Laurel Dingle, currently Music Librarian at the State Library of Queensland and a former MCA Councillor representing the International Association of Music Libraries (IAML) and the Australasian Sound Recordings Association (ASRA), noted in SWOT Analysis of Music Libraries in Australia:

“Music librarians have the expertise to deliver the best quality music library services to clients. The trend towards replacing specialist music libraries within generalist collections in universities and other research organisations, and in public and state libraries, usually means the “generalization” of the music specialist librarians, who are required to abandon their music focus and work with all subject areas equally. This compromises the quality of service provided to music specialist clients. It can also mean that collections are used more heavily by non-specialist users for uses for which they are not intended and the resulting ‘wear and tear’ (e.g. on sound recordings) can limit the useful life of expensive resources.”

Almost by definition, music libraries are served by qualified music librarians. The following general descriptions indicate the qualities required of such persons:

The MCA Music wiki contains the following overview of where specialist music librarians are employed in Australia: “Some of the larger universities in Australia have separate music collections or music branch libraries. These libraries employ one or more librarians who specialise (or who wish to specialise) in music. Other universities incorporate their music collections into the general collection and may not employ a specialist music librarian. Music librarians are also employed in the national and state libraries. The Australian Music Centre (AMC) employs a number of staff in its library, some of whom are also involved in managing the information services of the Centre, which are based around extensive files of information about composers and their works.”

The University of Newcastle “degrees-to-careers” service specifically includes a job description of a music librarian: “Music Librarian has an extensive knowledge of music which he or she combines with regular librarian skills. Most music librarians have a bachelor’s degree in music history or theory and some positions require a master’s degree. One of the main responsibilities is to catalogue all music materials which consist of records, printed music and tapes. Music librarian must also have knowledge of online music databases to help students with their assessments and research projects. There is a great deal of reference work involved in this job and they should keep themselves up-to-dated by reading reviews of new music books, records and tapes. Music librarians can also help music teachers arrange for different courses and at times they are responsible for organising concerts, recitals and other music-related activities and events. Music librarian could also find jobs at TV or radio stations. If working at a public library, conservatory, or university library, then a music librarian is usually responsible to the library director.”

No statistics have been found of either the number of music libraries or the number of specialist music librarians. Some but possibly not all would be members of the Australian branch of the IAML, currently chaired by NLA Curator of Music Robyn Holmes.

An illustrative but tentative and incomplete list has been compiled from a web search on 18 October 2011. Its main purpose is to identify which types of libraries, universities and other organisations may employ specialised qualified music librarians. Any quantitative information on the total number of (a) music libraries and (b) music librarians (classified into the NLA, State libraries, universities and music conservatoria, and other), as well as other statistics related to the type and volume of work or similar, would be useful (Contributions are invited):

A: National Library of Australia. Curator of Music Robyn Holmes. Other specialist music librarians NA, total staff music library NA (Can information be provided?).

“The Library comprehensively collects music and music-related materials that form part of the documentary record of Australian culture, as part of the Library’s national heritage responsibilities. Collecting includes published and unpublished music, personal and organisational papers, archival sound recordings of folklore, oral histories, pictures and ephemera documenting compositional and performance history, as well as materials that support research and study of music.

The aim is to provide access to music and music-related information for all Australians, as well as to meet the specific needs of the musical and research communities. The collection of overseas materials is selective and intended to support musical scholarship.”

Overview of Music Statistics: Introduction notes that databases are becoming more comprehensive. Trove was set up in early 2010 to find and get Australian resources in a truly comprehensive framework. At MCA’s Annual Assembly in Canberra in September 2011, Robyn Holmes showed how the Library is currently integrating its Music Australia service fully into Trove.1

