MLA News

Official News from the Music Library Association

Call for Papers: Notes Special Issue on Race and Music Libraries

Civil rights movements and intellectual critiques of White supremacist ideologies have ostensibly led to the scholarly realization of the value of people of color, yet they are still underrepresented in United States musical academia by virtually any measure. The lack of library and archival holdings of scores and recordings by Black, indigenous, Asian, and other non-White peoples, of books and journals by and about them, and the paucity of diversity in the bibliographic professions constitute damning evidence of the persistence of systemic racism, but study of these information storehouses reveals more than unequal historical attention. By appearing to be passive access points for truth, libraries and archives may strengthen and justify the structures that molded them, structures equipped and maintained over centuries by people with particular assumptions and biases. As shapers of knowledge, libraries and archives can function as a feedback loop, imbuing future generations with suppositions that regard some musical traditions as valuable and deserving of acquisition and others as worthless despite their inherent complexity, commercial importance, or cultural significance. Uncritically accepting the contexts and roles of the music library maintains the invisibility, intangibility, and silence of what the archivist has decided to discard, what the collector has neglected, and what the cataloger has made less accessible.

Reflective engagement, on the other hand, prompts several questions: In discussions of institutionalized racism, is there any space more institutional than the library, an organization whose means of support is from the society about which it supposedly provides information without bias? How does power structure impact practice when the object of study is art music, a tradition that receives support from the state and wealthy philanthropists? If music libraries have been a part of the social structure that allows the marginalization and extrajudicial killing of people of color, particularly Black and indigenous individuals, can they also be a part of some reparative action? This special call for papers for Notes: The Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association seeks to address some of these issues as well as other topics related to race and music libraries, including the following:

  • How music libraries can contribute to the creation of a society in which Black lives matter
  • The Western art music repertory as it relates to library services such as collection development and cataloging: How does the responsibility of libraries to support the needs of their users come into conflict with social justice if user tastes remain centered on a particular group of composers—some of whom held despicable views that found expression in their most celebrated works—that excludes and continues to exclude women and people of color?
  • Critical information literacy and music
  • The epistemic violence of collections and archives that ignore and erase the cultures of certain groups
  • Elitism, heteronormativity, and structural racism in music libraries and academia and how these have impacted workforce representation among LGBTQIA+ people of color
  • An examination of the discourse on race and ethnicity in Notes (for example, see vol. 64, no. 2 and Cleveland and Puente 2011)
  • An archival examination of discourses and actions surrounding race and ethnicity expressed in other MLA documents and publications (for example, minutes, committee handbooks, digital projects, etc.)
  • What constitutes a safe music library? What does it mean to be an anti-racist music library worker in terms of description, acquisitions, reference, etc., and how does it compare and contrast with other library positions?
  • “Vocational awe” and music librarianship
  • Progress the MLA has made regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion in comparison to sister organizations and the challenges that remain
  • The intersection of anti-racist action and mental health in music librarianship

Notes articles generally range between 2,500 and 10,000 words (not including footnotes), but shorter and longer manuscripts will be considered.

The deadline for submission of completed manuscripts is June 1, 2021 with a tentative publication date of March 2022.

Please email co-editors Jonathan Sauceda at jonathan . sauceda @ rutgers . edu and Avery Boddie at avery . boddie @ unlv . edu with any questions.