MLA NEwsletter

Volume 209 - Jacey Kepich, editor

  • All
  • Service Spotlight
  • Five Questions
  • Did You Know...
  • COVID-19
  • Board Update
  • Annual Conference
  • 209

Service Spotlight: Fiscal Officer

Editor’s note: As readers may be aware, nominations are being accepted until May 31 for MLA board positions, which include three Members-At-Large who serve as our Assistant Parliamentarian, Assistant Planning and Reports Officer, and Assistant Fiscal Officer. But what do these roles involve? Here’s a snapshot provided by one of our officers, Casey Mullin

As Fiscal Officer, I’m responsible for coordinating the budget-setting process, which happens each spring. I establish and maintain contact with all committee chairs and special officers who typically request funds from the Board; their input helps shape the budget. I work closely with our intrepid Administrative Officers (this year, Tracey Rudnick and Elizabeth Hille Cribbs) who closely track and prepare detailed reports of expenditures and revenue across all areas of MLA activity. This year, a special challenge facing us is to explore fiscal models of a hybrid conference, where some folks attend in person and others remotely. This has significant implications on both the revenue and expense sides.

All of this carries a significant learning curve, which is why I’m grateful to have had a “ramp-up” year as Assistant Fiscal Officer, apprenticing to the amazing Anne Shelley and learning from the AOs. In that same spirit, this year I have a great AFO in Marci Cohen. Despite the challenges, I find the opportunity to learn deeply about MLA finances to be significantly rewarding, and this will make me a better all-around MLA member, especially if I take on future roles within the organization that have a monetary component.


Letter to Dartmouth College

Editor’s note: Following the announcement of the Paddock Library closure, MLA’s board crafted the letter below for Dartmouth’s administration. 

Dear President Hanlon, Provost Helble, and the Trustees of Dartmouth College:

We, the Board of the Music Library Association, were dismayed to hear of the closing of the Paddock Music Library at Dartmouth. Such a closure presents incalculable harm to the music and arts students of Dartmouth, as well as to the whole community of Hanover. Indeed, the closure of this library would make Dartmouth the sole institution in the Ivy League not to have a dedicated music library. That music and performing arts libraries are among the most frequently established branch libraries in academic institutions is not an accident, but occurs because of the needs of library users, the peculiarities of the artistic disciplines, and the nature of the materials collected. It was out of the recognition of these needs that the Music Library Association was formed ninety years ago in the most economically challenging times the United States has ever faced, because general libraries and library professionals simply could not meet these needs.

Music libraries, along with practice rooms, are the laboratories of the musician. The materials are needed close at hand because performers, scholars, learners, and educators need to work with large numbers of different pieces in different editions or formats when planning programs, working in rehearsal, preparing for class, or researching music. Printed music, audio and visual recordings, and writings about music need to be kept together in a unified location to encourage use, rather than divided among different library areas because of their formats.

Music library users have distinct habits and necessary practices when using collections, and these often do not correlate with how users interact with library materials in other subject areas. For example, choosing an edition of a score is incredibly difficult without the ability to compare several, as one can when the materials are collocated. A musician must be able to examine the size of print to determine which is appropriate for the intended use, look at the editor’s introduction to understand how the edition relates to others editorially, assess whether other patrons’ markings on the score are useful or distracting, and assess its condition.

In a music library, circulation statistics tell but one side of a story about use of collections. While circulation of audiovisual materials may be declining amid the availability of some online substitutes, a sustainable online substitute for print music scores does not yet exist, and proximity to collections remains necessary to encourage student use of these materials. Moving the music collection farther from the core users could cause use of the collection to decline even more.

