Report from MLA (music library) Conference

Submitted by Joy Pile

The 78th Annual conference of the Music Library Association was held February 18-22, 2009 in Chicago. Below are brief highlights from the Sessions I attended.

Music in Chicago

Blues and Gospel music:

Horace Maxile: The southern migration of blacks to Chicago in the early 1900s helped produce a unique more sophisticated sound than New Orleans Jazz, with and intermingling of Blues and Gospel music. Some of the important figures in that amalgamation were Big Bill Broonzy, Memphis Minnie, Thomas Dorsey and Roberta Martin.

Paul Tyler: Folk music in Chicago – local music making rather than music consumption. The German beer gardens provided a venue in the late 1800s for Sunday afternoon music making and social activities. Tyler pointed out that the Sunday blue laws that prohibited the serving of alcohol and closed many businesses were instituted by the Anglo population and temperance movements against “immigrants”. German marshal music was used in a protest of the closing of these Sunday afternoon venues. In the radio era, Chicago station WLS promoted music through the “National Barndance” – a precursor and model for the Grand Old Oprey. The ethnic population originally from Eastern Europe made Chicago a major source for Polka music, with a distinct style. Chicago was also a center of Irish traditional music as well.

Charles Matlock: Described house music – the sound and synthesizer dance music that evolved in Chicago after the closing of disco clubs.

Consortial Collection Development

Tri-colleges – Haverford, Swarthmore, and Bryn Mawr have instituted a joint online catalog and consortial collection development policy using a joint approval plan from YBP and scores notification through Harrassowitz. They have mostly eliminated duplication, except for reference books. But these three institutions are within a ten mile radius of each other, and have a twice daily currier delivery – student requests are mostly filled the same day an item is ordered.

ILSO – an Illinois based statewide consortium which includes remote borrowing, and grants to smaller institutions to develop specific, mostly digital collections available to all the institutions in the consortium.

American Women (Women in music roundtable) – Described the lives and music of Blythe Owen and Victoria Spivey

Alexander Street breakfast – product update. Talk from Jim Musselman, founder of Appleseed Recordings.

Copyright: Is there a chance for change? This session was upbeat – as the legislative committee of MLA sees movement for change in the policy of pre-1972 recordings, to allow digitization and streaming of historic recordings produced between 1890-1964. Currently only 14% of this oeuvre has been reissued. The other major issue – orphan works also has legislation pending with will ease restrictions and standardize the process for “due diligence” in trying to locate a current owner of a copyright.

NextGen Catalogs and Weeding an LP Collection (Small Academic Libraries Roundtable) Sarah Canino of Vassar presented a list of points to ask vendors when considering the acquisition of a NextGen catalog (or discovery tool). Several librarians whose institutions had moved to this technology also discussed some of the problems with these search interfaces as they are currently configured. I described the LP de-acquisition process here at Midd, and included information about perimeters from a small survey I conducted on MLA-L, information from MLA-L archives, and a forthcoming Notes article by Elizabeth Cox. (Sarah and I are co-chairs of this roundtable)

Search, Hack, Mix, Create, Innovate, Communicate: Technology Solutions for Music Libraries – The session title was the draw. Misti Shaw demonstrated a software tool Camtasia, which she used to create library videos. Tom Pease of LC demonstrated an online collaborative program – Yahoo Orchestra Library. Tim Sestrick of Gettysburg College demonstrated He mentioned that Pandora is the most popular music site tagged in Jenny Colvin of Furman Univ. talked about widgets and demonstrated meebo. Jon Haupt , Southern Methodist University showed Twitter. Gerry Szymanski demonstrated Cha-cha a question answering service – that won’t replace our jobs, since the answers given are not always either complete or accurate.

Collections and Digitization. – Northwestern University is the repository of the correspondence and scores that John Cage collected in conjunction with editing his book Notations. Jennifer Ward described the process for preserving the scores – which run the gambit from conventional music notation to objects with directions on how to play the piece. Most of the scores are still under copyright – so they aren’t digitizing that collection yet, but they are in the process of digitizing the correspondence. Sam Brylawski and David Seubert described the Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings (, an online index to the master and published recordings of the Victor Talking Maching Company beginning in 1900.

Joint Projects Kathy Abromeit of Oberlin College, described the project of collaborating with Sing Out! Magazine to create an online index to folk song collections in anthologies (

Darwin Scott (formerly of Brandeis) and Pam Bristah of Wellesley, described some of the music related items that have been scanned for the Internet Archive (

What’s Next? The Compact Disc as a Viable Format in the Future of Music Libraries – This topic was discussed from various points of view – a young concert violinist, a former president of the American Orchestra League, a president of a small recording company (Cedille Records) the VP of Digital Product Strategy of Universal Music Group and a music librarian. They all agreed that at least for the near future, the tangible artifact – a CD – will continue to be produced, once broadband is expanded so that music can be streamed in full band with, iTunes and other such services will supplant the CD – a process which will probably take place over the next 10 years or so.

Users and Technology – Kristen Dougan of the University of Illinois, Champaign Urbana described the music content contained in Google Books and the Open Content Alliance – there was some overlap of this session with the one on the OCA the afternoon before. Andrew Justice talked about our users and suggested reading “Born Digital: Understanding the first generation of digital natives” to better understand their use of libraries.

Miscellaneous Bits & Pieces: Traditional and Virtual – Philip Ponella of Indiana University described the software they use to stream music. Terry Simpkins send out an invitation to attend a Webinar on this software.

Hot Topics in Music Librarianship – A lively question and answer discussion on the issues facing us – including current budgetary concerns.

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