The Hybrid Music Library: User format preferences at Leeds College of Music Library

Megan Dyson

Megan Dyson

This post is a brief synopsis of my presentation at this year’s ASW on my MA dissertation research on the hybrid music library. The ‘hybrid library’ is defined as a library with a mix of traditional print collections and online resources.[1] There is also an expectation of integrated access to everything online via the OPAC.[2]

I used a mixed methods approach (combining qualitative and quantitative research methods) with three strands: 1) a usage data analysis of LMS and online resource data, 2) a user survey and 3) a benchmarking study to place the Library within the national context. The idea behind the research design was to investigate which formats users said they wanted (survey) and what they actually used (usage data). The scope of the study was limited to books, scores and audio.

The results showed that the hybrid music library is alive and well at LCoM. The overall stated preference in the survey was for physical resources. However scores was the only area of agreement between the datasets, in that most people preferred and used printed scores. Whereas the majority of survey respondents said they preferred print books, but students actually used print and e-books at similar rates.  Meanwhile, about half of survey respondents said they preferred online audio but CD use was much stronger than the online equivalent.

This research illuminated a few other issues. The mixed methods approach was effective at giving a detailed though ultimately conflicting picture of format preferences. Poor uptake of Library online resources is only a partial picture; anecdotal evidence and the literature suggest sizable unseen use, that is, use of non-Library platforms such as Spotify and YouTube.[3] Comparing print and digital resource use remains problematic.[4] Overall, the research has shown that information needs are highly nuanced, suggesting that maintaining a constant feedback loop with users should be a key concern for libraries today.

Megan Dyson 

Twitter: @MeganDyson3

[1] Pinfield, S., et al. (1998) ‘Realizing the Hybrid Library’, D-Lib Magazine. Available at: (Accessed: 2 February 2016).

[2] Breaks, M. (2002) ‘Building the hybrid library: a review of UK activities’, Learned Publishing, 15(2), pp. 99–107. doi: 10.1087/09531510252848854.

[3] Cf. Dougan, 2012; Lai, 2013; Matson and Shelley, 2013; Clark, 2014; Clark and Evans, 2015.

[4] Initiatives such as COUNTER and JUSP offers promise here as well as recent research (e.g. Knowlton, 2016; Fry, 2018).

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Advocacy for music services

The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that to advocate means to support, recommend, or speak in favour of a person or thing. This, I find, is a beautiful, simple and helpful definition. In the English speaking world in particular, the concept of advocacy currently tends to be interpreted as high level pro-active influencing of decision making.  

IAML’s international Advocacy Committee is aiming to do a bit of both so I was very pleased to have the opportunity to present a short session on Advocacy for music services at IAML (UK&Irl)’s Academic Music Librarians’ Seminar. The idea was to explore how and what we already do relating to advocacy, and where we could develop new and simple ways of speaking up for music services in the context of academic libraries (in the UK and Ireland, but basically also anywhere in the world that has a comparable structure of music higher education sector). 


First we need to think about what we are advocating for. On the one hand we have a fantastic treasure of musical works and information about musical works. On the other hand we have people needing access to musical works and information about musical works. In our current society there are many ways of getting from A to B. What we want to show the world, including the institutions we work in, is that the route from A to B via music collections and music information professionals remains essential and continues to provide good value for money and high standards of excellence.


So, at a local level, through what you do, are you making the most of your achievements through raising awareness?​ How and what should we measure to help us raise awareness and produce quantifiable data in the interest of policy making and fund raising? How can we best demonstrate the impact of music services and collections? Is there a role for music, performance and prominence in the context of advocacy for music services? Have you thought about your elevator pitch?

At the seminar, we had a good range of early and not-so early career professionals from universities and music conservatoires and they were asked, partly in the interest of being ready for the all-important elevator pitch, to think about how they would finish the following statement: “Music collections and music information professionals in academic libraries are essential because…”.

Our participants came up with a range of contributions, with the main emerging theme being specialist and expert music knowledge and of course the ability to read and understand the musical language. Most answers related to user services and reference enquiries, whilst others focussed on collection development and description and the knowledge of sources and collections. Some examples:

  • researchers expect musical literacy to some extent; researchers feel more confident in the value of the library when staff have musical background; students know they can ask you questions relating to music; staff with music expertise save readers time and help students and researchers find what they need quickly;
  • specialist support and collections lead to the development of future musicians and composers
  • understand what the user wants when the user may not be able to articulate their own questions fully (e.g. specific edition, format, key etc.); there are many formats and many editions and we can’t assume readers’ expertise; music resources are complex and confusing and need experts to de-code
  • musical knowledge enables and simplifies sensible decisions about acquisitions; a well-organised collection comes with knowledge and expertise; archives can be disorganised, awareness of resources and source materials not known to users

If you don’t quite agree with the “essential” part of the statement (the proportion of music specific enquiries and decision making will obviously vary depending on the context and the institution involved) please do feel free to tone down to “important” or even “helpful” and join the conversation by leaving comments on the blog.