One of the most significant uses of music library materials is one that does not manifest in circulation counts: browsing. While browsing and serendipity of discovery play an important role in all humanities and arts research, this task is particularly important in music. Collected and critical editions, in particular, are a core collection in any music library, yet the very value of them — intrinsically and extrinsically — means that they are most often targeted for in-house use only. For many pieces, however, these works represent the only edition of a piece in the library, or they represent a distinctive interpretation of a piece, but their non-circulating nature means that nobody except those who shelve them necessarily know how extensive their use is. Further, the complicated nature of these series means that users often have to consult many different volumes directly to determine which volume contains the piece they need, or which variation on a piece is appropriate for the intended use.

Without a dedicated space for music collections, there exist fewer opportunities for collaboration with teaching faculty to get students into the collection so that they may understand the literature and scholarship of music. This creates a vicious cycle of even lower circulation and low use of off-site materials to the detriment of music pedagogy.

Paddock’s media room provides key confluences as indicated by their motto “Listen, View, Study, Compose.” Students who study conducting, for instance, will rehearse with a score while listening to a recording. The digital media and music notation software spark creativity, with trained staff nearby for technical help and musical expertise. Lacking this assistance, users will encounter greater frustration. Faculty and music librarians work as a vital team in conjunction with collections in this personalized space with tailored services. One example is a course that Richard Beaudoin and Memory Apata co-designed and implemented in the library. This would not have been possible in a dispersed collection without rare materials at hand.

Libraries are more than buildings and collections. They embody a whole set of services provided by trained professionals. The subject specialists with deep background in the history, theory, and performance are critical in a music library for finding and using notated music and for relating it to recorded performances and the literature about music. As library users have come to expect more personalization of services, the dispersal of professional staff will, no doubt, decrease user satisfaction exponentially.

The MLA supports the proposed vision of Dr. William Cheng and his colleagues who envision a Library for Performing Arts and Social Justice. Such a solution would keep staff and collections together and maintain the personalized services that users value and expect. Dartmouth would be a pioneer in multi-disciplinary, innovative response to the current environment.

Music Library Association, Board of Directors

Relevant research:

MLA Branch Libraries Task Force Final Report (2012)

Lois Kuyper-Rushing, “Music Libraries: Centralization versus Decentralization (2002)


MLA Generosity

MLA received $9,101.00 in donations from individuals and MLA chapters to offset the 2021 conference hotel penalty, along with MOUG’s generous $3,000.00 subvention to MLA during the COVID crisis. Participating chapters included Atlantic, California, Midwest, Mountain-Plains, Southeast, and Texas. In addition, many individuals donated to the MLA Fund at that time to support MLA. In calendar year 2020, donations to the MLA Fund totaled $5,985 and, at the time of this writing, $1,095 for 2021. Thank you for your generosity!

A list of 2020 donors can be found on the MLA website under ‘Support MLA’. The 2021 list will appear after the end of calendar year 2021. Please note that the MLA Fund does not include additional donations made to other named funds, such as those used for travel, research, and publications. Its purpose is to allow MLA to become financially sound and able to sustain unexpected fiscal losses.

Thanks to our Administrative and Development Officers for their contributions to this article.


First-time Attendee

Currently, I’m the Bibliographer for Literatures of Europe & the Americas (which includes theater) at the University of Chicago, and I also serve as interim music librarian. I was a first-time attendee to the Music Library Association’s annual meeting; I usually attend meetings of the American Library Association and Modern Language Association (the other “MLA”). I was very nervous about attending, as I’d been interim music librarian for less than a month, and worried about being feeling out of place.

I had a great “non-official” mentor who assured me I shouldn’t feel intimidated, and that I would be welcomed. She was right. The information session for first-time attendees was very effective and useful. I’m glad the organizers took the time to find a way of making that work, as well for having such a flexible platform. I learned from every session I attended and was able to follow up with colleagues at other institutions who are willing to answer questions as I take up the challenge of serving my institution’s music department.

For not-only a first time attendee, but also a first-time music librarian, this was an enriching conference that helped me feel more grounded as well as offering a support network. Future new attendees should know, as I do now, how welcoming the MLA is and how important having a mentor can be. I am very grateful to my conference mentor, as well as to those who have helped me out in other ways.

