New Research on Music Libraries

Many IAML (UK & Irl) members recently took part in a nationwide survey of music library staff, which was circulated alongside a widescale survey of music library service users. The survey was commissioned by the Music Libraries Trust, and carried out by Dr Michael Bonshor, a researcher from the University of Sheffield. The survey respondents generously provided detailed commentary on current services and resources, and some thoughtful suggestions about the potential for future developments.

Forty-five music library staff and 551 music library service users completed online surveys.  Music libraries were highly valued by service users, who largely appreciated the current cost-effectiveness, convenience, and quality of service. At the same time, there were concerns about recent reductions in services, such as the withdrawal of interlibrary loans and music library closures in some areas. A deterioration in the quality and quantity of some of the printed stock was also reported. Some users were apprehensive about technological developments, including the digitization of sheet music, and did not always adapt to using unfamiliar online systems.

Staff and service users also noted variations in local music library services, agreed that online catalogues and ordering systems need updating more frequently, and called for more co-ordination of resources on a national basis. Where a specialist music librarian was not available, music library staff expressed a desire for relevant musical and technological training. There was, however, a general awareness of current financial limitations, and an acknowledgment that action is needed to address this.

It is hoped that this research might be a useful tool for raising the profile of music libraries, and that some of the findings could be used to lobby for additional funding.

Watch out for news of a forthcoming webinar, in which you can find out more about the survey results and have an opportunity to discuss the implications. In the meantime, a summary report is now available on the Music Libraries Trust website:

Dr Michael Bonshor

Dr Michael Bonshor, University of Sheffield