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Gifts: Not Always a Seasonal Event

That’s right, it’s December, and no doubt you’re all busy with your holiday shopping and making a list of naughty and nice. As with many libraries, the NLS Music Section is no different than others when it comes to receiving gifts.  Frequently, braille music patrons, and sometimes other institutions will contact us and ask if they can donate their personal collection or unwanted/unneeded scores.

99.99% of the time we respond with a jubilant Yes! Back in the day before digitization, we would purchase braille music scores produced by the major braille music publishers, foreign and domestic, and we would buy a specific number of copies, say five.  Since we serve the nation, the only way we can send these scores is by U.S. mail via free matter for the blind. We have a generous check-out period (three months for the first term, then another three months for renewals) hoping the patron learns the score by then and returns it to us. Borrowing materials, that’s what libraries are for, right?  But sometimes, you know…the scores don’t make it back to us, and who has a budget to hire bounty hunters to go and reclaim them?

Santa's list

Print of wood engraving. Santa seated behind desk with stacks of letters from good and naughty children’s parents. The stack of naughty children is the bigger stack.

Thus our grateful reaction when someone offers to donate a collection.  Every now and then, we find a piece of music that has never been in the collection. That’s a real plus.  Other times, we find a score in a different format such as bar-over-bar for piano. Bar-over-bar is a way to write braille piano music in a set of two lines, right hand on top and left hand on bottom.  Or we can receive an edition more authoritative than what we have on the shelf, so that’s a new choice we can provide to our patrons. And now, if it’s a rare score, we can digitize it for preservation and provide access to it for everyone.

When I started my career as a public librarian, the first unwritten rule among librarians I learned was about donations of the National Geographic magazine.  It’s a fine magazine for content and award-winning photos.  But seriously folks, there is usually no call for 10 donations of everyone’s lifelong collection of the National Geographic to your local public library every year. And many public libraries have started refusing these donations.

As we continue to add to the collection here at the NLS Music Section, we anticipate a day and time when we can list perfectly good braille music scores available for institutions or individuals. These would be unneeded duplicates, and the like. When this happens, we will post the titles on this blog and put them up for first come, first serve.

How’s that for a gift that keeps on giving?

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