You may have noticed a few of the librarians missing from RML back at the beginning of the March. Where were we, you ask? Cincinnati (as you may have guessed from the title of this)! But why?
For almost every group, there is a professional organization that brings folks together from across the country or even the world in a lot of cases. For us, there is the Music Library Association. (Internationally we’ve got IAML—the International Association of Music Libraries—but we won’t be talking about them right now.) You might be surprised to hear, but there are quite a few dedicated, innovative music librarians across the country and world that help to serve the musical community near and far. Think of MLA and IAML as the ICA (International Clarinet Association) or DRS (Double Reed Society) of your musical information world.
Once yearly, this intrepid group of librarians gathers together for a week of presentations, seminars, and discussions to share with one another the latest developments and exciting projects in the field with topics ranging from cataloging and technical services (enhancing the way you find the scores, books, and recordings you need) to instruction and public outreach (the classroom teaching and special events we bring to you). It’s a chance for people in the field to get together, establish important connections, and propel things forward into the next year and beyond.
This year, the convention was held in Cincinnati and Denise Green and I (Patrick Fulton) traveled down as the representatives for CIM. The adventure started on Wednesday night with everyone arriving to the Hilton in downtown Cincinnati (which is like a beautiful art deco palace, I might add). One of my favorite aspects of these conventions (this being my second time going) is getting to connect with new people and reconnect with friends and colleagues. There’s something incredibly heartening knowing that so many talented musicians and scholars dedicate their careers to this field. While a lot of their work may be behind the scenes, there are really wonderful folks out there working hard for their institutions and musicians everywhere.
Things really kicked off on Thursday morning when the official sessions started going. Each morning of the convention started off with a plenary session—a meeting with broad appeal to the entire convention—which is a great chance for everyone to come together at once before breaking off into smaller sessions and committee meetings. I know this might not sound terribly exciting by the description, but there is always such a wide offering of topics, everyone finds something to suit their interests. The plenaries this time around focused on topics of diversity and linked data. Both are important elements to the organization: the first about sustaining the integrity of our membership and making sure that we are representative of the broader population and the second, discussing the many ways in which data links together all of the information out in the broader world. Like the plenary sessions, the smaller sessions that follow are made by our fellow librarians and archivists in the field discussing their work. In this way, we get a chance to meet and hear from folks in the field to develop best practices for what we do back at our home institutions.
The conference isn’t all business, however! These gatherings are also an opportunity for vendors of music products and services to showcase their newest developments. Among the most interesting products to be introduced was the Open Music Library from Alexander Street Press (openmusiclibrary.org). This ambitious effort on the part of ASP is an attempt to link together the various musical sources across the web to provide linked access to information, recordings, scores, etc. While it is a work in progress, the possibility of having a fully linked world of musical sources is very exciting to watch. Many of our favorite well-known companies were present as well, such as Oxford, RILM, Met on Demand, and many others!
The proceedings wrap up on Saturday night at the conference with an all-member MLA business meeting followed by a reception for all attendees, both of which are excellent experiences. At the meeting we discuss happenings in the last year, remember those who have passed, and honor members with official awards for outstanding service, publications, and initiatives. The reception features the time-honored tradition of the performance by the MLA member big band as well as individual performers in attendance. There’s food, socializing, and my personal favorite feature of the conference: getting to see the surprisingly awesome dancers that we have (though some of us refrain from participating in that aspect!).
All in all, it was an excellent year at the MLA national conference. It was a great chance to experience new innovations, work with our colleagues, and explore the awesome city that is Cincinnati. And don’t worry, we made sure to hit up Skyline Chili before we left. It wouldn’t be a Cincinnati trip without it!
For even more photos from our adventures, check out the RML Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cimmusiclibrary/