E.T. Bryant Memorial Prize, 2021

This year’s recipient of the E.T. Bryant Memorial Prize was Meg Fisher, for her 2021 Aberystwyth University dissertation Current issues in sheet music cataloguing: problems with staff and systems.

This investigation into issues surrounding the organisation of and access to music collections raised significant questions in relation to the training and dissemination of knowledge in Music. It is a particularly timely study as it does, in several useful ways, complement Michael Bonshor’s recent survey of music library staff and music library users in the UK and Ireland, commissioned by the Music Libraries Trust. If anything, both studies reinforce the importance of committing to thorough training of Library staff and of ensuring that specialist knowledge is retained, rather than ebbed away through such factors as departmental restructuring or budget restraint. During the last two years, when the Arts have played such a vital role within the community, it has become especially apparent that Library users deserve as good a service as possible without compromise in standards. The committee for the Bryant Prize found that Meg Fisher’s thesis recognised this.

The thesis succeeded in revealing some of the core issues in training through description of problems and discussion with staff who have dealt them. Music has always been amongst the most challenging of systems in terms of cataloguing. The author is aware of this and advocates the necessity of a coherent and accurate approach in presentation of catalogue records that will help users. Suggestions of how this could be achieved include the development of various tools which might support new music cataloguers in their work, the inclusion of incipits in music catalogues to help staff make accurate identification of items requested, and cohesion between Library Management Systems to ensure reliable searching.
The committee believe the possibility exists of broadening the study further, of expanding upon some of the points that have been raised and presenting them in published format. With this in mind, it would be useful to review some of the data presented to ensure complete accuracy (particularly on MARC format in Appendix G). Overall, however, the research undertaken reflects the spirit of Eric Bryant’s commitment to music librarianship. Its generous attention to the difficulties encountered in cataloguer training makes it a worthy winner of the prize that bears his name.

Nicholas Clark
E.T. Bryant Prize Convenor