter posts ready as we countdown to #musiclib2016!

What does the Kirtsaeng ruling mean?

I’m very pleased to help launch the MLA blog with this inaugural post! As the blog’s Area Co-coordinator for copyright and legislative issues, I’ll be posting periodically on the legal landscape that affects music libraries, either directly or indirectly.

On Tuesday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in a case called Kirtsaeng v. Wiley.  The case involved a Thai student named Supap Kirtsaeng who, while studying at Cornell University, had arranged for his family to purchase textbooks in Thailand (where the books were cheaper) and ship them to him in the United States, where he sold them for a profit. Much has already been written about the case, but since it is both highly publicized and somewhat confusing, I thought it would be a timely use of this space to try to clarify the case and how it relates to libraries, for the benefit of those who may not have followed it closely.

Legally, the story begins with the right to distribute copies of works.  Under U.S. law, the owner of a copyright in a work is the only person who is permitted to sell, rent, lend, or otherwise distribute copies of that work. An important exception to this is what is known as the First Sale Doctrine, which is codified in Sec. 109 of the Copyright Act. Sec. 109 limits that right to the first transfer of ownership in a given copy of a work.  After a lawfully-made copy is sold, the distribution right for that copy is exhausted, and subsequent sales do not require permission from the copyright owner. The “first sale doctrine” makes resale markets possible in the United States, and arguably makes it legal for you to give your sister a copyrighted book for her birthday.  It also makes library operations possible; without this principle, we would have to obtain permission and/or pay a royalty every time we wanted to lend a copy of a copyrighted work.

Kirtsaeng’s right to resell the books under Sec. 109 would not have been in question had importation not been involved. Publishers have long divided the world into regions and sold materials in different regions under different terms. The plaintiff in this case, John Wiley & Sons, had licensed sale of the text books in question to an overseas subsidiary that sold copies that were authorized for sale only in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Congress gave a nod to market segmentation in Sec. 602(a) of the Act, which states that importation of copyrighted works is an infringement on the copyright holder’s distribution right. Since Kirtsaeng was importing the books, Wiley argued that he was infringing.

However, in a case called Quality King v. L’Anza, the Supreme Court held that importation of a copy is infringing only where Sec. 109 doesn’t apply. The Quality King Court reasoned that because the wording of Sec. 602(a) specifically called importation an infringement of the distribution right, and since the First Sale Doctrine is an exception to the distribution right, Sec. 109 must therefore also be applicable to the importations in question in Sec. 602(a).

What, then, did Congress intend when they passed Sec. 602(a), if not to make importations infringing?  In the present case, Wiley attempted to answer that question by stating that the geographic origin of the copies was where Sec. 109 and Sec. 602(a) diverge. Recall that to be subject to Sec. 109 the copies in question have to be lawfully-made.  In particular, Sec. 109 states that the copies must be “lawfully made under this title.” In Kirtsaeng’s case, the copies were made overseas, and foreign countries are of course not subject to U.S. laws. Wiley sued Kirtsaeng for infringement on the basis that because the copies were made abroad, they could not be said to be made under the auspices of U.S. law. The copies were therefore not subject to Sec. 109, and so were infringing under Sec. 602(a).

Wiley’s interpretation has serious implications for libraries. If the court had sided with Wiley, our loaning of scores, CDs, books, and the like, would not have been protected by Sec. 109 when those items were manufactured outside the U.S.  In some cases, this would be further complicated by uncertainty surrounding the origin of manufacture since many such items do not indicate where they were made.  Sec. 602(a) does have exceptions that permit use by libraries and archives, but those exceptions are limited: they allow only five copies of a work (and only one copy of an audiovisual work), and though the exceptions allow importation for “lending or archival purposes,” they do not explicitly give permission to lend. Library organizations worried that Wiley’s interpretation of the law would mean that the lending of countless items on our shelves would suddenly become infringing, something which might, possibly, force libraries to severely curtail their lending practices. On Tuesday, the Court agreed, stating that to be subject to Sec. 109, an imported item need not be manufactured in the United States, but rather must be manufactured in compliance with U.S. Law as if it had been applicable.

Essentially, what this means is that nothing changes.  Sec. 109(a) allows us to lend the items we have always counted on it to allow us to lend, but the ruling does not expand any rights to lend.  The ruling did not, for example, address items (such as some sound recording re-releases) that may have been manufactured in compliance with the laws of the country of origin, but which would not have been legal had they been produced in the United States.  Since the ruling, as Justice Ginsburg’s dissent emphasizes, does result in rules that did not seem to be intended by Congress, I think we can expect legislation on the subject in the not-too-distant future. Still, it was a good day for libraries.