Music libraries campaigns update and Yorkshire Music Library news

Music libraries continue to be under threat as local authorities struggle financially, and the Yorkshire Music Library has closed, only four years into its new management arrangements.

Local authorities are implementing cuts of unprecendented scale for the financial years 2016/7 and music libraries continue to be targets, most recently in Norfolk, where the Music Sets Service costs £10,000 per year.

Norfolk Music Sets service - saved for now

Making Music and music groups in the county took up arms – well, pens, keyboards and telephones – successfully: the county has now agreed a stay of execution, provided groups work with officers on developing a long-term financially sustainable solution, and that some short-term fundraising is undertaken to buy the time to negotiate and implement such a model.

For further information, see the letter from the Head of Libraries or contact

Yorkshire Music Library - closed for now

Not such good news in Yorkshire where the parent company of the Yorkshire Music Library (YML), the social enterprise Fresh Horizons, went into liquidation last week, with the result that YML closed and its staff, the splendid Sophie Anderson and her assistant, were made redundant.

We have been inundated with letters of support since then from groups in Yorkshire and further afield, some of the 1,100+ users of this amazing resource, the single largest collection of performance sets in the UK, and therefore of great significance for amateur music as a whole.

As we understand it, the Society of Chief Librarians Yorkshire and Humberside – the legal custodians of the stock which originally came from 15 different local authorities – are fully aware of the repercussions of the closure and are working hard on finding a solution which will continue to make this wonderful resource available to all. We will update you as soon as we know what that solution may look like.

In the meantime, if you have a query about a reservation you made or about returning material, as an interim measure you may contact the music library in Leeds on and staff will hopefully be able to assist you.

Birmingham - re-opened

Birmingham has re-opened, but no longer operates Inter Library Loans and has much reduced staffing (though better than none, which was the proposal in last year’s local authority budget until hundreds of groups wrote in!).  And Henry Watson in Manchester, once a much-lauded facility for groups, have not reprised Inter Library Loans for performance sets since opening last year, thus reducing their usefulness to groups. Plus: pick-ups in central Manchester only? Urgh.

What you can do right now, for all music libraries?

  • Support them by becoming a user, if you aren’t already. This will help make the case to officers and elected representatives.
  • Tell us if there is a consultation on libraries or music sets services in your area or if unhelpful changes are being implemented – working together, we really can make a difference!
  • Talk to your local councillor, invite them to your events and explain what your group does for individuals, for the community, for the next generation – and how the music library is vital for you. Then that elected member will understand the issues when the music library – or other crucial resources, e.g. venues - are debated by the council.


This is a calamity for choirs around Yorkshire. Choir librarians have a tough job finding unusual and challenging loan music for their MDs and this has just made it even tougher.

I was shocked and saddened to get Sophie's E-mail informing me of the situation. We can only hope that Leeds will take on the collection and that those of us outside Yorkshire will be able to continue borrowing from an extremely valuable resource.

I was horrified to learn of the sudden closure of Yorkshire Music Library. We are a choir in East Sussex but have used this excellent service for many years. Sophie and Elliott have always been very knowledgeable and helpful. All our music for the coming summer term was on order from them and I have spent the last couple of weeks trying to gather enough copies together via Making Music. Societies vary hugely on how well they respond. Some do not respond at all! I am also a retired librarian and know only too well how devastating public cuts have been. I worked for Kent for over 40 years and now they have virtually no professionally qualified librarians in what is the largest county in the country. I very much hope this hige public resource will somehow be saved and will bo back under public control. Sheila West. Crowborough east Sussex

The current music library storage and hire model is not working for individual libraries in UK, especially when music libraries are being singled out for cuts and/or closure.
Is anyone seeking a solution on a regional or national level as all individual libraries are vulnerable?
Location of a storage and hire facility in high cost retail environment is not needed (or wanted). Storing as images for download or physical hire from a lower cost site seems to be a way forward.
I do not think this will immediately segue to click tracks and streaming of music scores, but I do expect libraries to offer an online music hire resource to support live music making.