MLA NEwsletter

Interest Group Roundup

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The Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA) Music Librarians Interest Group met on Monday, March 8, from 4:00-4:55 PM ET. Though this group was officially established at the close of the 2020 Annual Meeting, the BTAA music librarians have held informal gatherings and communicated with each other via email for years. Assembling as an official part of the conference program provided the opportunity for any interested MLA member to join the conversation, and this year’s group welcomed over 20 participants. Topics covered included:

  • Discussion of the recent kick-off of the broader Big Ten Academic Alliance’s Sequence of Convenings Towards the BIG Collections, and the ways in which music librarians can contribute to these consortium-level conversations and make our work and collaborations with each other visible to our non-music librarian BTAA colleagues
  • Brainstorming about opportunities for collective collection development based on the strengths and weaknesses of our respective collections, as well as trends in faculty and student research and performance interests at individual institutions
  • Discussions about specific resources that can be licensed for member libraries at the consortium level
  • Information sharing about the use of Ex Libris’s Primo VE platform for searching and displaying music materials at Big Ten institutions

The Big Ten Academic Alliance Music Librarians look forward to continuing these conversations over email throughout the year, and interested in MLA members should contact the Interest Group’s coordinator ( for information about joining the BTAA music librarians’ email list.

Submitted by Jessica Abbazio

The Retirement Interest Group met virtually on March 9, 2021, as a part of the MLA/TLA joint meeting. Some 16 people joined in our lively, wide-ranging discussion. Our meeting lasted 50% longer than our brief allotted time, but the software didn’t cut us off. Many thanks go to our Tech Assistant, Julie Bill, who stayed with us to the end.

Much of the discussion centered on issues related to retirement and retirement planning, especially in these unique times. The interest group provides safe space in which to discuss these issues. Institutional changes, as well as changes in job structure and how jobs are being performed, had led some to consider retirement in the near term; but similar issues have also led others to postpone retirement.

Another topic of discussion was the role of retirees in MLA. The group discussed a perception from the Town Hall that “oldsters” clique together at MLA meetings. The idea of how retirees can best interact with students and emerging professionals brought about more questions than answers. The retirees who maintain membership are still invested in MLA and care about the organization and the profession. Each year, we discuss what works for us and what doesn’t work for us, and conferences in general. An idea for improvement of the conference is to allow more time for attendees to interact with presenters
after each session, instead of everybody rushing off to the next session.

Our formal item of business was getting a new coordinator, as my term came to an end with the 2021 meeting. Dick Griscom graciously volunteered to serve as coordinator. Thank you, Dick. The Retirement Interest Group looks forward to the time we can all meet in person again. Hopefully, this will be next year in Salt Lake City.

Submitted by Carolyn Dow

The Sheet Music Interest Group met Tuesday, March 9 from 1-2:25 PM. Discussion involved various ‘pandemic projects’ taking place across member institutions. Suzanne Lovejoy (Yale) shared that her institution is about to upload 10,000 songs in their vocal sheet music collection (about 30% of the collection) to be available in the Sheet Music Consortium and WorldCat. Associated tasks include upgrading metadata, though without access to the sheet music itself; establishing name authority (about 1700 out of 7000 so far); correcting obvious errors in text fields, normalizing treatment of initial articles; standardizing place, publisher, and date based on a database compiled in the 1990s. Sadly, no information on cover art, or digitization as yet, or on the provenance of sheet music, is available.

Mark Scharff and Karen Olson (Washington University of St. Louis) spoke about moving digital files from a local database to the Internet Archive. Britt Burns (UCLA) described cleanup projects such as name authority, as well as creating a list of finalists for the Kaleidoscope project on contemporary compositions. Bob Kosovsky (NYPL) and Andrea Cawelti (Houghton Library, Harvard) have been following up on MLA recommendation on cleaning up records that are derogatory to BIPOC groups. Andrea is preparing a presentation for NEMLA in May (“Beginning the Journey Towards Inclusive and Anti-Racist Metadata and Description”) which will include a section on Minstrel show music, including description of sheet music and lyrics with associated subject headings.  Carolyn Johnson (Connecticut College) shared that her library is collecting music of Jessie Greer, a collection slated to move to special collections for the benefit of better climate control.

The discussion concluded with possible topics for a panel for Salt Lake City.

Submitted by Andrea Cawelti.

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