Using the Music Library

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In Volume 11 of SYMPOSIUM, a group of graduate students, many of whom have gone on to distinguished careers, discussed the topic "Undergraduate Preparation for Graduate Study in Music." Some of the comments made were: "[The undergraduate school] failed me by providing an inadequate library and neglected to introduce me to the riches contained in the available collection;"1 "I still shudder when I remember that I was working on a master's degree before I used some of the most basic reference works of music;"2 "The lack of experience in fundamental research is another oversight of my undergraduate training. Graduate schools usually include a bibliography course; could not at least some of the assignments and experience of this course be included in the basic history sequence?"3

A good question. I will endeavor to answer it in two ways: (1) by reviewing some of the current thinking on bibliographic instruction in higher education, and (2) by describing my personal experiences with some approaches to bibliographic instruction in music on the undergraduate level.

Librarians have been concerned with the issues posed by the graduate students for many years. Under the general rubric "library instruction" we can find articles and books dating back to the last century.4 However, the major changes in higher education which resulted from the various movements of the sixties, the post-war population explosion, the "information explosion" and automation of bibliographic services, the technological advances resulting in new media handled by libraries, and the growing popularity of independent study and Universities without Walls, bring an ever greater need for library instruction to enable students to use libraries effectively.

Most college and university libraries have prepared materials designed to encourage students to enter and use the general library. These range from tours, library orientation sessions, and self-guided instruction with audio-visual aids to credit courses in bibliography and library instruction. However successful some have been, the general feeling among librarians is that students are not yet making enough independent use of available facilities.5

Academic departments throughout the country have also been concerned about library instruction,6 and although there is great variation even within each college, bibliography courses and course-related bibliographic instruction are offered regularly on the undergraduate level in many institutions.7 Sometimes they are team-taught with a librarian, sometimes scheduled as laboratory hours, and sometimes integrated into the semester's work with the active cooperation and support of the library.

Music librarians have, of course, been interested in efficient and effective use of their collections, and many have prepared guides to their specialized facilities. However, daily experience with undergraduates confirms the fact that many valuable library sources remain untapped because students do not know they exist or do not use them effectively. The typical American undergraduate, whose frustration level is notoriously low, waits thirty minutes and receives the orchestra score of Der Rosenkavalier with German text, when he or she really wanted the piano-vocal score with English and German text. Such a student did not read the catalog card correctly and will probably avoid trying to take out music again. Indeed, many faculty members avoid the library because of lack of instruction in basic library techniques.

Unfortunately, very few music departments offer such instruction in music bibliography or library techniques at the undergraduate level; it is almost always restricted to graduate students. Manhattanville College, a small coeducational school with an active music department, does not now have required courses, but does require all students to demonstrate, before graduation, capacity to study independently, to prepare papers showing critical insight and evidence of research skills, and to compile an annotated bibliography using a variety of sources. The course I taught at Manhattanville was called Projects in Music and met in the music reading room of the library, so that materials could be examined immediately and in place.

Projects in Music was not a full-fledged music bibliography course; neither was it an introduction to musicology. Bibliography was viewed as a "tool," a "labor-saving device,"8 for undergraduate music majors specializing in music education, theory, history, or performance. Some of the topics covered were a comparative study of music dictionaries and encyclopedias including the major books in French, German, and Italian, basic periodicals (mainly in English), biographies (examination of and reports on biography, autobiography, memoirs, letters, and other primary sources), histories of music, thematic catalogs and how to use them, bibliographies and indexes of music (particularly important for performers and music education majors), and discographies.

A vital topic was the study of editions. Although our applied music faculty know and advise purchase of critical editions, too often this is not discussed, and students are not generally aware of the rationale which is involved in the choice (usually the most expensive).

In order to ensure that each student personally handled and examined the major sources, assignments and drills in using Duckles, Music Index, Rilm, Heyer, and other guides were given. The projects, which included such assignments as concert reviews, program notes, reviews of books and editions, annotated bibliographies, and a research paper, required the student to demonstrate knowledge of the appropriate reference sources.

Classes were small, and all information was shared. News of a fascinating article in an obscure journal or a translation of an important book was passed on with great excitement. In general, there was an air of cooperation engendered in the searches—an atmosphere which held throughout the week, not merely in class. Students were found to use the library and its sources more frequently for all their courses, music and non-music. The course was open to all students in the college and, from time to time, non-music majors who were interested in writing and research took it. Of all the music students who took the course, I would say that the performance and music education majors gained the most. Performers rarely have any formal exposure on the undergraduate level to basic reference works and materials on repertoire and performance practice. And the music education students, who will have the responsibility for selecting and purchasing music and books for the next generation of music students, are often neglected when bibliography is considered.

