Blowing our own trumpet : collecting contemporary music

Blowing our own trumpet : collecting contemporary music
31 August 2010

Hello from the Music Unit! Our unit was created in 2008 after it was decided that the Library’s music collection would benefit from the creation of a dedicated cataloguing and acquisitions team. Until then maps and music had been acquired and catalogued by the same team. However, because of the particular challenges posed in developing, describing and managing those different collections, maps and music have since had an amicable divorce. There are only five staff members in the Music Unit so we’re proud of the achievements we’ve made since 2008, particularly in regard to developing our contemporary Australian collection. Last year we acquired about 1,200 new Australian items which is about double what we have achieved previously. This is significant because identifying and purchasing contemporary Australian music takes considerable effort and involves a lot of looking under rocks. Unlike purchasing mainstream books — which is generally done through library suppliers and is therefore very efficient — music usually has be tracked down and bought directly from a multitude of individual publishers and other sources, so we spend a lot of time working with, and talking to, those publishers and vendors. We also need to keep abreast of new trends, publications and publishers in the Australian music environment so we spend a lot of time scanning music journals, publication lists, and establishing relationships within the music community wherever possible. Of course it’s a particular challenge to find small publishers, especially since many self-publishers don’t think of themselves as ‘publishers’ or expect their work to be widely distributed. We therefore also continue to promote the Legal Deposit scheme, which requires publishers to deposit a copy of their work with us, as small and self publishers are often not aware of that publishers are required to do that. Again, we are pleased that last year we received about double the number of legal deposit items we have achieved previously. We also administer the ISMN (International Standard Music Number) Agency, which provides unique identification numbers for new Australian music publications. Publishers apply to us for free ISMNs for their publications and the details of each item are logged in a dedicated database. This database helps us to acquire new Australian music items, and it can be of benefit to publishers in promoting their work. Here is a glimpse at a typical moment in the National Library's music unit.

A day in the Music Unit

A day in the Music UnitCreative Commons Attribution NonCommercial