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Music in the National Library of Scotland.

Brief historical overview

The National Library of Scotland (NLS) (2) is one of the earliest and largest legal deposit libraries in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland (3), and the largest research library in Scotland. While its history dates back to the beginnings of the Library of the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh of 1689, NLS was founded as a national library in 1925. It is in an unusual position as a national library of a devolved (4) 'nation' within a larger country, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Historically Scotland has been an independent country with very different legal and education systems and a distinctive culture. With the union of the crowns in 1603, James VI of Scotland became James I of England, the two countries sharing one king over the following century. Through the Act of Union in 1707 they became one country, though Scotland held on to its separate structures, especially in the legal and education systems. The Queen Anne Act (5) of 1710 gave nine libraries the right to acquire a free copy of all print publications. Five of the nine were Scottish: the Library of the Faculty of Advocates (now National Library of Scotland) and the four universities in Scotland (St. Andrews, Aberdeen, Glasgow, and Edinburgh). The remaining four libraries were English: the British Museum (now British Library), Oxford and Cambridge University libraries, and the Library of Sion College, London. In 1801, Trinity College Dublin received rights to Legal Deposit following the Act of Union connecting Ireland and Great Britain. This right remained after the Republic of Ireland was established in 1922. In 1911, when a new legal deposit act came into force, the National Library of Wales was founded and received legal deposit status. Today there are six legal deposit libraries in the UK and Ireland receiving print and some electronic publications published or issued in the two countries: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, Cambridge University Library, the British Library, National Library of Wales, National Library of Scotland, and Trinity College Dublin. The National Library of Ireland was initially established by the Dublin Science Museum Act 1877 becoming an autonomous cultural institution in 2005 under the National Cultural Institution Act, 1997. (6) Its rights are restricted to the receipt of publications issued in the Republic of Ireland. The right to legal deposit differs slightly between the British Library and the other legal deposit libraries: the former has an automatic right to a free copy whereas the other libraries have a right to claim a free copy within 12 months of publication. Today the other five deposit libraries employ an agency, the Agency for Legal Deposit Libraries, to administer claiming and distribution on their behalf.

Later developments to note are the legal deposit extension to electronic publications and discussions on extension to online publications. Sound recordings are still explicitly excluded from legal deposit legislation.

The role of the National Library of Scotland

The role of the National Library of Scotland today is summarised in its mission statement: (7)

* Enrich lives and communities

* Encourage and promote lifelong learning, research and scholarship

*Provide universal access to information by comprehensively collecting and making available the recorded knowledge of Scotland

* Promote access to the ideas and cultures of the world.

The Library is open to anyone who cannot access material elsewhere and its user base has widened considerably over past decades so that it now ranges from schoolchildren to pensioners and from personal researchers to academic scholars.

NLS's unusual position due to Scotland's devolved status frequently raises the question whether it is more akin to a national library of a small country or the state or regional library of a large country. Neither is the case. Scotland is not a sovereign country and NLS is not 'the' national library of the UK. NLS is not a state library, either, as its legal deposit is not restricted to material published in Scotland. Collecting has taken place on a large scale going back several centuries resulting in a relatively large 'national' collection for such a small country. Major challenges face the library today, as funding structures are devolved and very limited. Shared funding bids across library sectors or, in the UK's case, across the different devolved nations are often hampered by eligibility issues relating to the different funding sectors.

In a recent report on the future of national libraries, Thriving or Surviving, (8) published by NLS in 2010, the NLS is viewed in the context of national libraries in 'Small Smart Countries'. (9) The comparison works well in many aspects but the main distinction is that NLS is set up on a smaller scale than the 'main' national libraries of smaller countries, while collecting takes place on a larger scale as it is not restricted to Scotland with its limited published output but actually covers the published output of two countries (the UK and the Republic of Ireland). Hence its collections are much larger and require more resources to be processed and made accessible through cataloguing and digitisation.

Several aspects of modern librarianship discussed in Thriving or Surviving are very relevant to music libraries: cataloguing and metadata creation in particular. Appendix A to the report contains a document by Simon Tanner (10) on technological trends and developments and discusses recent changes in the concepts relating to cataloguing: managing containers, content and context. Each of these have long featured in the cataloguing of music, where not only publication details are described but also the musical work is identified and put into context with other works and related persons. Music information retrieval has for a long time investigated alternative ways of searching for music information for different types of users.

