Top of page

What Do Music Reader Service Librarians Do?

Share this post:

As many of you know, the NLS Music Section is a specialized music library serving blind and print-impaired patrons. This week’s blog post will reveal some of the many interesting things our music reader service librarians do.

One of the most important tasks we do in the Music Section is reference service. We receive diverse inquiries such as, “I would like to learn how to read braille music and need a book that offers lots of exercises and examples,” or, “I will be teaching staff notation in my music class. Do you have a book that my blind student can use to get some idea of the staff notation although he uses braille music?” Our librarians have to know our collection thoroughly to recommend suitable books for each individual’s needs.

Librarians receive orders for music materials throughout the day via telephone and email. We enter the requests into a database, emboss and bind books as needed, and take turns circulating the books. Braille and large-print scores are retrieved from the shelves and placed in padded bags with Velcro closures, while digital audio books are sent out in sturdy plastic cases. They are mailed free of charge to patrons courtesy of the United States Postal Service.

There are other tasks librarians take turns completing: compiling the Music Section’s quarterly music magazines that feature interesting articles and proofreading large-print music before it is added to our collection. Of course, you already know that librarians rotate writing the weekly blog posts about artists who are blind and sighted, patrons who are active musicians and educators, topics related to our music collection, recent additions to Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD), and other organizations who serve music students and musicians who are blind. We also remove excess copies of braille scores after they are digitized and make them available to eligible entities.

There are tasks that librarians do individually: creating NLS encoded audio books, cataloging the audio, braille, and large print collections, selecting new scores for our patrons, working with transcribers and vendors, cataloging the print reference music collection, compiling  music catalogs (such as the Music Appreciation and Large-Print Scores and Books catalogs), and attending conferences to represent the Music Section and NLS.

I should also mention how we dedicate some time every day to digitize braille music. We use software programs called DotScan and OBR (Optical Braille Recognition) for this important task. As soon as a book is digitized and proofread, we update its bibliographic record and upload it to BARD. There are many patrons who check BARD daily to find music they’ve been waiting for. Our Braille Music Specialist proofreads all patron-requested braille scores scanned for accuracy and format. The scans that are not time sensitive are sent out to be proofread by contractors.

Librarians take on special projects from time to time, such as writing and updating procedural manuals, making presentations at different events, and writing magazine and journal articles about our music service and how to promote braille music literacy.

Our tasks are varied and very interesting, and truthfully, there is never a slow or boring day in the Music Section. However, what makes my job most joyful is our patrons: a wonderful group of lifelong learners who are patient, appreciative and kind. Receiving a call from a patron with whom I’ve been working for a few years is like chatting with a pleasant neighbor or friend. So thank you, dear friends, and I wish you a wonderful holiday season.

Please enjoy some of our Holiday offerings:

Dr. Perlander’s Christmas Concert by Charles Westcott  DBM00895

Home for the Holidays by Charles Westcott  DBM00909

New World Choristers by William Schuman and others  DBM00158

Music Instructions

EZ Solos Christmas, vol. 1 (guitar) taught by Bill Brown DBM02271

The Skaters’ Waltz (piano) taught by Bill Brown DBM03535

Let It Snow, Let It Snow (piano) taught by Bill Brown DBM02451


Comments (2)

  1. Thank you Donna!
    I appreciate learning more about what the music section of NLS does and how it works.

    • Thank you for your comment, Marie.

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.