Message from the Chair
Spring 2019 Election Ballot
Spring 2019 Meeting Information
Proposed By-Laws Change
Noteworthy News
Oral History Excerpt
NEMLA Officers
Publication Information

Message from the Chair

Dear NEMLA Members,

It was great seeing so many of our chapter members at the MLA meeting in St. Louis in February. We had a convivial chapter dinner, and I was proud to see so many of our members as presenters, organizers, and performers. The call for proposals for the 2020 MLA meeting in Norfolk, VA is now open. Once again, I urge all chapter members to consider proposing sessions. If you are new to the process and you’d like some guidance, please contact me for help. I’ve shepherded many proposals through the process and presented many times. I’d be honored to aid other members to ensure that our chapter is well-represented at next year’s event.

Coming sooner than the MLA annual meeting is our chapter’s spring meeting on May 31, here at my own institution, Boston University. Holly Mockovak, head of the music library, has been coordinating site arrangements. Vice chair/program chair Sarah Funke Donovan has assembled an outstanding program. The program will also include our annual business meeting, regarding several important votes. First, we will be announcing election results. As chair of the nominating committee, Jared Rex has recruited an impressive slate for vice chair/chair-elect and secretary-treasurer. Please see the candidate biographies in this issue and vote when you receive your ballot. At the meeting, we will also hold a discussion and vote on a proposed by-laws change regarding our fiscal year. The proposed change and rationale appear in this issue.

Finally, I’m pleased to include the abridged transcript of my utterly delightful oral history interview with Tish Brennan. Tish provided an anecdotal overview of her career and experiences with NEMLA, MLA and music libraries in New England with plenty of rich details, warmth, and humor. I thoroughly enjoyed reliving our conversation when editing down the transcript of our hour-and-a-half conversation, and I appreciate that our oral history efforts gave me the opportunity to get to know this charming person better.

Respectfully submitted,
Marci Cohen, Chair, New England Music Library Association
Assistant Head, Music Library, Boston University

Spring 2019 Election Ballot

On Monday, April 29, 2019, at 10:00 a.m., all NEMLA members in good standing will receive an email message inviting them to vote in this year’s election for two positions on NEMLA’s board. Special thanks to all three candidates running for office, and to the Nominating Committee for their diligent work in assembling this slate of candidates.

Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect Candidates

Lisa Wollenberg has been a NEMLA member since 2017, currently serves as NEMLA’s Website Editor, and would be delighted to serve as the next Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect. She works as the Public Services Librarian for the Allen Library at the University of Hartford. Before moving to New England, Lisa was the Stacks Coordinator and Circulation Supervisor for the Cook Music Library at Indiana University, and was an active member of the Midwest Chapter of MLA. She co-presented at the 2016 Midwest Chapter meeting and co-presented a poster at the 2017 MLA meeting, both about her work with the Leonard Bernstein collection at Indiana University. She has also recently been appointed to the MLA Instruction Subcommittee. Lisa holds an M.L.S. and M.A. (Musicology) from Indiana University and a B.A. (Music History) from The College of Wooster.

Secretary-Treasurer Candidates

Carol Lubkowski is the Music Librarian at Wellesley College; previously, she was the Public Services Librarian at the University of Hartford’s Allen Library. She would be very excited to serve NEMLA as Secretary/Treasurer. Carol received her BA in music from Wesleyan University, her MM in music composition from The Boston Conservatory, and her MLS from Indiana University. Carol is currently the coordinator for MLA’s Contemporary Music Interest Group. At MLA 2016, she and Misti Shaw presented “How Much of BML4 is Available Online? Some Genre/Format Preliminary Findings”. Carol has also published three reviews in Notes. Her interests are the music of living women composers, feminist punk music, and the future of audio recordings in libraries.