Interest in NLS's sound recording collections has increased over recent years, perhaps partly due to the merger of the Scottish Screen Archive with NLS. The lack of legal deposit for this material has prevented NLS from building a comprehensive archive of Scottish sound recordings but major donations of significant collections have helped to create a good basic archive. However, NLS cannot claim to possess a 'national sound archive'. There are more extensive collections of national importance in other archives and libraries in Scotland, none of which have national collection status. One example of a significant sound archive is that in the School of Scottish Studies Archive of the University of Edinburgh, covering a wide range of topics including oral history, music and language. The question of a national sound archive for Scotland has become increasingly important. In 2009, NLS, in conjunction with the Scottish Council on Archives, ran a consultation exercise to investigate stakeholders' views on national sound provision in Scotland. The consultation concluded that a national sound archive should be established, led by a national organisation but building on existing strengths of collections and expertise in the various archives and libraries that hold collections of national importance.

Music Collecting in the National Library of Scotland

In regard to music collecting in the NLS one has to look back at its history. (11) The Faculty of Advocates, whilst interested in music in general, did not pursue legal deposit of music as vigorously as they had with books. Music was probably perceived to be of general cultural importance but was not given the same priority as books. The history of music collecting and processing is summarised in the tercentenary publication For the Encouragement of Learning:
 The processing of music had long been recognised as a problem.
 Historically, a committee of the Faculty of Advocates had
 undertaken its arrangement and cataloguing. For a period after the
 transfer to the nation, music accessions lay in unopened parcels,
 until the Library was able to draw on the services of a group of
 volunteers. In the 1950s, it became possible to assign permanent
 curatorial staff to the task, and after the Map Room moved... in
 1974, the old Map Room was re-designed for use as a music reading
 room... (12)

The following quarter of a century was the golden era of the NLS Music Collections with relatively good staffing levels that allowed the creation of very useful specialist finding aids beyond the usual catalogues. Scottish tune indexes have proved particularly popular with users, whether amateur or professional musicians, students or senior academic scholars. Work on these indexes has, for example, resulted in Charles Gore's Fiddle Tune Index (13) and the online publication of the Scottish Song Index Pilot Database. (14) Sadly, the golden era came to end in 1997 when the music reading room was closed and members of staff retired without being replaced. In the last decade, the Music Collections and its activities have developed in new fields despite fewer resources: the building of a respectable sound recording collection, initial steps towards archival sound preservation, and participation in collaborative projects on a national (e.g., Concert Programmes Project) (15) and international (e.g., EASAIER) (16) level.

Day-to-day activities in the Music Collections include enquiries, dealing with reproduction orders, acquisition and cataloguing, advising on copyright, outreach (advising outside bodies and libraries, putting on displays, exhibitions, participating in road shows, giving talks and producing information through print and online guides, articles etc.), digitisation, professional activities (IAML, IASA, BISA), special projects like CPP, EASAIER, NLS Scottish Song Index, and the current mass digitisation project (see below).

The Glen and Inglis Collections Mass Digitisation Project

In 2010, music was for the first time included in a mass digitisation programme in the National Library of Scotland. Two of the most significant antiquarian collections, the Glen and Inglis collections, were chosen as they included major historical Scottish music publications with a high proportion of out-of-copyright material. From the outset, it was clear that not all volumes would be suitable for mass digitisation as a considerable proportion would be too tightly bound, too fragile, or outsized to be handled in a mass digitisation setting. The project was therefore split into two: onsite mass digitisation through an external company, Internet Archive (IA); and in-house digitisation. The major activity in preparation for scanning was the creation of catalogue records and metadata. Metadata for in-house digitisation in NLS is created via the Digital Objects Database (DOD), which is based on Dublin Core. The DOD is set up to allow complex hierarchical record structures and detailed metadata creation. For mass digitisation the approach was slightly different as bibliographic data was imported from the main online catalogue, mass-processed by IA, and the resulting metadata automatically loaded into the DOD for later in-house upgrading. Digitised images with very basic metadata appear on the IA website within days of scanning while the import of images and upgrade of metadata records in the DOD take much longer. Mass-production of metadata means that processes have to be simplified and automated. One of the features to note in the IA metadata record is the use of any related name heading in the catalogue for the author when there is no main author heading present in the catalogue record. In many cases it is former owners who feature as authors.

