UL sheet music priority survey results

Most libraries have items which are not yet fully catalogued and so not easily available to their readers. Often this is because other material has to be given priority, or some items could not be tackled due to various reasons – and the UL is no different in this respect. Currently, there are about 60,000 items of any type of printed music awaiting our attention. Unlike most books, the majority of our sheet music needs to be bound, which is a time-consuming process (see Margaret’s post at https://musicb3.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/a-bit-of-a-bind/ for more details on this). This has made it harder for Music Collections at the UL to be catalogued and processed.

In order to let our readers (this might have been you) have a say in what to prioritise in our cataloguing work, we offered a little survey. And this post shares the results. Even though the survey ran only for 11 days there were 55 responses – which isn’t bad.

The first section asked people to give us their priority for five composers who are currently covered in undergraduate modules taught at the Faculty of Music. One person skipped this question, but the 54 respondents gave the following ratings:

So a clear “winner” for our first priority of cataloguing is Benjamin Britten’s unprocessed sheet music. This is useful in two ways: first, as the UL has obtained a lot, if not most, of these items by legal deposit, it is convenient (if not an obligation to us) that this should be a priority for us to work on. Second, there are 34 cards in the so-called MONYCs for music editions by Britten (the charming acronym MONYC stands for “music on order not yet catalogued”). However, as these are ordering cards (including legal deposit claims), the fact that a card exists does not always mean that an item was actually received. However, by the end of the Easter term (Fri 15 June 2012) we will attempt to investigate all of these, so that in time for next Michaelmas Term we should be in a position to have tracked most of these down, if not having processed the majority of them.

The second section asked for a preference of ‘genres’; 53 people replied,
2 people skipped the question:

So the top ‘genre’ is Lied / song. It can, unfortunately, be the most time-intense genre to catalogue, as a good catalogue record for, say, a compilation of diverse songs (not a known song cycle), should list the individual songs. Also, a lot of our songs are bound in volumes with many songs in them, so making one bound volume available might mean catalogue more than 20 songs. Of course, we will aim to catalogue as many as possible.

The third section of the survey asked about “other” (not specified in section 1 and 2) composers or more specific genres (sub-divisions), and the results were (in order of when the comments were made):

– “Any modern critical editions that have been purchased but not catalogued.”
– “Sacred/Choral”
– “choral music, especially pre-1700”
– “String quartets”
– “Arrangements/operatic excerpts from the 19th century (often only available in a single edition)”
– “17C sacred music”
– “20th century music”
– “my research composers are Haydn, Schumann, Mozart & Brahms, if that helps…”
– “Contemporary, or at least post-1900!”
– “Chamber Music, Small ensembles etc.”
– “Decent jazz/pop transcriptions (some of the Hal Leonard stuff can be good)”
– “Chamber music, particularly baroque composers.”
– “Chamber music (Music for solo instrument + piano)”
– “sacred choral and organ music”

We hope to revisit this idea of asking readers to prioritise what they would like to us to work on, and we will incorporate the above in a future survey to get more quantifiable results.

About Clemens Gresser

Between August 2010 and September 2021 I worked as a librarian at the University of Cambridge (Cambridge, UK); the last six years of that time I was at the Faculty of Divinity Library. Between August 2010 and November 2013 I was the Deputy Head of Music at Cambridge University Library and at the Pendlebury Library of Music. Between December 2013 and September 2015 I was the Librarian at the Marshall Library of Economics. Since September 2021 I have been the Heythrop Librarian at the London Jesuit Centre.
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2 Responses to UL sheet music priority survey results

  1. Pingback: A Music Collections Summer | MusiCB3 Blog

  2. Pingback: UL sheet music priority – updating Britten | MusiCB3 Blog

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