Submitted by André Wenzel


First-Time Attendee

I have been honored to work with the Theatre Library Association (TLA) since 2003 and I am thrilled to be its current President. TLA was founded in 1937 and MLA was founded in 1931, so both associations have a long history. We have a lot in common and TLA was very honored when MLA invited us to hold a joint conference in 2021. I am grateful to the TLA Board members who connected us! We felt so welcomed by MLA and had a wonderful experience. Members of TLA, including me, gave several well-received presentations, on topics that fit in well with the conference program. We were also invited to committee meetings and social events, and it was all lively, thought-provoking and, again, welcoming. In my career, I have attended innumerable conferences as a professor, archivist and librarian, including many theatre conferences, but it was my first time attending the MLA conference. I learned a lot and greatly enjoyed all presentations, including listening to Bootsy Collins! It was all memorable and I look forward to more joint conferences in the future! This is the beginning of a great collaboration between TLA and MLA.

Dr. Francesca Marini is President of the Theatre Library Association (TLA) and Associate Professor, Programming and Outreach Librarian at the Texas A&M University Libraries, Cushing Memorial Library & Archives. In her role, she makes collections and ideas available to the public, through in-person and online talks, exhibitions, tours, fairs, and more. She holds a Ph.D. in Library and Information Studies (UCLA), a Master’s degree in Archival Studies (Modena State Archives), and a Bachelor’s Degree in Film and Theatre Studies (University of Bologna). Her research focuses on performing arts archiving, as well as on special collections and archives outreach.


Session Summary: Provider-Neutral Cataloging for Digital Scores

At the MLA/TLA 2021 conference, Chuck Peters (Indiana University) and Keith Knop (University of Georgia) discussed policies and guidelines to consider when creating provider-neutral bibliographic records for digital scores. Provider-neutral records are a critical solution for cataloging the growing number of online resources, photocopies, and print-on-demand reproductions of identical resources.

Chuck opened the session by discussing the challenges of cataloging digital scores, the biggest hurdle being a lack of music-specific guidelines and procedures. Even so, he noted that general cataloging guidelines and procedures such as the PCC Provider-Neutral E-Resource MARC Records Guide and the OCLC Bibliographic Formats and Standards could be helpful. He shared later how he had applied these procedures and guidelines.

The PCC policies define the provider-neutral model as one in which “single bibliographic records are used to describe multiple online manifestations of a resource regardless of which publisher or aggregator is making the content available.” PCC guidelines emphasize that the provider-neutral model should apply only to equivalent manifestations of the same expression. Manifestations with variations, such as differences in edition, should have separate bibliographic records.  The provider-neutral model is intended to encompass online resources simultaneously issued in physical format and online, online digital reproductions of physical format resources, and born-digital resources. However, provider-neutral records are only meant to be used as templates on which libraries can add local details.

Chuck noted that the PCC guidelines only allow certain types of provider-specific information in provider-neutral bibliographic records, such as field 588 “description based on” notes or field 856 URLs that do not contain institution-specific data. He emphasized that these limitations are essential, because even if a single entity initially provided the resource, multiple sources could provide that same resource later.

Chuck also discussed special guidelines found in chapter three of the OCLC Bibliographic Formats and Standards, which mirror PCC guidelines, though they contain separate sections for online digital resources and photocopies, as well as print-on-demand reproductions.

Next, Keith showed how the PCC Provider Neutral Guidelines apply to MARC fields. He noted that elements in some MARC fields, such as the leader and fixed fields, are mandatory and look the same in every record. Figure 1.1 shows an example of how these fields look in the bibliographic record of an online resource.  Note the presence of two subfield $e in 040 to indicate this is a provider-neutral record, the presence of ‘m’ in the 006 field to indicate the item described is a computer file, and the presence of ‘c’ in subfield $a of the 007 field to indicate the item is an electronic resource.