An undergraduate course in bibliographic instruction and research techniques is admittedly a luxury for hard-pressed music majors who must squeeze basic music skills and liberal arts courses into a four-year program. An alternative is, of course, to take time in the music history sequence, music education courses, or instrumental and vocal literature classes for regular instruction in use of basic reference sources, indexes and anthologies, and collections and catalogs and to develop criteria for evaluating books, editions, and recordings. It is not enough to offer a walk through the library. Students need the guidance of a faculty member who knows and uses the college library. Arthur P. Young cites a description of such a faculty member:

Library-impelling instructors shared certain common characteristics which included specific assignments, provision of specific titles or bibliographies, continual follow-up on library assignments, requirement that sources be cited in student papers, insistence upon high standards, and expression of their own fondness for books.9

When should bibliographic instruction be given? My feeling is that freshmen music majors should be encouraged to explore the library and its resources, but that they do not yet know what they need to know; sophomores and upperclassmen are the best candidates for a separate course and even for library instruction incorporated into other courses. Verna Melum Beardsley begins her article on library instruction with the question: "Are first-year students ready for library instruction? No! They do not realize the complexity of college and university libraries. . . . They will be self-motivated to seek or to listen to assistance only when problems arise in connection with their assignments."10

In those institutions where music bibliography is currently offered, it is often taught by the music librarian and generally at the graduate level. In recent informal discussions with instructors of such courses, it was found that there are a number of texts which are being used for both undergraduate and graduate courses.11 They are listed below.

Davies, J.H. Musicalia; Sources of Information in Music. 2nd ed. Elmsford, N.Y.: Pergamon Press, 1969.

A British view of the field with much practical information by the Music Librarian of the BBC.

Duckles, Vincent. Music Reference and Research Materials; An Annotated Bibliography. 3rd ed. New York: Free Press, 1974.

The indispensable book in music bibliography.

Emery, Walter. Editions and Musicians; A Survey of the Duties of Practical Musicians and Editors towards the Classics. London: Novello, 1957.

Really a pamphlet (55 pages) and twenty years old, but still a useful and basic text.

Helm, Eugene and Albert Luper. Words and Music; Form and Procedure in Theses, Dissertations, Research Papers, Book Reports, Programs, Theses in Composition. Hackensack, N.J.: Joseph Boonin, Inc., 1971.

Does not offer bibliographic sources, but the authors include helpful suggestions on writing about music, including the preparation of concert programs.

Irvine, Demar. Writing About Music; A Style Book for Reports and Theses. 2nd ed., rev. Seattle, Wash.: University of Washington Press, 1968.

Widely used and highly praised. Does not include sources, but has many helpful features, e.g., copious examples of footnotes and bibliography relating to many types of musical sources.

Mixter, Keith E. An Introduction to Library Resources for Music Research. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University, 1963.

Phelps, Roger P. A Guide to Research in Music Education. Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown, 1969.

See especially Chapter 4, "Obtaining Bibliographical Information."

Spiess, Lincoln Bunce. Musicology; A Reference Manual for Research in Music. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Institute of Medieval Music, 1963.

Watanabe, Ruth T. Introduction to Music Research. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1967.

Bibliographical sources are integrated into the text.

Among the more general guides to research and research sources, these texts have been found to be helpful:

Barzun, Jacques and Henry F. Graff. The Modern Researcher. 3rd ed. New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Jovanovich, Inc., 1977.

Mixter, Keith E. General Bibliography for Music Research. 2nd ed. Detroit: Information Coordinators, 1975.

O'Brien, Robert and Joanne Soderman, eds. The Basic Guide to Research Sources: How to Find What You Want Quickly and Easily in: Government and Private Sources, Books for Specialized Fields, Business, the Arts, the Sciences. New York: New American Library, 1975.

It is my hope that suggestions, comments, and questions on courses in music bibliography or courses which incorporate such instruction will be explored at future meetings of the CMS and in the pages of this journal.


1P. 30

2P. 38

3P. 40

4Thomas G. Kirk, "Problems in Library Instruction in Four-Year Colleges," in Educating the Library User, John Lubans, Jr., ed. (New York: R.R. Bowker, 1974), p. 83.

5See Library Orientation, Ann Arbor, Michigan: Pierian Press, 1972; articles by Young, Kirk, Lubans, et al, in Educating the Library User, and the unpublished Proceedings of the Manhattanville Conference on Bibliographic Instruction in Academic Libraries, Stefania Koren, ed., held June 10-11, 1976.

6I would like to acknowledge the help of Bernice Lacks, Head of Readers Services of the Vassar College Library for her suggestions and guidance as I began this article. Lacks has been active in promoting library instruction and has been working in cooperation with faculty members in many disciplines for a number of years.

7Earlham College has been a leader in this work. See Evan Ira Farber's article, "Library Instruction Throughout the Curriculum: Earlham College Program," in Educating the Library User, pp. 145-62.

8See Vincent Duckles,"The Teaching of Music Bibliography: A Consideration of Basic Text Materials," Notes XX/1 (winter 1962-63), pp. 41-44.

9Richard P. Hostrup, Teaching and the Community College Library (Hamden, Conn.: Shoestring Press, 1968), p. 161, as quoted in Arthur P. Young, "Research on Library-User Education," in Educating the Library User, p. 5.

10Verna Melum Beardsley, "Library Instruction in Colleges and Universities in the Seventies: A Viewpoint," in Educating the Library User, p. 111.

11I would like to thank Edward Colby, Stanford University; Lenore Coral, University of Wisconsin; Barbara Davis, California State University at Fullerton; Ruth Hilton, New York University; Helen Lightner, New York University; Bennet Ludden, Kent State University and Juilliard; David Ossenkop, SUNY-Potsdam; Marian Ritter, Western Washington State College; Phillip Sims, Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary; and Karl Van Ausdal, SUNY-Purchase for sharing their experiences with me.

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