Harvard College Library News: News from around the libraries

HCL Hosts New England Chapter of the Music Library Association

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Members of the New England Chapter of the Music Library Association talk during a break in last week's meeting.


October 21, 2009 – Dozens of music librarians from throughout New England gathered last week at Harvard College Library to discuss issues relating to music librarianship as part of the semi-annual meeting of the New England Chapter of the Music Library Association (NEMLA).

The conference, organized by Liza Vick, Music Reference and Research Librarian at Loeb Music Library, included presentations on a database of local faculty composers created by the University of Hartford, changes to cataloging standards, an outline of the media services available at Lamont Library, a review of the Harvard Theatre Collection’s holdings related to music and a tour of the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library.

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Association members, including librarians from Yale University, Brown University, Smith College, Wesleyan University and other institutions, were welcomed to the day-long event by Dan Hazen, Associate Librarian of Harvard College for Collection Development, who highlighted the ways in which digital resources have changed the way library patrons research and use music resources. In the past, Hazen said, students and researchers had to travel to the library to listen to a CD or LP, or to view the score of a particular piece of music. Researchers and students today, however, can view digitized versions of scores online and listen to streaming audio without ever setting foot in a library.

Spurred by students searching for an easy way to access the University of Hartford’s unique holdings of material by composers at the Hartt School, Senior Cataloger Jennifer Olson and Public Services Librarian Sam Cook earlier this year created the Hartt Composers Database, a searchable index of more than 300 scores.

The database today contains the works of several current and former Hartt faculty members, Olson said. The index was designed with a simple interface, allowing users to specify which instruments a score is written for, as well as the size of the ensemble performing it. Search results pages display a brief description of each musical piece, as well as library call numbers, whether a recording of the piece is available and links to the full catalog records.

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Harvard Theatre Collection curator Fredric Woodbridge Wilson displayed a number of items during his presentation, including this original, annotated score.

NEMLA members also listened to a presentation by Damian Iseminger, technical services librarian for the New England Conservatory, on Resource Description and Access (RDA,) a new cataloging standard designed for the digital world. The new standard ultimately could save libraries money, he said, by streamlining the cataloging process.

Harvard Theatre Collection curator Fredric Woodbridge Wilson presented a selection of items illustrating the Theatre Collections’ music-related holdings. Among the items he displayed: a manuscript opera libretto by John Dryden, original, annotated scores of Ballet Russes productions and several scene and costume designs for musical theatre productions.

“There is a wealth of material here that fits very comfortably within the purview of a theatre collection, but which could also be used for music research,” Wilson said. “Not only do many music researchers use our collection, but they find many different angles from which to approach items in the collection.”

For members who attended the meeting, the ideas and information shared are invaluable. “This organization gives music librarians in the region the chance to meet and discuss issues they have in common,” Vick said. “We are happy to take part in groups like NEMLA, because they can be very instructive for our staff and for our colleagues at other institutions.”