Many Making Music members recently took part in a nationwide survey of music library service users, carried out by Dr Michael Bonshor (University of Sheffield), which was circulated alongside a survey of music library staff. The survey was designed to find out how music libraries are being used, and to explore ways in which library services could be developed in future.
The survey was commissioned by the Music Libraries Trust. Survey respondents provided detailed commentary on current services and resources, and some well-considered suggestions about possible future developments.
The online surveys were completed by 551 music library service users and 45 music library staff. Most music library users valued the current services and resources, and particularly appreciated the cost-effectiveness, convenience, and quality provided.
"Some people recognised the convenience of online systems for finding and ordering music. However, others were not confident about using unfamiliar online systems, and felt that they needed more support with this."
It was widely acknowledged that, without music libraries, many amateur groups would find it difficult to access affordable printed sets of music. Many library users were apprehensive about the implications of technological developments, including the digitisation of sheet music, and worried that the availability of printed music might be limited in future.
Some people recognised the convenience of online systems for finding and ordering music. However, others were not confident about using unfamiliar online systems, and felt that they needed more support with this. More information about the available services and resources was requested by many of the library users.
Music library users and staff noted variations in local music library services. They agreed that online catalogues and ordering systems need updating more frequently and called for more co-ordination of resources on a national basis.
Dr Michael Bonshor (University of Sheffield) led the research
Library users appreciated the helpfulness of music library staff. However, specialist music librarians are not employed in every library, so service users and staff members suggested that musical training might be helpful for some of the non-specialist staff.
Music library users were concerned about recent reductions in services, such as the limited availability of interlibrary loans, deterioration in some of the printed stock, and music library closures in some areas. Concerns were expressed about the sustainability of music library services, and pleas were made for their continued availability.
There was a widespread awareness of the impact of funding limitations, and a sense that action is needed to address this. It is hoped that this research will help to spread the word about the services and resources available in music libraries, and that some of the findings could be used to lobby for additional funding.
To learn more about the project, visit the Music Libraries Trust website
To find out how you can support the future of music libraries, join our free online event on 26 March