Academic journal article Fontes Artis Musicae

Germany: German Music Libraries in the Age of Digital Transformation-Challenges and Perspectives

Academic journal article Fontes Artis Musicae

Germany: German Music Libraries in the Age of Digital Transformation-Challenges and Perspectives

Article excerpt

The processes of change in the digital society and their consequences for libraries affect also music libraries, even more they seem bundled herein as under a magnifying glass. Attractive new buildings and facilities of recent years such as in Stuttgart, Essen, Nuremberg, Wiesbaden or currently in Detmold cannot hide the fact that this branch of librarianship is facing major challenges. Here too, as the number of loans of physical media decreases, new concepts must be developed and new paths explored.

Digital Offerings in Music Libraries

Music libraries have already arrived in the digital age. They collect and make accessible not only sheet music, music books and recording media, they digitise their own collections and provide their customers with electronic resources and services available in digital libraries or an institution's repositories. These are either accessible on the Web free of charge or licensed, meaning access is possible only via the library's network or by individual subscription. The most extensive digitised music collections can be found in large academic libraries. They are merged in the Virtual Library of Musicology, which will be presented in the next section.

Like the majority of library customers, the user interested in music prefers media and information--if possible--in electronic form on a PC, tablet, or smartphone and available at any time and any location. Until now, public libraries have been able to only partially satisfy these requirements. The legal framework for the lending of e-books have not been clarified and the publishers have not been obligated to grant licenses. Meanwhile, the digital German lending platform "Onleihe", provided in the majority of public libraries offers more music books in electronic format, especially music education titles, biographies of musicians, and introductory literature on musical topics.

The deficiency of legal rules and the rigid austerity policy of the states and municipalities have prevented acknowledgment of the changed user behavior. Both conservatory libraries as well as public music libraries lack sufficient funds and technical equipment for database licenses and for the installation of network access. In municipal music libraries the fee-based digital content hardly exceeds the music segments of the established German Web portal Munzinger (, accessed 16 December 2016). But even the included remote access to the Naxos Music Libraries--"Classical Music" and "Jazz"--which provides over 100,000 compact disc recordings through streaming technology in high quality sound and with introductions to musical works, cannot be offered in all music libraries. Nothing less than privileged are the customers of the Hamburg Bucherhallen and the City Library of Hannover. They are the first German library users having access to over nine million songs from all genres from over 28,000 labels and over 15,000 music videos via the American streaming service Freegal Music (, accessed 16 December 2016). They are even allowed to download three tracks per week. Of course, this offer has its price, and that cost might currently not be within most libraries' reach.

Sheet music collections are also innovating. The International Music Score Library Project, IMSLP (, accessed 16 December 2016), or Petrucci Music Library for short, the world's largest online collection of public domain and freely available scores, has turned into a true competitor for music publishers, music shops, and music libraries. The argument that the partial, badly scanned scores were no serious alternatives to carefully prepared critical score editions seem relevant only for professional musicians and scholars. A small indication may be the response of a music teacher whose student had printed out a Haydn sonata from the Petrucci Music Library. Asked why he did not suggest that he use a critical edition, he commented tersely: "I'm happy if he still plays Haydn at all! …

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