Regional Music Library Association Meeting Held at IU
By: Ryan Hedrick
During the fall semester this year, Indiana University hosted the 81st annual meeting of the Music Library Association, Midwest Chapter. The conference focused on a wide variety of topics but also served as a celebration of the 100th anniversary of IU’s Jacobs School of Music and the William and Gayle Cook Music Library. A number of panels focused on the past, present and future of the music library and its associated programs and served as an opportunity for current IU students to get some conference experience.
The Midwest Chapter of the MLA is the largest in the country and includes the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. Attendees from all of those states were in Bloomington for the conference, which took place from Oct. 27 to Oct. 29.
Emma Dederick, Librarian and Curator of Special Collections, Latin American Music Center at IU, said the conference was a success and a great showcase of the Jacobs School of Music and the Cook Music Library.
“It was an enormous joy to have the conference in person, at our campus and to showcase the wonderful facilities the Jacobs School of Music has to offer,” said Dederick, who also co-chaired the Midwest MLA local arrangements committee and program committee.
Chuck Peters, head of music library cataloging at Cook Music Library, and co-chair of the local arrangements committee as well, said that he also felt like the conference was a success. According to Peters, about 75 people attended the conference either in person or virtually.
“It was great,” said Peters. “It was the first chance for us to be together in person since COVID. That means a lot on the chapter level because people tend to know their colleagues in the same state and same institutions. So, getting together is important.”
IU was supposed to host this conference in 2021, but never did due to COVID-19 precautions. So, in reality, the 2022 conference marked the 101st anniversary of IU’s school of music and music library, but that did not hamper the celebration.
Both Peters and Dederick participated in panels during the conference. Peters was part of a panel titled “William and Gayle Cook Music Library: The First 100 Years,” while Dederick took part in a panel focused on the Composers project here at IU which focuses on Latin American composers and their music.
While many of the conference proceedings focused on celebrating IU, there were other panels and discussions at the conference that focused on wider topics from music librarianship and librarianship in general. Amy Edmonds, Mount Union University, presented her talk, “Celebrating Black Music History in Any Library,” and a talk from Lynn Gullickson Spencer, University of Missouri, Kansas City, titled “Trauma-Informed Information Literacy.”
More than just the different talks and panels though, Peters said conferences like this serve an important role in allowing librarians from different institutions the opportunity to exchange new ideas and procedures that have been generated from across the profession.
“There’s always a great amount of sharing of policies, procedures, and facilities,” Peters said. “So, people are always interested to see how other people are doing it. How other institutions are doing it. There’s sharing of ideas that aren’t only cataloging and technical services focused, but public services, teaching, and public outreach. All of those ideas are shared during these meetings.”
As a leading music program and library, Peters said it’s important for IU to be transparent about how things are done. Such transparency can help smaller schools learn to better their programs, while also contributing their own ideas and improvements.
Peters said the meeting also served as a forum to discuss common issues and challenges many members are seeing at their own institutions. There was a lot of conversation around how libraries can continue to put a stronger focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts. Also, how are other institutions handling the increasingly digital nature of their collections.
A major benefit of hosting a regional conference like the MLA meeting is the unique opportunity it presents to the host school’s current students. According to Peters, a number of current students, who normally may not have attended the meeting if it were held somewhere else, were able to attend and participate in the conference.
Jason Steptoe is one such student. He is a first year MLS student, who is specializing in music librarianship. Steptoe not only attended the meeting but presented a lightning talk about how simple video editing skills can be used by libraries to improve patron outreach.
Steptoe said it seemed like his talk was well received, and he even got a few follow-up emails from attendees asking for more information. However, beyond just gaining the experience of presenting at a conference, Steptoe was appreciative of the new network of people he met during the conference.
“There are a lot of resources out there and a lot of people to connect with,” Steptoe said. “If I don’t know something on my end as an aspiring librarian then I can always reach out to someone I met [at the conference]. Or there is a whole sort of network out there that I’ve always been aware of in the back of my mind, but I guess this is the first time that I’ve seen it in action and interacted with it. So, it made everything seem a lot less intimidating.”
Steptoe currently works as a circulation supervisor at Cook Music Library. Circulation is the field that, up to now, has most interested Steptoe. However, after interacting with professionals from across the library field, Steptoe said that he is interested in broadening his horizons and considering other paths in the library profession such as cataloging work.
Peters said this is the exact sort of experience they want students to have when attending these types of conferences.
“It’s a really good way for [students] to learn the conference procedure and how to be involved in the profession. When they go into a position as a music library professional they’re going to be expected to participate in research and professional development. One way to do that is to participate in conferences.”
Dederick said having the opportunity to see the next generation of librarians step up and present at the conference, and knowing they were trained here at IU, was one of the most rewarding aspects of the entire conference.