Brendan Higgins is the Public Services Librarian and Archivist for the Boston Conservatory at Berklee, a position he has held since 2014. Prior to that, he worked as their library’s evening supervisor for four years as a paraprofessional while finishing his library degree from Simmons. He started his library career at the Conservatory directly after finishing a Masters in Music History at Tufts University and he holds an undergraduate degree in Music Education from Berklee College of Music. Brendan encountered NEMLA in his first year at the Conservatory, when the spring 2011 meeting was jointly held at the Boston Conservatory and Berklee. He has served as the group’s videographer since 2015 and has been an active member of MLA, currently serving the Career Development and Services committee as a coordinator of the New Members Forum. When he’s not wearing his multiple hats in the library, he enjoys baking, playing bass, and making music with his partner.

Spring Meeting Information


Registration is now open for NEMLA’s Spring 2019 Meeting! The meeting will be held at Boston University’s Mugar Memorial Library in Boston, Massachusetts on May 31, 2019. We will be meeting in the PAL Lounge, on the third floor.

To register, please click here.

Regular registration: $18 early bird /$20 (after May 24)

Student registration: $9 early bird/$10 (after May 24)

Early Bird Registration Deadline: May 24, 2019

The exterior of Boston University’s Mugar Memorial Library, which houses the Music Library. Image source:


A preliminary schedule is available, but please check back for updates as the schedule becomes finalized.

9:00 am – 9:45 am: Registration; coffee and pastries

9:45 am – 10:00 am: Opening Remarks (speakers TBD)

10:00 am – 10:40 am: Folk music and the environment: Preservation of the Hudson River Folk Festival Recordings by Alec McLane, Wesleyan University, and co-presenter TBA

Wesleyan’s World Music Archives hold 30 years of recordings deposited by Phil Ciganer, the owner of the Towne Crier Cafe (formerly in Pawling, NY, since relocated to Beacon, NY). For the Recordings at Risk project, funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources, we targeted a subset of these for digitization and preservation: approximately 243 hours of audio recordings on cassette and reel tape from the Great Hudson River Revival festival and the Bear Mountain Festival of World Music and Dance. The first of these festivals was part of Pete Seeger’s Clearwater project, raising awareness of environmental pollution in the Hudson River Valley, and both festivals were recorded under the supervision of Ciganer between 1978 and 1982, featuring prominent figures in the American folk music and singer-songwriter scene, as well as numerous other performers from around the world. After a failed application for a pilot grant in 2017 we applied again for the third round in February 2018, and were awarded the grant in April, with the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) as our designated vendor. The digitization was completed in late 2018 and, while questions of online access to the collection are still to be addressed, there is abundant material for a presentation on the grant application process, the digitization, subsequent quality control and ingestion, and of course the music itself.

10:40 am – 11:20 am: Brave, Noisy World: Community Conversation in the Music Library by Memory Apata, Dartmouth College

Music Librarians are uniquely trained in active listening in both music and library contexts. These listening skills enable us to do the work of reparative musicology, which involves the facilitation of social repair through the study and practice of music. The
Friday Night Sing-Ins at Dartmouth College’s Paddock Music Library were an example of reparative musicology. Following a year of hate-filled campaign rhetoric, heightened racial tension, and mass protests on campus, the library hosted a forum to discuss
these issues within the context of music. Participants sang the songs of the civil rights movement and examined the music’s history and performance contexts at protests in the U.S. and abroad.
Through the Sing-Ins, the library inadvertently became a “brave space,” a term which has emerged in opposition to so-called “safe spaces.” Safe spaces are understood to be places (either physical or conceptual) where marginalized students can have a break
from the labor of fielding frequent questions about their backgrounds and experiences. A brave space challenges the idea of safe discussions, and is instead a place wherein individuals are encouraged to openly share their opinions and be challenged by those who do not share similar stances. At the Sing-Ins, attendees’ opinions on current events were brought out into the open through their discussion and performance of protest songs. Library staff sparked these conversations by selecting provocative repertoire and connecting the discussion to the music.

As the annual event has grown, we have worked to create a balance between safety and braveness in our space. In this presentation I discuss lessons learned, including several mistakes we have made in designing the event and how we have dealt with microaggressions. I show how music librarians can and perhaps should be activists for social justice.

