- Tips on Acquiring Music
My mama told me, you better shop around.——"Shop Around," Smokey Robinson & Berry Gordy
Automation, e-mail, and the Internet have revolutionized the ways that music librarians do their work. Reference librarians now engage in interactive interviews through live-chat Internet sessions, and answer questions using online reference databases. Reserve operations offer streamed audio to students at home as well as in the library, and electronic text reserves deliver assigned readings to their desktops. Readers can peruse articles in online full-text journals in their homes, and verify the current availability of a score for checkout without having to trek to the stacks with call number in hand. Shared cataloging and authority files have relieved catalogers from reinventing the wheel with each new title.
And so it is with acquisitions. Purchase orders that formerly were typed on three-by-five slips and filed by main entry in banks of catalog drawers in the bowels of the library can now be located by keywords in the online public-access catalog, where order and receipt status are visible to staff and patrons alike. Bibliographic verification, formerly requiring laborious pursuit through multiple printed bibliographies and catalogs, can now be accomplished in seconds in OCLC WorldCat and publishers' and vendors' Web catalogs. And many orders can be submitted to vendors electronically, saving postage costs and avoiding the paper-cut hazard of stuffing envelopes.
Some context for my discussion of acquisitions matters may be beneficial. At Indiana University, staff of the William & Gayle Cook Music Library are responsible for direct ordering and receiving of monographic materials in all formats, including standing orders for monographic series and sets. The collection-development and acquisitions staff add MARC bibliographic records for new titles to the online integrated system—downloading them from OCLC WorldCat or vendor [End Page 279] databases, or keying them in manually—in many cases adding uniform titles and LC subject headings, and overlaying unauthorized name and title headings with authorized ones. Purchase orders are printed offline for mailing to vendors, or are entered directly into vendors' online systems. Materials are delivered directly to the music library, and, after check-in, invoices are forwarded to the acquisitions department in the main library for payment. The main library manages all of the library's subscriptions, including ordering, receiving, and cataloging journals, annuals, memberships, and electronic databases. The Cook Library has no music approval plans; it does participate in a library-wide plan with Blackwell's Book Services for U.S. and UK trade and scholarly books in the humanities. A credit card issued by the university's purchasing department facilitates many of the music library's orders.
The ways that acquisitions work interfaces with other library operations can vary from one institution to another, and music libraries may follow very different organizational and work-flow models than the one described above. There seems to be little uniformity in how this work is accomplished throughout the United States—there are no "Anglo-American Acquisitions Rules" to follow—though this is mere speculation on the author's part, since no organizations or persons appear to be collecting data on these operations. Characteristically, the 2003–4 "Survey of Music Collections in the United States," recently posted on the MLA Web site1 by the association's Statistics Subcommittee, contains data about locations of music collections, and locations of music cataloging, repair, and binding operations, but nothing at all about where and how music acquisitions work is done. Furthermore, only 5 among the 190 articles published through the year 2000 that are cited in the "Collection Development and Management" chapter of Carol June Bradley's new bibliography of American music librarianship address music acquisitions in a meaningful way.2 I seem to be one of the few music librarians to have written extensively about music acquisitions, in my 2004 book on Library Acquisition of Music,3 and I salute the MLA Basic Manual Series editorial board for recognizing the need for such a book, and commissioning [End Page 280] me to write it. There is little science to music library acquisitions, and consequently the observations that follow are based mostly on personal experience...