Music libraries – good and bad news

Yorkshire Music Library’s new home; Norfolk Music Sets Service one year reprieve; Nottingham powering on; and what’s happening in West Sussex, and Stockport, too

Yorkshire Music Library:

Having closed down as part of parent company Fresh Horizons, a social enterprise, struggling financially, YML has been taken on by Leeds Libraries. Below, answers to some of your questions:

  • Will Inter Library Loans continue? Yes.
  • Will I still be able to borrow directly if my local authority no longer operates Inter Library Loans for music? This was part of the popularity of YML with its 1,100 users across the UK. The good news is that the answer is: yes!
  • Are Leeds Libraries physically moving the stock? Yes, it is being transferred from Huddersfield to Leeds Central Library where some of it will be open access on a new rolling stack, the rest will have to be retrieved by staff as it will be housed, still in the same building, but in closed access stacks.
  • Can I still see and reserve the stock online? Not at the moment – the catalogue is being transferred to the Leeds Libraries system (with around 300,000 items that takes some time…), and it is at present still unclear whether there will be an online reservation and/or payment system in future.
  • When will the service be back up and running? Leeds Libraries are currently dealing with backlog and satisfying existing reservations. Staff appreciate that groups are concerned and need to plan ahead, so they’re doing all they can to be up and running by the end of June.
  • How will I hear when it’s open for business again? You should hear directly from Leeds Libraries if you were previously a user; they are also planning to hold launch events; and we at Making Music will keep updating you, of course.

Norfolk Music Sets Service:

After an amazing meeting in March when many groups wrote to councillors and turned up for a meeting at County Hall, it has now been confirmed that the council will continue the music sets service for this financial year, to allow for a longer term solution to be developed. But…

  • The £10,000 direct costs of the music library need to be met this year. Some of that will be covered by hire charges, so encourage all groups in Norfolk to use the service as their first stop for music! For the rest, groups have now started energetically and successfully fundraising.
  • A Friends of the Norfolk Music Library group is in the process of being set up and will meet for the first time on Friday 3rd June. If you are able to get involved, contact us.
  • The longer term solution will possibly need investment and most definitely support from the council, so now is the time to befriend your local councillor, invite him or her to your events and explain to them how the music library is a crucial resource for your group.

Nottingham Performing Arts Library (NPALS):

The new service has been up and running for four months and is being well used. Do please spread the word to any groups in Nottingham/shire and Leicester/shire/Rutland that might not yet know of it – they can all benefit from the extended stock (combining Leicester & Nottingham) and the easy to use new online catalogue and reservation system.

And give feedback – they are keen to understand what’s working and what isn’t. This could be a model for other local authorities, so your feedback is particularly important!

You can register here:
You can find them on Facebook:
And of course follow them on Twitter: @NottmPALS

West Sussex:

West Sussex is currently the bad news. For many years, the council paid a subsidy to neighbouring Surrey County Council so that groups from West Sussex were able to use the services of the excellent Surrey Performing Arts Library. Crucially, this subsidy also bought West Sussex residents access to Inter Library Loans via Surrey PAL. This has now been lost.

The increased charges this will result in are obviously a concern, but, we feel, unavoidable – music sets are not a statutory service and do not have to be provided by councils; and the alternatives, namely hiring or buying from music publishers, are still far more expensive than even increased public library charges.
The Inter Library Loans are the real issue here. We have written to West Sussex and have received a response which indicates they are aware of the problem and very much trying to fight the groups’ corner. However, what you can do:

  • Write to your local councillor and explain what this means for you, that it is important that a solution is found, and why. Despite Surrey being a large resource (nearly 300,000 items, including the legacy funded Making Music resource, the Ethel Kirby collection), it remains vital for groups’ ability to survive and flourish that they have access to a wide repertoire – no musician or audience member wants to be confronted with the same music time and again.
  • Write to the West Sussex library service with that same information, it gives power to their elbow when negotiating:

Making Music will be taking follow-up action soon, and we’ll contact you if there is more information or any other action you can take. If you have relevant contacts in West Sussex or Surrey, then do please use them, and do please let us know.


Stockport has raised its charges for music sets loans, but they are maintaining access to Inter Library Loans. When we contacted them they clearly understood the significance of that service for amateur music groups. That’s the good news!

The danger here is that those of you who have previously used this service now stop using it due to the increase in charges. If you do, the result will be that when Stockport next review this service (increasingly regularly, I would have thought, due to budget pressures), support for it will seem to have dropped off, and therefore their obvious solution will be to close it down completely.

So: the public music library is still, even with raised charges, your best and cheapest access to music. Keep using it, keep supporting it, and keep telling the people in charge of it (not just librarians, but councillors, too!) how much you rate it. That way, hopefully, a future crisis is averted.