11:20 am – 12:00 pm: Rebalancing the Music Canon & MEI Workflow by Anna Kijas, Boston College and Sarah Melton, Boston College

At Boston College Libraries, we are developing a Rebalancing the Music Canon music data repository focused on works by un(der)-represented people. The aim is to decenter the musical canon and make data-driven music scholarship more diverse and inclusive.
We are beginning with a small corpus (about 178 pieces) shared by the Music Theory Examples by Women (MTEW) project. Their work includes the compilation of excerpts and complete musical compositions by women composers, including women of color. A key
part of this project has been developing a workflow and process that can be replicated by students, staff, and other collaborators. With her colleague Raffaele Viglianti (UMD/MITH), Anna has developed a tutorial (forthcoming via DLF Library Pedagogy Cookbook that will
incorporate this workflow and provide greater detail about how to create MEI XML files with a specific focus on metadata and enhancing the transcribed music notation for people
working with metadata, digital libraries, and digital preservation. In the presentation, we will first discuss the Rebalancing the Music Canon project and present the workflow being used with our students and staff who are involved in extracting, correcting, and encoding the music data. This will include a brief demo of the workflow and examples from our work.

The second part of this presentation will be a hands-on (paper and pencil) document analysis mark-up exercise that will get participants to consider the elements and attributes that can be encoded from a musical notation document.

12:00 pm – 1:30 pm: Lunch on your own

1:30 pm – 2:00 pm: Business Meeting

2:00 pm – 2:40 pmToo Many Students and Not Enough Time: Solving Practical Challenges with Augmented Reality Library Tours by Lisa Wollenberg, University of Hartford

How do you give customized library tours to 150 students in an online class? All first-year performing arts majors at the University of Hartford are enrolled in HLM020, an online information literacy course taught by the Allen Library (music & dance) Public Services Librarian. A library tour assignment was desired as part of the course, but was difficult to incorporate for many reasons: there were typically 130-150 students enrolled, the course had no prescribed in-person class times, and arranging in-person tours was difficult given students’ already busy and varied schedules. In addition, the tours needed to be customized to point out the most important resources for students’ individual fields of study, spanning multiple music majors plus jazz, dance, actor training, musical theatre, music production & technology, and music management. As a solution, augmented reality tours were created using ARIS, a free open-source platform. Students were able to independently visit the library on their own time and take a tour using the ARIS app on their iPhone or one of the library’s loaning iPads. The students followed a virtual tour guide in the ARIS app which led them to various library spaces and important resources for their chosen major. The presenter will share a short demo “tour” for participants to test during the presentation, as well as tips for setting up new tours in the ARIS Editor. She will also discuss some of the challenges and solutions for using ARIS and other augmented reality tools, plus ideas for further applications of this technology.

2:45 pm – 3:25 pm: Tours of Mugar Library

3:30 pm – 4:15 pm: Concert

4:15 pm – 5:30 pm: Reception at Sunset Cantina, 916 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA. Cash bar.

Thursday Night Dinner

If you will be in Boston on Thursday evening, we invite you to join us at The Yard House (126 Brookline Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, 617-236-4083) on May 30th, 2019 at 6:30pm. Please RSVP to Sarah Funke Donovan (sdonovan at if you plan to attend.


A list of area restaurants is available here.


Below is a brief list of hotels close to Boston University:

BU also has a list of additional hotels nearby or accessible via public transit.


Attendees are encouraged to take public transportation. Boston University has public transit and driving directions to campus. The closest T stop is BU Central on the Green B line. Several bus routes also service the area; the 47, 57 and CT-2 have the closest stops.


There are two parking options somewhat close to the BU campus.

  • Granby Lot (N), 665 Commonwealth Ave.: About a 10-minute walk and costs $17
  • Agganis Arena lot/garage, 925 Commonwealth Ave.: Slightly farther away and cheaper.

Please click here for a list of other parking options. To arrange for accessible parking, please contact Marci Cohen at mcohen2 at .

Boston University/Boston Information

Here is a campus map of BU. The library website is here. The Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau has more information about the city.