B: State Libraries

  • State Library of New South Wales: “Music covers all forms of music and music-related materials created or published in Australia, with emphasis on New South Wales composers, publications and performances. It includes music that is associated with New South Wales, has contributed to Australian culture or involves the work of Australian authors, librettists, arrangers, transcribers, editors or illustrators. Indigenous Australian music is included, as is music associated with immigrant and community groups.”
  • The State Library of Victoria’s “extraordinary collection of music includes just about every musical style imaginable, from medieval chant to heavy metal and hip-hop. We collect records, tapes, compact discs, DVDs, printed scores, magazines and books about music and musicians.” “The profile of popular music in the Library has greatly increased over the last few years, with jazz, rock, pop and musical theatre all taking their place in the collection.”
  • The John Oxley Library of the State Library of Queensland opened in 1934 and is responsible for collecting, managing and providing access to material that documents Queensland’s history, development and cultural life. Laurel Dingle is one of at least two specialised music librarians according to the John Oxley Library blog.
  • Excerpts from the State Library of South Australia’s notes on collection development policy on the topic of “Published South Australiana”: “Collection strengths include general, local and family history, politics, women’s issues, social life and customs, religion, the arts, music and early writings on Aboriginal language and culture.” “Monograph collecting continues to focus on landmark texts and core reference titles with an emphasis on music history. .. Australian music, including that of various cultural groups within the Australian community, will continue to be a priority. .. Works on musical theory and principles as well as texts for the learning musician will be collected very selectively. .. Musical scores, sheet music and recorded music will be collected minimally.” “The Purches Collection .. consists of approximately 20,000 disks, mainly 78 rpm, and 400 wax cylinders. The recordings are predominantly jazz, with some South Australian content, collected over 40 years, and donated in 1977. It includes an almost complete collection of pressings by famous performers such as Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton and Al Jolson .. . Except for South Australiana, collection of popular music recordings of this kind is no longer a priority.”
  • The State Library of Western Australia employs Allison Fyfe as Music Specialist. “Western Australia’s rich musical heritage is collected and fostered by the State Library.” … “The State Library has one of the largest public music lending collections in Australia. All genres of music from classical to rock are collected. Over 70,000 scores and pieces of sheet music are available for loan. A listening collection of vinyl and CD recordings is available for use within the library, complemented by a small lending collection of cassettes. We also have a range of books, journals and e-resources to assist you with research and discovery of the vast world of music.”
  • The State Library of Tasmania when accessed on 18 October 2011 showed 1,524 items on “music”, 983 on “popular music”, 938 scores, and 750 rock music items. No specific music policy was found on the website.

C: Universities and Music Conservatoria

The following list is incomplete, and therefore illustrative only. It starts with libraries which definitely employ specialist music librarians (University of Queensland still assumed to do so).

  • The Architecture & Music Library, University of Queensland. Until 2006 headed by Laurel Dingle. Now by whom?
  • The University of Western Australia Wigmore Music Library. Senior Music Librarian Jenny Wildy heads staff of four according to the current staff list.
  • The University of Adelaide Elder Music Library is headed by the Elder Music Librarian, Denise Tobin. The website lists a staff of four persons.
  • The Lenton Parr Music, Visual and Performing Arts Library, University of Melbourne Southbank Campus. Georgina Binns, Music, Visual and Performing Arts Librarian heads a staff of six.
  • Within the University of Tasmania Library, “the Music Library supports the artistic and research needs of performers, composers & music educators of the UTAS Conservatorium of Music and the wider community of musicians.” The Art and Music Librarian is Juliet Beale.
  • The Conservatorium Library, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney. No employment information found.
  • The Queensland Conservatorium Library. No employment information found.
  • The Louise Hanson-Dyer Music Library, University of Melbourne. No employment information found.

D: Other

The following initial list is even more incomplete:

  • The Australian Music Centre Library has been collecting the works of contemporary Australian composers for over twenty years. The collection, the most comprehensive of its kind, is the only source for many of these recordings and sheet music. The AMC is an IAML member. See brief description in AMC, the Art Music Composers Organisation.
  • “Combine HSC subjects with music performance & gain a unique Senior High education at the Australian Institute of Music in Sydney.” No employment information found.
  • The Victorian Music Library Inc. “is a not-for-profit music resource centre, managed by volunteers, to preserve and provide for loan a collection of over 15,500 items of sheet music.” Unlikely to employ qualified music librarians.
  • There is no reference anywhere to the employment of music experts in local libraries. The incidence is probably low, though some large libraries may employ such persons. Other possible jobs may exist in radio or television stations as suggested in the University of Newcastle job description quoted in the beginning of this note. IAML membership records, if available, may provide clues to these and other possible areas.


Hans Hoegh-Guldberg, Editor, 19 October 2011


  1. The online Music Australia service was developed by the National Library of Australia, the National Film and Sound Archive, the six State Libraries, (links shown here), Australian Music Online, and Australian Sound Design. Its topics were listed as “people, scores, sound recordings, websites, books, theses and journals, archives, pictures, film and videos, multimedia, kits, and objects”.↩︎

Hans founded his own consulting firm, Economic Strategies Pty Ltd, in 1984, following 25 years with larger organisations. He specialised from the outset in applied cultural economics — one of his first major projects was The Australian Music Industry for the Music Board of the Australia Council (published in 1987), which also marks his first connection with Richard Letts who was the Director of the Music Board in the mid-1980s. Hans first assisted the Music Council of Australia in 2000 and between 2006 and 2008 proposed and developed the Knowledge Base, returning in an active capacity as its editor in 2011. In November 2013 the Knowledge Base was transferred to The Music Trust, with MCA's full cooperation.

Between 2000 and 2010 Hans also authored or co-authored several major domestic and international climate change projects, using scenario planning techniques to develop alternative long-term futures. He has for several years been exploring the similarities between the economics of cultural and ecological change, and their continued lack of political clout which is to a large extent due to conventional GDP data being unable to measure the true value of our cultural and environmental capital. This was announced as a major scenario-planning project for The Music Trust in March 2014 (articles of particular relevance to the project are marked *, below).

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