Guide to Developing a Library Music Collection.
R. Michael Fling has had a long and distinguished career as a music librarian and has deservedly developed a reputation as a (within the USA even "the") specialist in collection development and acquisitions for music. He has published articles on the subject, edited the second edition of A Basic Music Library: Essential Scores and Books (1983), and is the author of Library Acquisition of Music (2004). Whilst Library Acquisition of Music focuses on the ordering and acquisitions process, his current publication approaches the subject from a collection development angle. Although there is some overlap, especially in descriptions of categories of music materials and general information, the two publications cover different areas and complement each other very nicely.
Looking at the Guide to Developing a Library Music Collection, one cannot help but think that surely, with its 135 pages, this seems to be a very modest publication for tackling such a big subject, and in a way it is. Fling, however, has managed brilliantly to sum up a very complex and wide field. He has assumed that the reader might know nothing at all about the subject, with the result that this book covers both the basic terminology and concepts--what is a score?--and the practical nitty-gritty of how-to and where-to find information. The blurb on the back of the book states that it is: "exhaustively detailed useful to even the most experienced selector at the largest music library". Up to a point, this is true. Having read the book cover to cover, I did find a few little tips I did not yet know about, especially regarding specific USA resources, and that I'm fully intending to try out in the future. On the whole, however, I would say this book has most merit in providing a thorough introduction and extremely useful guide to budding collection development librarians.
Although the emphasis is strongly USA, with some extra information on European resources, again from a US point of view, the principle of how to go about collection development and what types of resources and services are available can easily be transposed to Europe. (I'm afraid I couldn't comment on its usefulness for the rest of the world). A European author of a similar publication would obviously include different examples, but this doesn't mean the Guide is only relevant to the USA. Especially for countries that don't have specific music library courses and training, I would strongly recommend this book, regardless of whether or not it includes the big supplier around the corner. Thinking back to my very early days as a music librarian in Belgium, I would have been absolutely delighted with this book.
The Guide to Developing a Library Music Collection starts with an introduction in which Fling contemplates what music is and what it means to different people in different times, cultures and contexts. He then goes on to describe the history of music in libraries and of music study and scholarship in the USA, against a backdrop of European antecedents. The following four chapters address the different formats of music (printed music, recordings, books and periodicals), each with definitions on what they are, links to important publishers and resources, tips on how to find out what is in print, how to keep current with new publications, use notification and approval services and what to expect from reviews. They are very useful chapters and may save many less-experienced librarians a lot of time.
The chapter on selection strategies aims to set priorities and collection-building objectives. On a first glance, the initial eight objectives seem to be well chosen and common sense; a closer look, however, reveals some problems. These objectives are certainly less widely relevant than the information from the previous chapters. Taking Krummel's eleven canons (Notes 23/1, 1966) as a starting point, Fling provides us with a list of eight objectives: collect serious new books and current journals about music; collect well-edited practical editions and good recorded performances of standard musical repertoire and "new" music; collect scholarly critical editions and facsimiles; collect pedagogical and etude works to meet identified needs of users; collect materials to meet local research and performance needs; collect materials documenting local and regional music; collect anything else necessary to fulfill obligations in consortial or cooperative agreements; provide for removal of superseded editions if desired. Although still very close to the original model, Fling has done two things: he has updated and interpreted the principles and added comments and examples--which to me seem to relate quite strongly to the specific background of his former library--and he has put more emphasis on the collection of current materials, going as far as to omit any reference to collecting original materials. Fling clearly states that the objectives are aimed at larger music libraries and that "smaller libraries may be able to modify these objectives to meet more modest local needs" (p. 80). I would say that yes, smaller libraries will indeed need to modify, as would quite a few large libraries, the latter mostly because of the comments and examples added. I can imagine that some conservatoires, for example, might frown when reading that "a library should not be expected to purchase performance materials for a school's large ensembles". The rest of the chapter is devoted to useful tips on keeping current, on selection tools and on possible factors determining selection decisions (composer, editor, publisher, edition, format, audience, language, date, reissue/reprint, sets/series and price).
The book ends with chapters on "Associations and Societies" (partly internationally relevant), "Awards and Prizes" (very USA-focussed) and "Getting Help" (which includes everything that Fling found hard to fit in elsewhere). Those whose library collection development policy includes provisions for purchasing antiquarian music might by now have noticed this book won't provide any answers on that level. It is really aimed at staying current with and selecting new materials. If you want to know how to select a reprint of a score, this book is for you. If you need originals or generally out-of-print items, you'll have to look further (but not that much further because yes, the topic is discussed in Library Acquisition of Music, although admittedly from an acquisitions rather than a collection development angle).
As in any publication that provides selections of resources, part of the information will get out of date pretty quickly and there will always be some inexplicable omissions and details that one doesn't quite agree with. My personal one for this book is why-o-why is the International Association of Music Information Centres (IAMIC) only mentioned under "Getting Help" and not under "Associations and Societies"--or perhaps it would even deserve a little mention in the chapter about music publishing? It is impossible to please everyone and Fling has on the whole provided an excellent and useful cross-selection of resources, information and advice, all placed very efficiently in a relevant context. A must-have for any music library and music library trainees.
University of Cambridge