Learning more about music library staff and users

In summer 2020, Dr Michael Bonshor of the University of Sheffield was commissioned by the Music Libraries Trust [MLT] to carry out a survey of music library staff and users. MLT funded the bulk of the research, with additional funds for analysis of the survey data coming from the Postlethwaite Music Foundation. An Executive Summary of the project was published last December, and early in 2021 Peter Baxter (an MLT Trustee, and very well known in IAML circles) suggested that the UK & Ireland Branch might like to help organise a joint webinar with MLT at which Dr Bonshor could present his results. The webinar took place on Friday 19 March, and the number of attendees – 35, from a variety of public and academic libraries – was proof of the high level of interest aroused by the survey. It also proved once again that, while Zoom has its shortcomings, it does enable attendance by librarians who might not normally be able to travel to a face-to-face presentation.

45 music library staff members, and 551 music library users, responded to the survey, which covered both academic and public libraries. There are too many interesting results to summarise here, but the Executive Summary is easy to find, at https://tinyurl.com/BonshorWebinar. Broad conclusions are that music librarians and the services they offer are consistently highly valued by their customers; that some library users are concerned about actual, or potential, cuts in services; and that libraries sometimes need to do better in promoting some of the services they offer – Inter-Library Loan being one such, with few users claiming to know about Encore21, the union catalogue of performance sets. We also learned that, if users have their way, print resources won’t be going away anytime soon!

A page from Dr Michael Bonshor’s presentation, showing the range of concerns expressed by those surveyed.

John Wagstaff