ASW 2015: Academic Music Librarians seminar

IAML (UK & Irl) Academic Music Librarians Seminar, held 10 April 2015 at Aston University, Birmingham

The afternoon seminar featured four presentations around the topic of supporting students with disabilities (with the exception of one paper on blogging). The three talks on disabilities were hugely enlightening.

Music Zoom on iPad.
Music Zoom on iPad.

Almut Boehme (National Library of Scotland) gave a concise overview of the needs of visually impaired musicians and what options are currently available to support them. I was particularly interested in the section on electronic music stands as I’d heard of them in ‘blue sky’ terms so it was good to get someone’s practical experience of them. Almut’s conclusion on these and using iPads for enlarging digital sheet music was that the technology at present is not conducive to sight reading and performing in a choral or orchestral context. This was because of the slight delay in turning the pages and how they work in real time. Also as she demonstrated with the iPad, it’s very difficult to follow your line in a vocal score because manoeuvring around an enlarged page without losing where you are in the music is tricky. Almut said the best solution at present is the ‘old-fashioned method’ of photocopying and enlarging the music (copying now allowed under copyright law exceptions) or if funds permit, having the sheet music transcribed into modified staff notation or braille.

Charity Dove (Cardiff University) gave a presentation on ‘hidden disabilities’, that is, disabilities that may not be immediately physically obvious such as dyslexia. She elaborated on the educational experience from the disabled student’s perspective and reasons why they may or may not have disclosed their disability to their institution. Charity shared experiences from her work and personal life to illustrate her points such as being tactful and subtle when giving support and keeping an eye out for students who are presenting irrational/unreasonable behaviour as it might be a sign of undiagnosed disability.

The final disability support talk was from Anna Wright (Royal Northern College of Music) who spoke about their experiences of supporting students at RNCM. Students are encouraged to disclose any disability and are then set up with a ‘personal learning plan’. The interesting point with these was that the plan agreed both what support the institution would provide and also what the student was going to do (e.g. requesting extended loans).

MusiCB3 blog
MusiCB3 blog

Margaret Jones (Music Collections, Cambridge University Library) gave an enlightening talk on blogging and libraries. She shared many tips, benefits and examples of what they post about on the MusiCB3 blog. Some of the useful benefits of library blogging she mentioned were publicising collections without an online presence, giving practical information about the library in a fun way and facilitating collaboration between departments.

The final session was a round table on libraries as physical spaces. The panellists shared about various aspects of this topic such as moving buildings, being in a listed building, lobbying/planning for a new space and combining services that are separated geographically.

Megan Dyson, Leeds College of Music

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