We also briefly considered the following question: “If there was one thing you would do in relation to advocacy, what would it be?” Answers included:

  • Learn more about what to advocate for
  • Collect stories and enquiry numbers
  • More promotion of the services, don’t assume people/senior management already know; library training for academics
  • Raise awareness of the range of resources
  • Keep track of and in touch with alumni

What will you do?

Anna Pensaert

IAML, Advocacy Committee Chair

Cambridge University Library, Head of Music Collections

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Celebrating Make Music Day 2018

lme12 (002)lme1 - CopyMusic librarians across the country took part in Make Music Day 2018, on Thursday June 21st. These were just a few of the celebrations….

Westminster Music Library joined in the world-wide celebrations with a “Learn to play mandolin” workshop; which included a brilliant performance by the London Mandolin Ensemble.

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Meanwhile…Camden Libraries, supported by Camden Music Service marked the day with a visit to Kilburn Library Centre by Kingsgate Primary School Choir. Lunchtime users were entertained to popular melodies, including The lion sleeps tonight. Feedback from users was extremely positive and the choir have promised to come back at Christmas. More good news from Camden, when its newly elected Mayor named Camden Music Trust as her chosen charity. All Camden Music Services students had also had an earlier big day at the Royal Albert Hall in April.

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Kingsgate Primary School Choir celebrating Make Music Day 2018 at Kilburn Library Centre

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Spot the orange clad librarians celebrating Make Music Day 2018

The Gerald Coke Handel Collection celebrated Make Music Day 2018 with an afternoon concert at the Foundling Museum, which featured unpublished manuscripts from their collection. Olwen Foulkes gave a recital on recorders (of various sizes) accompanied on the lute by Toby Carr.  The music was interspersed with fascinating extracts from letters, diaries and reports from the 18th century performers and composers featured, who worked with Handel – including Pietro Castrucci, leader of Handel’s opera orchestra;  Handel’s trumpeter John Grano, who was also a recorder player; and James Paisible, professional cellist and virtuoso recorder player.

Olwen Foulkes

Olwen Foulkes

With thanks to Ruth Walters, Tom Kearns, and Katharine Hogg.

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These are competitive times

As I ease myself into my harness as IAML (UK & Irl)’s Performance Set officer, I thought I’d share some things I’ve been chewing over about the various forms of competition there are to the services we offer.

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Here in Birmingham, we’re quite new to charging for performance sets, having only been doing so for four years or thereabouts. Even so, some distinct trends have become apparent. While the number of orchestras borrowing has remained roughly the same, there has been an appreciable decline in the number of choirs, particularly small, community-based ones, and our concert band / big band / youth orchestra section now gets little use.

Orchestral sets

Here’s what we charge for borrowing instrumental sets. These are one-off charges, and the organisations don’t pay a subscription.

A piece is “short” if it is 20 minutes or less, and “long” if it is more than 20 minutes.
Duration Birmingham price Outside Birmingham price
Up to 20 minutes £10 £20
Over 20 minutes £20 £30
Concert band, big band, school orchestra £7 £10

We’re looking to add another price band for Premium sets which would add another £10 onto the ‘Long’ price.

The greatest decline in usage is for the shortest pieces. Unsurprising really, when you consider that £20 might almost buy a set of parts from Goodmusic. Shorter pieces are also quite attractive for orchestras to print off their own set from IMSLP or similar. And for conductors who are less fussy, some orchestras are using elderly Hawkes sets that they already own. Add in borrowing from other organisations, either locally or through Making Music’s system, and that’s a lot of competition. I’ve also had instances where wealthier organisations have spurned my Kalmus offerings (Mahler and Bruckner, for example) in favour of hiring a more urtext edition from a commercial source.

After several lean years, there was a proper budget allocation here last year, and I spent most of it replacing parts or buying new urtext sets to replace old, tatty versions. I’m very conscious that taking a hire charge for a set that’s held together with tape is not a recipe for a satisfied customer.

