Excellence Awards for 2023 – Winners

The awards for 2023 were presented on 2nd August 2023 during a session of the IAML International Congress held in Cambridge, UK. The session was entitled Celebrating excellence in IAML (UK & Irl)’s music libraries, archives and documentation centres: a panel discussion.

The nominations for the 2023 Awards were judged by a panel of experts from both the music and library worlds.

  • Dr Charles Inskip, (Chair of the Judging Panel) Senior lecturer, Programme Director, MA Library and Information Studies, University College London
  • Geoff Thomason (Convenor), Royal Northern College of Music
  • Dr. Ingrid E. Pearson, Research Fellow in Performance Practice, Royal College of Music
  • Simon Wright, Head of Rights & Contracts, Music, Oxford University Press
  • Anna Wright, IAML (UK & Irl) Past President, and former Head Librarian at Royal Northern College of Music
  • John Wagstaff, Librarian, Christ’s College Cambridge

Excellence Awards were presented in 2023 to 4 institutional libraries and 1 individual.

Excellence Award for Music Libraries – with Distinction

  • Gerald Coke Handel Collection (as Foundling Collection)

Excellence Award for Music Libraries

  • Barbican Music Library
  • Royal Northern College of Music
  • Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance

Personal Achievement Award

  • Nia Daniel Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / National Library of Wales


Foundling Collection

This application highlighted good practice, development, and innovation across the board. The tight focus on the specialism of the collection leads to a wide range of outreach activities led by experience and qualified staff who are engaged in IAML. A detailed approach to ‘extreme cataloguing’ enhances the discoverability of the constantly developing collection while collaboration with learning providers leads to placement opportunities. A wide range of cultural opportunities are provided and a digitisation programme during the pandemic has led to wider access for the collection.

“The amount achieved with only two part-time staff and limited resources is amazing. The collaborations with educational institutions in the London area and the use of students to support the collection as well as developing their own skills is an impressive innovation. Also, the work done to digitise material during the pandemic and make it available to scholar. The collection is a vital resource for Handel scholars, and the way in which staff work creatively to make it available as widely as possible provides an excellent example of good practice to others.”

  • “Broad range of activities for a small library with a very specific focus and few staff
  • Active engagement with the broader field of music librarianship
  • Innovative research collaboration with Royal Holloway
  • Promotion of the collections through exhibitions and online (including social media) as well as creating bespoke databases, public talks and publications
  • Staff are well qualified and liaise with researchers – Keen interest in how their collections are used to further scholarship”

“Commendation for Handel Documents Project at the Open University, and for the annual study day. ‘Study days’ provide a wonderful opportunity for experts to meet and share their knowledge of collections, subject, composers, etc; and for interested parties to attend, contribute, and learn. The lunchtime talks also provide similar, at a more informal level.”

“Commendation for creation of website www.gchf.org and for partnership with Goldsmiths (University of London) to support learning, teaching and research as well as running the annual study day on Music in 18th-century Britain, and activities generating Impact (in the REF sense of the term).”

“I particularly like the way in which the application goes out of its way to highlight innovation in every category; and the partnerships with, for example, UCL and the University of London Institute of English Studies highlight just how effective the Foundling is in encouraging scholarship and collaboration.”

Barbican Music Library

This was an excellent application, which demonstrated a commitment to good practice throughout. The Development highlight included the varied exhibition programme, which has wide-ranging impact, collaboration with wider institutions and music workshops and, as Innovation, the 10th anniversary of the People’s Piano Project, free piano lessons for retired locals connecting the library with the Guildhall and the local community.

“The exhibition programme is noteworthy and clearly very impactful. Good to read of collaboration with other departments, both within the library and other organisations, such as the LSO. The People’s Piano Project stands out as an excellent example of working with partners and users. Pleased to see that the importance of appropriately qualified staff is recognised.”

  • “Understanding and catering for a heterogeneous user group
  • Programme of training for staff
  • Initiative in maintaining a service during the Covid pandemic
  • Impressive programme of exhibitions covering a broad range of musical themes
  • Commitment to EDI
  • People’s Pianos project
  • Links with London Conservatoires”

“The library performs a valuable cultural and public service in covering a huge range of topics and themes in the exhibitions – they are much looked forward to! The People’s Piano project is also impressive – this is a model which could be performed by other libraries (with the right resources and partners) elsewhere.”

“I found the description of the “People’s Piano Project”, which delivers free individual piano lessons to retired City of London residents, with lessons offered on one of the library’s digital keyboards (please… buy an acoustic instrument so that people have a choice!), fascinating. Outreach via social media was clearly very helpful during COVID”

Royal Northern College of Music

A welcome application highlighting the great practice, development and innovation of this regional institution with a global reputation. Their thorough approach to collection development underlies their commitment, with a good number of professional staff who receive regular training and engage with IAML, some evidence of commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, and good examples of outreach work.

