Music libraries in the UK: a vision for the future

A new vision for the future of music libraries in the UK has been created by the Music Libraries Trust, in partnership with Making Music and the UK and Ireland branch of IAML (International Association of Music Librarians), outlining their significance and how access and sustainability of these crucial resources can be improved.

Download and share the Music Libraries Vision (pdf): Summary | Full version

The public library network has so far been the largest and most cost-effective provider of the sheet music which most music groups – whether leisure-time vocal and instrumental groups, professional or educational ensembles – use.

In the last 20 years, however, music libraries have been impacted by local authority budget cuts. With a lack of political understanding of the significance of these resources for community music activity, there has been no investment which could make them financially sustainable for cash-strapped local authority libraries: e.g. online catalogues and digital systems for booking and paying.

Now, this document sets out a vision of how music libraries could function sustainably, to the benefit of communities, participants and audiences. The document also gives a brief background, records the current state of play and outlines recommendations.

These include bringing together a national steering group of all interested parties, including funders, operators and users, to explore how to integrate services and resources on a national basis; and safeguard material when a local service closes, identifying a depository of last resort.

Barbara Eifler, Making Music Chief Executive, said:

“At Making Music, we have been working with individual services, local authorities and providers for seven years, and now know that it is possible to ensure a future for music libraries whilst relieving under-resourced local authorities of all or most of the financial burden. We look forward to this vision opening up a conversation which will benefit all parties in the longer term and underpin the thriving community music scene for which the UK is rightly known.”

Sally Groves MBE, former Creative Director at Schott Music and Chair of the Music Libraries Trust, said: 

“The Music Libraries Trust is dedicated to supporting and developing the relationship between librarians and users. Following our large-scale survey of this community during 2020, we are delighted to be working with our partners to find a sustainable way to support the vibrant musical culture that the UK is celebrated for. It all starts with the notes!” 

Katharine Hogg, immediate past President of IAML and music librarian at the Foundling Museum, said: 

“The UK & Ireland branch of the International Association of Music Libraries works to provide the best possible service to musicians and music lovers, working across sectors to enable a flourishing and diverse musical life for all library users and their communities. Working with the Music Libraries Trust and Making Music, we are seeking to sustain and improve our offering to music makers and their audiences and to ensure that the rich musical resources we hold are accessible for all.” 

If your local music library services are under threat, email so that Making Music and its partners can offer help and support.

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