Choral sets

Here the situation is complicated by the charging system. Not a system of my devising, I hasten to add. We are hoping to change it to a charge per copy with a reduced charge for short pieces.

Short choral sets

A piece is “short” if it is 20 minutes or less, including vocal compilations.
Number of copies Birmingham price Outside Birmingham price
Up to 30 copies £10 £15
31 to 60 copies £20 £30
61 to 90 copies £30 £40
91 + copies £40 £60

Long choral sets

A piece is “long” if it is more than 20 minutes.
Number of copies Birmingham price Outside Birmingham price
Up to 30 copies £20 £30
31 to 60 copies £40 £60
61 to 90 copies £60 £90
91 + copies £80 £120

As you can see, it penalises small groupings who pay as much as a larger choir of thirty. And if any choir wishes to do a number of short, separate pieces, then the charges rack up quickly. This also exacerbates the problem of getting loans for short anthems and similar pieces. Although I’ve been reluctant to buy separate shorts, we do have quite a lot. Sometimes it was the only way of introducing a new composer. However, in the future, I shall be following the trend of only buying the larger publications of gathered together pieces.

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It is easy to download free choral music and it fits on a standard sheet of paper without being reduced in size. It also makes economic sense for choirs if it’s something they think will be used again. Making Music’s mutual loan arrangements are also an option. And private individuals who set themselves up as a vocal score hire library. Maybe I’m behind the times – I only discovered this option a couple of months ago. So I find myself with a number of titles which don’t get hired and are unlikely to be so. With pressure on space, those are the titles which are going to be discarded first. I’ve also found that loans of Christmas carol titles have plummeted, so those will be whittled down considerably.

Another pressure from choirs is for new titles – whether they’re to fill repertoire gaps or for recent publications. And of course, a substantial outlay may be required for a new set, particularly if like us, access to other collections isn’t possible to supplement the numbers. There are additional pressures from the demand for urtext editions, the need to replace copies, and also to increase the quantities of particularly popular sets. I’m also finding that some conductors have fixed ideas of which edition they’d like. There have been a couple of instances when we offered an urtext edition, only to be turned down because it wasn’t the urtext edition they had in mind.

In conclusion

From my experience, there is a pressing need to keep performance set collections relevant, in good condition, and as competitively priced as possible. This is easier said than done. It needs a manager who’s on board, funds, and the wherewithal to spend them sensibly. In other words, someone who knows what to buy and why, and access to a supplier who also understands what it is that you want. I am lucky that we are allowed to purchase printed music outside the buying consortium arrangements for the rest of our stock.

And yes, this is only one of the challenges we face, but it is an important one, and one we ignore at our peril.

I would be very interested in your responses, either via the IAML list, by commenting on here, or to

Anne Elliott, Performing Sets Officer, IAML UK & Irl., Music Library, Library of Birmingham

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New music library for Leeds’ cultural quarter

leeds-1 In 2017, Leeds College of Music will be moving their music library to the Quarry Hill Skyline building, dramatically increasing the resources available to their students, and opening up their impressive facilities to the public.

The new library will house Leeds College of Music’s huge vinyl archive and music collection, which includes over 30,000 items of printed music, 11,000 CDs, 700 DVDs and 9,000 LPs, as well as around 8,000 books. The two-storey development will also contain student learning spaces, staff offices, quiet and meeting rooms and I.T. and communications facilities.

The conservatoire has always been a key player in the Leeds cultural scene, championing relevant and innovative music education since its inception in 1965. Giving the public access to its unique music resource and enhancing Leeds’ creative resources was a significant focus of the project.

“The conservatoire already boasts numerous industry-standard studios, Mac labs, practice rooms and performance spaces, and is continually investing in resources for students and visitors” said Principal and MD, Gerry Godley. “In order to remain a leading player in the UK’s music education marketplace, it is critical that our facilities remain cutting edge and enhance our diverse and innovative offer. This new home for our library, and the creation of an additional stimulating place to study, will play a key part in achieving this. As part of our aim to be a centre of creative discovery for Leeds, I’m delighted that we’ll also be able to share our extensive collections with music lovers throughout the city.”

DarntonB3 Architecture is once again working with Leeds College of Music to devise and deliver a bespoke learning environment focused on enhancing the already exceptional student experience delivered at the conservatoire. Building on the successful working relationship developed during the realisation of the 2015 regional RIBA award-winning new entrance at Leeds College of Music’s Quarry Hill campus, the team have collaborated to create a dynamic design that represents the ethos and aspirations of the conservatoire.

