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What Do Music Reader Service Librarians Do?

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


New BARD Additions: October 2018

This is a guest post from Hannah Noel, a West Coast native currently living in North Carolina. She is a recent graduate of UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science, where she earned her MSLS and focused her studies on archival work in an arts and museum-specific context. She is interning at NLS at the […]

American Composers and Musicians from A to Z: G (Part 2–Grasse, Edwin)

Welcome to a new installment of the NLS Music Section’s journey through the alphabet to learn about musicians and composers who were blind or visually impaired. In part 2 of the letter G, we’ll meet Edwin Grasse and introduce our new violin scores catalog.

Carnegie Hall of the South: Nashville’s Musical Legacy, Part 2

This is the second half of a two-part post on Nashville’s musical history and related books in the NLS Music Collection. Read the first part here: Athens of the South: Nashville’s Musical Legacy, Part 1. Nashville’s most famous music venue, the Ryman Auditorium, was completed in 1892 and was originally a church called the Union […]

Athens of the South: Nashville’s Musical Legacy, Part 1

Here in the Music Section of the National Library Service we are counting down the days until the National Conference of Librarians Serving Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals begins next month in Music City, Nashville, Tennessee! As I mentioned in my last article, I’ve been taking the opportunity to learn about the musical history of […]

New Catalog Available!

Maybe that’s not the most exciting news you’ll hear today, but we’re excited! The Music Appreciation Catalog is making its debut and ready for all patrons interested in learning about music. Previously, we had music instruction and music appreciation joined together in one large print catalog, and while they were happy sharing the space, it was […]

Golden Days of Yesteryear

My attention recently was called to a very historic event; on June 2, 1896, Guglielmo Marconi applied to patent the radio. When we think of Marconi as the inventor of the radio, it is easily overshadowed by contemporary inventors of computers, 3-D printing, and copy machines. Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled to have […]

A Trip Around the World with the NLS Music Section

Do you want to learn how to play piano? We have a book for you! Do you want the libretto for your favorite opera? We have that as well! Do you want to learn about folk music from around the world? Well, we also have books about that. Many patrons get to know us through […]

Music Catalogs for 2016: New and Improved!

As we are exiting the period that can still be referred to as “the new year” and are approaching the season of renewal known as spring, we’d like to highlight some of our recent publications, namely our new catalogs. Although we’ve had blog posts about magazines produced by the Music Section (Musical Mainstream and Contemporary […]