Figure 1.1

Keith then discussed essential MARC fields that will vary from record to record depending on the nature of the resource being cataloged. The 3XX fields (which describe the physical nature of the resource) are an example. He also cited the 588 field, which references notes about the source of the description, including the date on which the resource was viewed.

Figure 1.2 Sample from a bibliographic record of an online provider-neutral resource.  These MARC fields will vary depending on the nature of the resource being cataloged.

He also mentioned MARC fields that could be included in digital score records if a print version existed, such as the 02X fields, as well as ISBN, ISNM, or publisher and plate numbers. However, additional subfields are necessary, such as $z for ISBN or ISNM, and $q to indicate that these numbers only describe the print version. The 776 field, which links to the OCLC record of an existing print resource, must be included if the print version is referenced anywhere else in the bibliographic record. 856 fields could also be included, but per PCC guidelines, the URLs must omit institution-specific information.

Figure 1.3 Provider-neutral bibliographic record with 776 fields indicating presence of equivalent print versions of the resource being described. 

Before showing a sample record, Chuck briefly remarked that the score and part(s) for digital scores may exist together in the same PDF file or be provided in separate PDF files. At Indiana University, local practice is to record “1 score and part” in the 300 field if the score and part(s) are in the same PDF file, but “1 score + parts” if the score and part(s) are in separate PDF files. Using Matthew Tommasini’s “Towards the Wall: for Contrabass and Piano” as an example, he pointed out the 500 note that also indicated the score and part were in separate PDF files. Because his institution circulated the print version of the score, he had included a 776 field with a link to the OCLC print score record.

Figure 1.4  Provider-neutral bibliographic record of Tommasini’s “Towards the Wall”.

bibliographic record for Tommasini's "Towards the Wall"

bibliographic record for Tommasini's "Towards the Wall"

Keith concluded by recommending the application of constant data in OCLC to streamline both the process for creating records, as well converting derived physical records into electronic records. Applying constant data can be done through Connexion Client, Connexion Browser, or Record Manager, as shown by the OCLC guidelines linked in the presentation slides.

An audience member asked if best practices were available that would establish consistent cataloging standards for digital scores. Keith and Chuck affirmed that the Electronic Scores Cataloging Task Group within the CMC Content Standards Subcommittee is currently working on provisional best practices. The task group is also collaborating with the larger MLA Electronic Scores Working Group, as acquisition and licensing decisions can impact scores processing and cataloging. They are optimistic that  guidelines for cataloging and access of these digital scores will become more widely available.

Update: Since this presentation, the Music Library Association Electronic Scores Working Group had its first meeting on Friday, April 30, 2021.  The working group divided into the following subgroups: discovery, licensing and acquisition, cataloging, tangible preservation and binding, digital preservation, and advocacy.  The Working Group plans to meet on a monthly to semi-monthly basis to discuss each subgroup’s progress toward establishing more consistent, community-wide documentation for the acquisition and processing of digital scores.

Submitted by Chelsea Hoover, Catalog Librarian for Music, Syracuse University Libraries


Silver Linings from a Library Move

Editor’s note: In light of the MLA board’s letter to Dartmouth, it seemed fitting to elaborate upon the branch closure I referenced in Newsletter 208. Advocacy is a delicate balancing act, and while branch consolidations can pose significant drawbacks, they can also bring benefits in the appropriate context.

In May 2020, I was informed our music collections would relocate to the main library on campus. The timing was a surprise, though the move itself was not wholly unexpected.

Truthfully, I’d already found parallels between the state of my library and the one described in Jean Wald’s article “Transitioning a Branch Music Library’s Collection Into a Main Library” (Breve Notes, January 2012). Given shared circumstances (reduction in hours and staffing, lack of space for collection growth), her summary seemed to suggest a move for us was inevitable. When describing our scene to others, I’d quip, “we need to grow it up or close it up”, and though I wished for the former, the latter seemed more likely. Several years earlier, my predecessor had planned for a new space to house music, theater, and dance collections together. But funding dried up, and so did the plans.