First-Time Attendees

If this is your first NEMLA meeting, we welcome you to take advantage of our First-Time Attendees Program! Regardless of whether you are a member or not, the registration fee is waived for first-time attendees. We also welcome you to apply for our First-Time Attendees Travel Grant, for assistance with travel expenses. The deadline to apply for funding through this program is May 24, 2019. To register as a first-time attendee and/or apply for travel assistance, please click here. Also note that funding for travel assistance is regrettably not available for all first-time attendees, but we do strive to accommodate as many as we can on a first-come, first-served basis.

Welcoming First-Time Attendees

Would you like to help a first-time attendee feel more welcome at their first meeting? We are looking for hosts to aid newcomers in getting to know our organization and its members. The time commitment is very low. You will be paired with a first-time attendee to either introduce them to people during the registration/coffee period in the morning or have them accompany you to lunch. (You are not responsible for paying for their lunch.) Please email Sarah Funke Donovan (sdonovan at by Monday, May 20th, 2019 to volunteer.

NEMLA By-Laws Proposed Change

Regarding Fiscal Year for Vote at Spring 2019 Meeting

Existing article


  • Membership in this Chapter shall be open to all members of the Music Library Association and persons and institutions interested in the activities and objectives of this chapter.
  • Full membership is granted upon payment of annual dues to the Secretary/Treasurer.
  • The membership year shall be from September 1 to August 31.
  • Honorary membership will be extended to members who have received the Music Library Association Citation Award or have shown exceptional service at the chapter level.

Proposed change


  • Membership in this Chapter shall be open to all members of the Music Library Association and persons and institutions interested in the activities and objectives of this chapter.
  • Full membership is granted upon payment of annual dues to the Secretary/Treasurer.
  • The membership year shall be from July 1-June 30.
  • Honorary membership will be extended to members who have received the Music Library Association Citation Award or have shown exceptional service at the chapter level.


Changing the start and end dates for our membership year will allow us to align our fiscal year and dues cycle with MLA’s. This is a necessary step to integrate our dues collection with MLA’s, which will provide numerous benefits to the chapter:

  • Cleaner data: We will have a single set of membership records with self-service updating of contact information.
  • Eliminating tedious work for the secretary-treasurers by automating the soliciting and tracking of new memberships and renewals.
  • Possible improvement of our renewal percentages because members will have fewer tasks to remember. We know that some chapter memberships lapse merely due to forgetfulness.
  • Cost savings from not having to pay PayPal service fees. MLA has been covering the transaction costs and passing along the full dues payments to chapters.

Noteworthy News

Fundraising Challenge: MLA Paraprofessional/Public Librarian Travel Fund Endowment Campaign

submitted by Marci Cohen

As you may be aware, the Music Library Association is currently raising funds to endow a travel fund for paraprofessionals and public librarians, recognizing that these library workers often do not have adequate institutional support to attend MLA meetings. Following the lead of the California chapter, we are issuing a NEMLA chapter challenge grant. Our chapter will match donations totaling up to $500.

Full information about the endowment campaign is available here:

Most notably, the fund will be seeded with $25,000 from the anonymous donor and fundraising to reach the endowment of $50,000 will commence in the fiscal year 2018–2019.

Particularly because I started my library career in a public library, I intend to support this endowment campaign. To participate in the chapter challenge, either indicate your chapter when donating online on the MLA website or send a check payable to the Music Library Association to NEMLA secretary/treasurer Alan Karass, New England Conservatory, 290 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02115 and include a note that it is for the paraprofessional/public librarian fundraising challenge.

Oral History Interview with Patricia “Tish” Brennan

By Marci Cohen

Patricia “Tish” Brennan is Assistant Professor/Head of Reference and Coordinator of Library Instruction at James P. Adams Library, Rhode Island College, where she is liaison to music and other departments. She earned an AB in Music from Brown University and an MSLS from Columbia University. After starting her library career at Boston Public Library, she left in 1983 for Rhode Island College, where she has worked since. She has been an MLA member since 1976. She joined NEMLA in 1977 and was a member for 20 years before taking a gap then returning in 2012.