DarntonB3 Director, Keith Hardcastle commented, “It is great to be involved in the development of such an exciting and important facility on behalf of Leeds College of Music. We have re-employed the same design principles that we applied to our previous award-winning project for the conservatoire and will focus all our skills on achieving the same high quality end result for this scheme.“

leeds-2Quarry Hill has become known as the Cultural Quarter in Leeds, and includes noteworthy cultural organisations such as the BBC, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Northern Ballet, Phoenix Dance and Munro House Arts Centre. LCoM moved to its current location in 1997 and The Venue, the conservatoire’s main performance space opened in 2003. The Skyline building opened in 2009 and comprises a 16-storey block providing a mixture of luxury apartments, but the ground floor has, until now, remained vacant. Having now secured planning permission, construction of the library will commence in January 2017, with completion anticipated for June 2017.

[EDITOR] : Leeds College of Music is the largest music conservatoire in the UK and offers Higher Education provision in Classical Music, Jazz, Popular Music, New Music, Folk Music, Songwriting, Film Music, Music Production and Music Business, as well as Further Education courses, short courses for adults and children and a Saturday Music School for young musicians.

The conservatoire also hosts a year-round schedule of events and performances, covering a broad variety of musical genres. Workshops and masterclasses are delivered by world-renowned industry professionals and performances from internationally-acclaimed artists feature alongside the conservatoire’s ensembles.

DarntonB3 Architecture is an architecture-led multi-disciplinary consultancy providing services throughout the UK and internationally. The firm has 9 UK offices and a further representative office in Dubai, UAE. Clients range across public and private sectors and the firm works on all scale of project.

For further information, images and interview requests please contact: Anna Keogh, Head of Marketing & Communications –

Anna Keogh

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Philosophy, astrology and… Christmas lists?

Interesting posting from the Holst Project Archivist.

holst archive project

Nobody panic- despite the title, this is not an (exceptionally early) festive post!

I had no idea that it was possible to observe, understand, and come to know, so many sides of one person through only one medium, until now. This is exactly what I have encountered in my first couple of weeks as the new Holst Project Archivist, engrossed in the task of cataloguing Gustav Holst’s notebooks and engagement diaries.

While to the eye, they appear as nothing special, simply every day notebooks, once tucked into a back pocket, these hastily, (and often scruffily) jotted records actually provide an invaluable insight into the man behind them, and also the man behind some of the most well-known English musical compositions of all time.

In Imogen Holst’s biography of her beloved father, Ralph Vaughan Williams contributes a poignant memory of a friend and contemporary:

Though he seemed sometimes to be living…

View original post 313 more words

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Happy New Year!

For academic librarians throughout the UK and Ireland it’s the start of another academic year. Over the next few weeks we’ll see lots of eager new faces, often looking slightly scared along with worried looking final years. Some of the librarians are looking pretty worried too as they start library induction tours and talks; and plan user education. How can we make sure new readers appreciate the importance of our collections, and know what a library can do for them? Then there are all the complexities of library life – self-issue desks, the essential do’s and don’t’s, how do you find what you need? Most of all – DON’T BE SCARED OF THE LIBRARIAN! (We’re nice honest! We hug trees, bake cakes, and get a kick out of helping our readers).

I recently came across a wonderful video courtesy of Liverpool University Library, which got me thinking about novel ways to introduce readers to library life. Here are just a few innovative videos – an inspiration for library user education everywhere…

Of course we all know that despite being tree huggers (books are made out of them, after all) a librarian is always ready to spring into action, as another take on self-issue borrowing from the University of Stirling demonstrates…

As far as library tours are concerned, there are several routes you can follow. Some libraries give in-depth online tours. These are great if you have time to watch them. Some, like the University of Bedford do “Just a minute” tours, which give a brief but thorough over-view. Others, like Anglia Ruskin in Cambridge, go for a slightly different, but memorable approach.

Western University has a great range of short films, many featuring animation, on all aspects of research life. We may not all be artists, but these certainly gave me some food for thought.

The University of Minnesota has put together a great short video, making the most of their students, and the questions that they’ve asked. Part tour, part library informational, it’s simple but also memorable. (Also did you know that Minnesota has one of the largest Sherlock Holmes collections in the world?)

Many thanks to all the libraries who’ve produced some wonderful videos. They’ve certainly given this particular librarian lots of ideas.

Happy academic year to all my fellow academic librarians.

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