This should not be taken as a reflection of the quality of our programs or scholarship. To the contrary, I longed for a location that would serve the needs of our community in a welcoming, attractive manner. In reality, the music collection sat in a space that had never been intended to house a library. Years earlier, the collection had been moved in after the facility ceased to serve its original function as a women’s dormitory. The century-old building lacked adequate storage, climate control, and floor support. In fact, an architectural study done twenty years ago urged redistribution of the sound recording collection due to weight load concerns (…and I’ll always wonder about the soft spot in the floor that existed near the MTs…).

When our library director was handed a COVID-induced budget cut, closure became the foregone conclusion, in addition to reduced collection spending for all disciplines and one-week furloughs for exempt staff. Had it not been for several retirements, the cuts would have been even deeper. Even without these events, I maintain that a move would eventually have happened. COVID simply accelerated our timeline.

That’s not to say that any and all proposals to move a library should go quietly into the night. As the MLA board’s letter to Dartmouth eloquently describes, music libraries provide a unique service to their user communities. Libraries are more than collections of items; they are places meant to serve people. Location matters. And while there is no one-size-fits-all solution for how and where music collections are sustained, it’s worth examining the case studies found in the MLA Branch Libraries Task Force Final Report to learn how other institutions have fared, and what questions one needs to ask when the prospect of closure is raised.  In light of COVID, it’s likely other libraries have had to consider or are currently considering similar challenges.

As it turns out, our full-time enrollment made us an outlier in terms of maintaining a branch music library. According to the music reference climate survey published in the March 2021 edition of Notes, among institutions with full-time enrollment between 10,000-19,999, only 16% operated a branch location. Were it not for the generous support of the foundation who funded our collection move decades ago, I doubt our branch would have existed in the first place.

While the task force did not endorse a particular organizational model, it did note that branch consolidation is unsettling. Changes are often implemented with minimal input from music library staff and their user communities, leaving music librarians in the awkward position of coping with imposed changes while trying to present them in a positive light. Though I understood the institutional pressure that led to our move, I was disappointed not to be consulted in the decision-making process. I wish I could have had time to prepare our music department for the upheaval. The change of office and collection location, along with the retirement of our music library assistant, made me feel as though I’d started a new job in August.

So, one year later: how are we doing?

Thankfully, we have silver linings. The collection finally has room to grow, with better building access, including longer hours of operation. Despite the loss, I’ve had positive interactions with the chair of our music department, who understands the tradeoffs of the move. Their liaison librarian (me) may no longer share the same roof, but it’s also less likely our collection will be exposed to water damage from pipe leaks. I was glad to see the collection kept together in a single floor location (an imperative for music collections, as the board’s letter explains), and last week I learned of a new shelf-reading procedure our access team plans to implement this summer whose scope will include the newly-migrated music materials.

For readers wanting to strengthen their library advocacy chops, I recommend not only learning to articulate the value of your collection and services, but studying and understanding your institution’s history. Doing so has not only helped me appreciate the changes over time that have shaped my institution, but has also revealed the influence of external forces, such as the role played by the industries of healthcare and biotechnology in helping our campus, and by extension, our city, thrive. Such realities are not an excuse for poor communication, but have helped adjust my expectations for what it looks to advocate for arts and humanities on a campus whose strengths lie in other areas. How much agency did I have? How could I help make the change more palatable to those directly impacted? In light of short-term pain, could there be long-term gain?

As I’ve heard others state, a librarian must know her collection and the people who use it, and understanding where one’s library fits within the bigger picture can prepare one to advocate. The MLA board’s letter provides an excellent model, underscoring the need and importance of maintaining music collections, with specific examples of how they benefit users and their communities.

