Academic journal article Notes

A View of Music Librarianship as Seen through Its Journals: A Comparison of Notes and Fontes Artis Musicae, 1977-2007

Academic journal article Notes

A View of Music Librarianship as Seen through Its Journals: A Comparison of Notes and Fontes Artis Musicae, 1977-2007

Article excerpt


MLA's Notes and IAML's Fontes Artis Musicae are well known as two primary channels of printed scholarly communication in music librarianship. This article evaluates the similarities and differences between the content of these journals over a thirty-one-year time span in an attempt to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and to determine whether their strengths lie more in the field of music, or in librarianship. Trends in overall subject coverage, and the contributions to the journals by successive editors, are also examined. The article finds that, while the journals do have some common traits, they vary in their overall coverage of particular subject areas. In addition, both journals are wanting in terms of the currency of their coverage. Further research is warranted to determine how well these journals meet the scholarly communications needs of music librarians.


Music librarianship combines training in music and librarianship to serve a unique and diverse clientele. The multiple formats in which music materials exist (print, electronic, various analog and digital audiovisual) and the subject-specific questions our patrons ask differentiate our branch of the profession from others. The literature of music librarianship also differs from that of general library and information-science literature. Straddling two disciplines, our journals seek to find a balance that will serve librarians as well as others interested in music libraries. There are many journals both in music and in librarianship, but only a few that focus on the intersection of music and librarianship. The goal of this article is to compare the two primary music-librarianship journals to determine what they have published over the last thirty-one years and to categorize their contents and editorial histories.

The Music Library Association (MLA, founded 1931), based in the United States, and the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres (IAML, founded 1951) are the two major associations serving music librarians. According to the immediate past IAML-US Branch treasurer, 89 percent of IAML-US members are also current MLA members. (1) The Music Library Association's peer-reviewed journal Notes and the International Association of Music Libraries' non-peer-reviewed journal Fontes Artis Musicae (FAM) are the principal, longest-established journals in the field of music librarianship. Both are currently produced quarterly by A-R Editions in Middleton, Wisconsin. Notes is published solely in English, while FAM publishes articles in English, French, and German, the three official languages of IAML. In addition to scholarly and professional articles, Notes contains extensive sections for the review of books, scores, recordings, databases, Web sites, and other library tools. FAM reviews only books. Both journals also carry reports of their respective association's business, such as financial statements, as well as brief news items about libraries and librarians.

The stated goals of each journal are quite similar. From Notes: "The Music Library Association invites contributions to its quarterly journal, Notes. ... [T]he journal offers its readers interesting, informative, and well-written articles in the areas of music librarianship, music bibliography and discography, the music trade, and on certain aspects of music history." (2) And from FAM: "The editor [of FAM] is happy to consider for publication articles on any aspect of music librarianship, music bibliography or related musicological research." (3) There are, however, differences in the number and types of articles that each journal publishes, as will be seen in this study.

This article will analyze and compare the publication histories of Notes and FAM in the period 1977 to 2007 to answer the following questions:

1. How best can the research articles published in these two journals be categorized? …

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