Music libraries

Music libraries, a crucial resource for many leisure-time music groups, are under threat in many local authorities. What is Making Music doing and what can you do? 

'Music libraries' refers to a service providing sheet music in multiple copies through the public library system, including requesting additional copies from libraries across the UK via the Inter Library Loans system (just as you would with books). The service is usually chargeable, but at a moderate rate which is affordable for leisure-time music groups, generally small, volunteer-run and self-financed charities.

What are the issues?

In recent years local authorities have struggled financially. When they have reviewed their library services, they have often cut music libraries first – they are not a statutory service (i.e. they are not legally obliged by government to provide this service), and many also don’t understand the significance of this service for their communities.

But our members tell us they source around 45% of their music from music libraries; and for every registered music library user, there is a music group of an average 57 participants benefitting, plus their audiences of an average 3.5 concerts a year to an average 175 attendees. So, every registered music library user represents approximately 670 local voters – a large enough number for local councillors to take note of. 

But there are also wider UK challenges: why is there not a UK catalogue of all these materials available to users so they can undertake their own research and track down the music they need? Why can these materials not be reserved, booked and paid for online? What happens when a local authority decides to close the service – where do the materials go (in some cases, in a skip)?

What is Making Music doing?

Local issues 

When members alert us to proposed changes or closures to music library services in their area, we can intervene to facilitate a discussion with council officers or help groups create a local campaign. 

The aim is to find financially sustainable and future-proof solutions which work for users and local authority. Over the past eight years, we have been able to help bring about positive outcomes in a number of areas including Yorkshire, Bristol, Dorset, Norfolk, Trafford and Surrey. 

If there is an issue in your area, please contact us ASAP so that we can help. 

UK-wide issues

We have been working with other organisations to understand how the wider context could be improved, relieving pressure on local authorities and empowering users to manage their borrowing more directly. 

As part of that process, the Music Libraries Trust, in partnership with Making Music and the UK and Ireland branch of IAML (the International Association of Music Librarians) have now produced a vision document, which gives background to the issue, records the current state of play and outlines what a sustainable future could look like.

Download our Music Libraries Vision below and share it.



If your local music library services are under threat, let us know so that we can help.