The following example shows a DOD record ingested directly via IA (see illustration 1). It shows the initial title element appearing as the title with the remaining title elements and statement of responsibility in the description field. The notes field contains internal notes of the IA id and bibliographic notes. This top part of the DOD record relates to the top level of the hierarchical structure, the physical volume and its content which is always presumed to be one. Hence at children level you see the first record being a scan of the complete book (i.e. book cover) followed by children records for each page in the book. Blank pages are also scanned but in this automated process every page is called [NLSBLANK]. With the upgrade these child records will have titles relating to the page (see Illustration 4).





Composite music volumes presented a major challenge in this project as IA operated on a single Parent-Child hierarchy whereas internally composite volumes could be dealt with through 'grandparent' (physical composite music volume), 'parent' (publication), 'child' (page) and 'grandchild' (image copies) hierarchies.

The basic principle of IA mass scanning is to scan complete physical volumes irrespective of content. For composite music volumes containing unrelated bibliographic titles this usually means that the first bibliographic title would be the title for all items in the volume.

This could be rectified by creating a suppressed composite music volume record in the main catalogue that would be used by IA, together with records of all the bibliographic titles contained in the composite volume (see Illustration 2).

Whilst the DOD record directly ingested via IA would present parent-child levels with minimal information, these could be further edited at a later stage to include grandparent and grandchild levels, as with full internal scanning DOD records (see Illustration 3).

The following example featuring The Edinburgh Musical Miscellany of 1793 shows the catalogue record used by IA for metadata creation as well as images as they appear in the IA (see Illustrations 5, 6, and 7). The first 200 volumes of the Glen Collection have recently been made available through the IA website (<>) and the images will gradually appear in the NLS digital archive (<>) with upgraded metadata records facilitating better searching. The digitisation project has proved an excellent opportunity to not only create online access to full text content but also to create online catalogue records for parts of the Glen and Inglis collections that have not yet been fully retroconverted. These activities fit in with the current NLS strategy for 2011-14 particularly in terms of connectivity, improving access through better search facilities, as well as direct remote access to material. (17)




Almut Boehme (1)

(1.) Almut Boehme is Head of Music at the National Library of Scotland.

(2.) For information on NLS see For the Encouragement of Learning, ed. Patrick Cadell and Ann Matheson (Edinburgh: HSMO, 1989).

(3.) UK legal deposit extends to the Republic of Ireland due to the Act of Union of 1801 at which time Trinity College Dublin was made the Irish legal deposit library. This historic arrangement extends to this day and both countries benefit from receiving the publishing output of two countries.

(4.) Devolution can be defined as the statutory granting of powers from central government of a sovereign state to a government at sub-national level. This is not guaranteed in a constitution as with the federal system and central government can still change the terms of devolved powers. For further information see the article on devolution in

(5.) An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by Vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or Purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned (London: Printed by the Assigns of Thomas Newcomb, and Henry Hills, 1710).

(6.) See <>

(7.) <>

(8.) <>

(9.) Over the last four years an informal group for small national libraries called 'Small Smart Libraries' has developed in connection with the IFLA National Libraries Section. (See the minutes of the meetings of the IFLA National Libraries Section Standing Committee on 24 August 2007 and 22 August 2009)

(10.) Simon Tanner, Technological Trends and Developments and their Future Influence on Digital National Libraries (London: KDCS, 2009).

(11.) For information on NLS Music Collections in some detail see Roger Duce et al, The National Library of Scotland: Music manuscripts and special collections of printed music', Fontes artis musicae 47/1 (2000), pp. 3-9.

(12.) Cadell and Matheson, For the encouragement of Learning, p. 284-85.

(13.) The Scottish Fiddle Music Index: Tune Titles from the 18th & 19th Century Printed Instrumental Music Collections, List of Indexed and Related Collections and Where to Find Them, Index to Numerical Musical Theme Codes, edited by Charles Gore (Musselburgh: Amaising Publishing House, 1994).

(14.) <>

(15.) <>

(16.) <>

(17.) National Library of Scotland. Connecting knowledge. Edinburgh: NLS, 2010. < 2014-strategy.pdf></FNT>
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Author:Boehme, Almut
Publication:Fontes Artis Musicae
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EUUS
Date:Jul 1, 2011
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