What about you? How has your library been impacted by COVID? If you’ve got a story you’d like to share, please contact the editor at

katie buehner in her office

Five Questions with Katie Buehner

1. Where did you grow up?

katie and her dad at rochester's lilac festival
Katie and her dad at Rochester’s annual Lilac Festival

I grew up in Rochester, NY not far from the Eastman Theater/Eastman School of Music. One of my first musical experiences outside of church was a visit to the Eastman for a rehearsal of the Rochester Philharmonic. My fifth grade class got to sit on the stage with the musicians while they rehearsed and then talk with conductor Mark Elder afterwards. I was put in the second violin section, right in front of the wind machine being used in Don Quixote, which left quite an impression on my senses. I miss Rochester for family, the times when it isn’t buried in snow, walking along the Lake Ontario shoreline or the countless nature trails in the area, and the bagels. Happily, Iowa has lovely hiking trails. Can’t say the same for the bagels.

2. What might others be surprised to learn about you?

I think people would be surprised to find that I really didn’t know much about coding or website development/design until I joined the Web Committee in 2013. When the website moved from Ektron to YourMembership, I volunteered to try and build a conference website on the new platform and about a month later, was taking tutorials on on how to code websites, build collapsible menus, and make pages work on mobile displays. I find coding to be an immersive activity that presents all sorts of challenges and puzzles to solve. When it’s going well, it can be like playing a game where you solve a piece to level up. When it’s going poorly, it’s like playing a game where you’re respawning to the same spot every two minutes. Either way, it was usually more fun than not.

3. What’s a topic or subject you’d like to learn more about?

A topic or “thing” that has eluded me is gardening. I love to bake and cook, but I have a tendency to kill plants just by acknowledging their existence. My dad is an accomplished gardener, but that gene did NOT pass. But I’m willing to put in some time to learn more, because I love a good garden, both veg and flower. One of my favorite things to do when traveling is visit botanical gardens and the like, and it would be nice to bring a smaller, humbler version of that to my yard.

4. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I think one of the best bits of advice I’ve received is how to not get riled about honest mistakes. Most foul ups in life are, in fact, honest mistakes and not the result of laziness or foul play. I hate getting caught up in blame games (in which I can easily become a player), because usually people are trying their best, working hard, short on resources (including time), and expectations are always high. I don’t always remember this bit of advice or act as I should in response to when things go kablooey, but this rule of thumb can help me get my head in a better space. I should pair this with something the amazing DeEtta Jones said at several training sessions when I worked at University of Houston, which was that there is a huge difference between responding to a problem and reacting to it. The first means taking that extra bit of time to analyze, interpret, and understand as opposed to just immediately acting on a rush of feeling and little perspective.

5. What’s your favorite thing about MLA?

My favorite thing about MLA – cliche time – is working with members. I’m not much of a “joiner” and so when I first started coming to MLA, I was uncomfortable with having to be part of a professional organization as part of my career. Those first few years in MLA were pretty awkward, but once I found ways to get involved it got better. Instead of making painful small talk with strangers, I was able to have substantive conversations over a shared project or interest. Now I rely on MLA colleagues for inspiration, advice, and to challenge my thinking on a regular basis. But the key piece for me has been, and continues to be, the shared work with members, both inside MLA’s structures and without.

Katie Buehner is Head of the Rita Benton Music Library at the University of Iowa.


Did You Know…

…Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March no.1 in D Major – the perennial favorite of graduation ceremonies – was first performed at Yale University in 1906?

According to the Yale Bulletin & Calendar archives, additional schools adopted the march for their ceremonies over the next decade, including Princeton, Chicago, and Columbia. By the 1920s, the march was widely performed.

Bonus: the ‘hat toss’ tradition is attributed to the United States Naval Academy class of 1912. Before then, graduates were required to serve two years as midshipmen before being commissioned as Navy officers. At the 1912 ceremony, officer hats were issued with the commission, and graduates tossed their no-longer-needed midshipmen hats into the air. (Source: United States Department of Defense).