Thursday, February 23, 2006

The past, present, and future of music librarianship

This morning's plenary session was entitled MLA'ers: Past, Present and Into Our Future. It featured Dena Epstein (MLA pioneer and former MLA president), Joseph Boonin (music publisher and librarian), Amanda Maple (Pennsylvania State University), and Michael Duffy (Northern Illinois University). It was sponsored by the Joint Committee for the MLA Archives and its Oral History Subcommittee.

The opening remarks by Jane Penner mentioned the MLA Archives (University of Maryland-College Park) and their new website. I couldn't find a link by Googling it but I'll post it once it becomes available. The session was videotaped for the Archives.

Much of the talk amongst the interviewees related as much of the strength of librarians more than the collections they oversee. There was indeed a vast wealth of knowledge and institutional memory in the room. Everyone seemed cognizant of those who have departed, including Richard Hill. Dena Epstein noted that there wree not many academic research collections in music at the start of her career. Joe Boonin noted the importance of knowing librarians of every ilk, and Epstein backed that up by saying how importance it was for scholars of American music to use resources that were seemingly not musically-related.

Michael Duffy, the junior panelist of the session, talked about coming up of age in music librarianship in the electronic age. Though he was well-versed in the conventional tools of microfilm, RILM, and Music Index, he also was well-versed in networks, web site design, and electronic reference sources. One panelist noted that a music librarian position is one that is very integrated in functions: one must understand reference, cataloging, bibliographic instruction, technology, preservation, and more to do one's job effectively.

Amanda Maple talked about some of the challenges of access vs. ownership in the contemporayr library. In the old days, collections were built one title at a time, and this sort of care is what is the mark of excellence in music librarians.

More to blog later about other sessions, but you get the idea.


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