This is an abridged transcript of our interview conducted on August 3, 2017 in Adams Library. It has been edited for clarify.

MC: Let’s start out with your background prior to becoming a music librarian, maybe your background in music and how you chose to come to librarianship?.

TB: My undergraduate degree is an AB in Music from Brown University. At the time that I attended Brown, they only had a single degree and the coursework, generally speaking, fell into either: you took history courses or you took theory courses. There was no such thing as a performing degree and there was no performing for credit. I was at a rather unusual period in Brown’s development for their music department. They had just decided several years earlier to start a PhD in musicology, and also to try and build an ethnomusicology program from scratch. So it was kind of fun; on a whim some alum gave us money to buy a gamelan, so, we got to fool around with some odd and unusual instruments. I was a freshman in 1971 and graduated in 1975, so early days for Ivy League institutions getting into music beyond the Western canon.

On the other hand, so I’m a senior and I’m wondering what I’m going to do with myself with an AB in Music, pretty much focused on history, and literally–serendipitously–I bumped into several other people who were also members of the chamber choir at Brown, and one of them said, “So, where are you going after graduation?” and I hemmed and hawed, and she said, “Why didn’t you apply to Columbia like I did?! You could be my roommate!” So I said, “What did you apply to Columbia in?” and she said, “I’m going to the Library school!” So, I checked into music librarianship, and decided since one of their faculty, their adjuncts, was Susan Sommer of the New York Public Library, that that might be a place I would like to go, so I did!

And I did take courses with Susan Sommer at NYPL, and it was an amazing experience. And I got to sing with Gregg Smith, who was associated with the Columbia chorus at the time. So, it was a great experience, and I learned all sorts of aspects of, not just music, but performing arts librarianship in general, which was really their sub-specialty.

MC: How’d you end up starting your career at Boston Public?

TB: I just wanted to come back to Providence, I loved being here, and I loved the smallness of the city. It was a place that had lots of resources and lots of arts but was also manageable as a place. And of course I had a certain amount of romantic interest in coming back to Providence, having met someone I really cared about who was getting his PhD at Brown. So, I did come back, and started applying for jobs in the New England area, and in very early 1976, I was actually offered the job at Boston Public, and then–it couldn’t have been hours after I was told, “We want you!” was when Boston went into a hiring freeze for over a year. they couldn’t bring me on to staff. For a year I did other things. And then finally in early 1977, the hiring freeze went away, and I came on at Boston Public as the most junior person. The department was headed up by Ruth Bleecker and she’d been head of the music department at BPL for some years by that time. The assistant head was Diane Ota, who eventually became head of the department. My more-senior reference colleague at that time was Natalie Palme who, for at least part of her professional career she was Natalie Palme-Breed when she was married, and then she went back to being Natalie Palme. And she moved from the Boston Public Library, while I was still there, to the Harvard Musical Association in Boston, and was an active NEMLA person. When Natalie left us, the BPL hired Jeannine Ayotte. And the BPL music department was an interesting place because we also hired two clerical assistants, but often they were people with huge musical experience, because they wanted to work in this amazing collection. And so, when I was there our senior clerical person was Donald Denniston, who’s a composer.

MC: He now works with me at BU.

TB: It was just wonderful interacting with all of these amazing musicians. We got “walk-in” traffic from people who–every time one of these happened, I have to admit, as a twenty-something person, I would be agog and my jaw would drop open and people would poke each other and go, “Look, that’s Ned Rorem! Look!” or, “Wow! That’s Gardner Read!” Actually, Gardner Read was a regular, he would be in probably once a month checking his own references because of course this is pre-online era, and he needed to thumb through things like the New York Times index,the Boston Globe index, the Music Index–we had a clipping file of performances, particularly New England, associated composers and performers–and he would check through there to see if there had been any mention of him or anything he was associated with.

