In other words – why is music cataloging important? Why do people specialize in music librarianship at all?
I was talking to one of the librarians in public services the other day about being a music librarian. She told me that the music library here circulates more items than any of the branch libraries at IU. Partly, this is because we have the Jacobs School using the library to do things like research, score study, and explore new music. As music librarians, we support the students, alumni, faculty, and researchers that are doing those things.
The Music Librarian Association website lists seven total degree programs that offer a dual degree in librarianship and music, only three of which appear to be coordinated double degrees. There are, of course, other ways to become a music librarian, like being in the right place at the right time, or by taking a music specialization in library school. However, over the course of my time at Indiana University, I have had a chance to work in one of the biggest music libraries in the country. While it is rare that so many music librarians are able to concentrate on a single area (sound cataloging, score cataloging, public services, etc.), I have been struck by how specialization can make a difference in what librarians can do.
Music cataloging, although out of sight of the public, makes accessibility possible. Being specialized in music means that when I create records, I can recognize the details that make a difference to musicians. Is an item a full score or a vocal score? Is the ‘timbales’ in the title referring to a timpani or a timbales salsa drum? Does a tape recorder count as a performer? Especially after this semester, I can work through those questions while cataloging, and make a record that reflects that. In turn, the user of our catalog can find exactly what they need.
Seems to me that providing that service for a patron is a very good reason to be a music librarian.