IAML, the International Association of Music Libraries, Associations and Documentation Centres, has a great tradition of organising annual congresses all over the world, providing music information professionals with the opportunity to learn about the latest developments in the field, liaise and network, and help shape and influence the profession and future developments. The conference this year took place in Riga, during the week leading up to the summer solstice celebrations, Liigo.
The solstice theme and Latvian traditions were introduced during the opening ceremony which included a talk on the Song and Dance celebration (and ended with us all making flower garlands and learning folk dances on the final day). I was particularly impressed with the presentation by Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds called “Libraries do inspire!” that introduced us to his multimedia Nordic lights symphony Ziemeļu gaisma. He described how the project started by reading countless books about the Aurora Borealis and how documentary film fragments were collected. You can watch a complete performance of the symphony via ltv.lv. Ešenvalds talked very eloquently about how libraries inspire him for various projects, and our very own Cambridge University Library with its extensive selection of materials available for browsing on the open shelves received a special mention.
Another very impressive aspect of the Latvian theme was the concert by the Latvian State Choir that included a wide range of exquisitely performed choral compositions in Latvian. Of all things Latvian however I was probably most impressed by the National Library, our conference venue. From The peoples bookshelf to the Children’s literature centre, an actual reading room for children, the library does not limit itself to academic research, but is an invaluable resource for the whole nation. A splendid example of national heritage is the Cabinet of folksongs, included in Unesco’s Memory of the World.
The IAML congresses always offer a wide ranging programme including sessions on collections, services and information technology specific to the field of the music information world. One example of the many things on offer was a session on performance ephemera, sources and access, which opened my eyes to the extensive work currently taking place in the German-speaking world. Cambridge University Library is one of many libraries involved in the UK based concert programmes database and it was interesting to see the differences and similarities between this and other current projects. Completely different, but equally informative was the session on music information literacy and mentoring which included a talk about music information literacy in the digital age, which made some excellent points about gatekeepers and assessment. The format of the second presentation of the session by Janneka Guise and Katherine Penner, which consisted of a mixture of life presentation, pre-recorded self-created animation and Skype was simply fabulous.
As in last year’s IAML Congress in Rome, committee work took up a fair amount of my time in Riga. A lot of foundation work is happening for the Advocacy Committee in particular, and we have identified some clear aspirations in doing our bit towards raising awareness of the challenging world of music information. To find out more, you can follow IAML on Facebook and Twitter, follow the congress diary and browse materials of presentations.