“A great but succinct exposition of the details of the collections, demonstrating both their variety, and their relevance to their geographical location; this, together with the outreach and other contacts details elsewhere in the application show this as a proudly ‘northern’ music library, truly reflecting its name, and providing very valuable local focus.”

“There is clearly good collaboration between the library and RNCM archives here, and that’s an excellent example of good practice. Good to see a recently-revised Collection Development Statement. Staff development is clearly also something of a priority, and it is good to see staff attending non-music-specific training such as Sensory spaces in libraries; in these neurodiverse times that is definitely to be commended. Well done, too, for your Disability Awareness Week, and for working with your Student Union.”

Trinity Laban Jerwood Library

A very good application identifying key aspects of collection development, and paying good attention to equality, diversity and inclusion through the collection and links to the curriculum. A very good level of professional qualified staffing with regular training and engagement with IAML. Excellent accessibility provided by a wide range of formats and detailed catalogues, a commitment to information literacy, outreach and engagement with the mechanisms of the wider institution.

“The information about changing acquisition priorities to support particular projects, e.g. women and black composers and underrepresented voices was particularly instructive, as is the inclusion of a collection statement acknowledging the presence of material which might cause offence. Overall this demonstrated the level of excellence of the library.”

  • “Clear demonstration of the library’s remit and policies
  • Flexibility in recognising the need to revisit the above in the light of e.g. decolonisation
  • Incorporation of EDI into library services, e.g. highlighting under-represented communities in the library catalogue
  • Well qualified staff and engagement with wider professional field
  • Good practice shared by other libraries
  • Innovative live chat service
  • Concern for users with special needs
  • Recognising the importance of training for staff and students, e.g. through a range of guides to resources”

“A tremendously impressive range of text and music resources, and a wholly involved and committed library team.”

“Trinity is fortunate to have such a team of well-qualified staff, something many other libraries would envy. I also like their commitment to info lit work, and their attempt to match ebook provision to essential reading on student reading lists (among several other initiatives). Online resources across the performing arts – e.g. International Bibliography of Theatre and Dance, and Drama Online – are also impressive.”

“In terms of publicity, the weekly library news bulletin sent to all Trinity Laban staff and students is to be commended. This is a library that is conscious of, and takes seriously, its responsibilities both to follow good practice and to lead it. Its commitment to User Education/Info Lit is admirable, and may be useful to others who are looking to advance their offerings in this area.”

Personal Achievement Award

Nia Daniel (Personal achievement) – Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / National Library of Wales

“Very impressive submission. Breadth of work and the initiatives taken are exemplary. Establishment of studentships particularly worthy of commendation. Collaboration with others, notably Tŷ Cerdd, is particularly significant. No hesitation in supporting this application.”

  • “An impressive demonstration of how a library’s music collections can be promoted among a wide range of user groups and through a wide variety of media
  • Opening up the library’s archival resources for public access
  • Excellent initiative in setting up and obtaining funding for research fellowships into Welsh folk music
  • Recognising the importance of bringing collections to life through performance
  • Achieving all of this while coping with major health issues”

“An outstanding record of work from an inspirational applicant. Nia’s commitment to her role, her desire and ability to outreach to many communities, the diversity of her contacts and partners, and her enthusiasm for Welsh music all shine through in this application. Bravo! I unreservedly recommend for this award.”

“Recommend for award in recognition of leadership of ‘Welsh Music Archive’ project 2017-2021 and these key areas:

  1. The pilot TORF project en route to the developing a searchable online database,
  2. establishing research studentships into Welsh folk music
  3. supervising the cataloguing of a backlog of NLW music archives.
  4. establishing external partnerships e.g. Tŷ Cerdd in Cardiff and the achievement of these despite difficult personal health circumstances.”

“Lots of good things in this application, and Nia Daniel has certainly done enough to earn a Personal Achievement Award. The two things that are perhaps most striking are (a) Nia’s promotional efforts – getting information out on collections of this sort is essential if they are to be used and appreciated; and (b) the setting up of the research studentships into Welsh folk music – this is clearly appropriate for an institution such as NLW. It would be good to think that showcasing music in this way will lead to further support for it generally within the NLW, which has not had a designated “Music Librarian” position for some years. It would also be good if IAML (UK & Irl) could use work such as Nia’s to build bridges with NLW, given the generally low number of music libraries/collections in the Principality.”