The fact that we’re a hundred-year-old institution that has served an unbelievably vibrant musical community for all of these years in a more than cursory way–lots of public libraries have music collections, and they do serve a local musical community, but they’re not serving people associated with the BSO, and with the Boston Philharmonic, and with Boston Baroque, and with all the other ensembles that you can name. It’s just–for the size of the city, Boston has an unusually rich musical life in so many layers, both classical and all the genres of popular music that you can think of. So, we took that very seriously. But some of our administrators over the years–things would fluctuate; support would be there, then it would disappear, then it would be there again, then it would disappear.

I did most of the introductory teaching that that required. We didn’t exactly get a flood of those, but I found all of those just an amazing interaction, young people very enthusiastic about stuff, and I was still a young person at that point. I would have been in my late twenties by then, and by the time I left Boston Public Library–that was 1983, I was in my thirties– and there, my ability to open up a new world of discovery for them was really intriguing, and I loved it. So I decided, really, maybe I should go somewhere where I can do more teaching as part of my regular role, and still have my music librarianship role as well, and, Rhode Island College offered me that opportunity.

MC: You’ve really built a career here.

TB: I did. And, for the type of institution that we are, we have an unusually fine music department. Our students have gone on to graduate work at some of the most prestigious places in the US and also in Europe. Our performing degree is something that we’ve built up actually over the time that I’ve been here. In 1958 when they started construction on this campus, it became a liberal arts college with professional programs associated with it. And those professional programs were almost exclusively in education at the beginning. Music education has been part of that since the beginning.

MC: Looking over your CV I’m noticing some you’ve been heavily involved in instruction, both here at Rhode Island College and then with the larger library community. How did you take some of this to your colleagues through your involvement in NELIG or in the NEMLA Instruction Committee that you were involved in in the ’90s?

TB: I’m actually back on the Instruction Committee now, and–at the national level, I’m on the Instruction Sub-Committee, so that’s actually been a fun thing for me, getting back into it. There was a period here where we had two library directors, neither of which was particularly supportive of, “Oh, that’s some niche thing you do, that music thing.” “Oh, you’re head of reference; you should be focused on how to do better statistics at the desk.” The administrative work has never been my big love, and in fact I only took the head of reference job here at Rhode Island College because the then-director assured me–I said, “I don’t want to not be a line librarian; I would like to be”–if i can put it this way–“the first among equals, rather than ‘the administrative person who takes care of this,’” and he said, “That’s what I want, too.” Well, people retire, and people’s perspectives change, so, new folk said, “This is what we want people to do.” They didn’t support my going to NEMLA, they didn’t support my going to MLA, they didn’t support some of the other specialized associations that I had belonged to at various times in other areas of the arts. Just, they didn’t want me spending what they considered to be “their time” on those pursuits, and it limited what I could do. But, back in the ‘80s and early ’90s, bibliographic instruction was, was kind of a bugbear in the sense that music had so many specialized tools for so many different genres, that there was actually quite a debate, particularly between public librarians and academic librarians, about what it was important to tell people about. So, I was good friends with the people down at Providence Public–which had a separate music and art department at the time–and Susan Waddington was the head of music, and she was a frequent attendee at NEMLA, and there was some back and forth at several meetings, about, “Let’s tell people, let’s have a session about what it is that public librarians think are the most important things that we can make patrons aware of.” So we’re talking school children, we’re talking general musicians in the community who are amateurs, but we’re also talking possibly professional musicians who might be using our collections for different reasons, as opposed to, “Okay, we’re a college library, and we have more than one music curriculum–because we have more than one music degree–but still, we have this core of, ‘All music majors are going to be taking these courses and they should be aware of these things there, and they’re different because the mission is different.’” Is there overlap? Yeah, there was always some core tools, nobody ever left Grove off the list. But other things were very different. There was a huge reliance on PhonoLog! I didn’t know a single college library that owned PhonoLog, at least at the time, but PhonoLog was something we used every single day at BPL, and couldn’t have answered half the questions we got without it. The same thing for things like Music-In-Print; although we had some volumes of it here, eventually–again, BPL, we acquired every volume they ever published because we couldn’t be without it.

MC: You said that, when you were preparing you came across some artifacts; did you want to talk about some of the things that you came up with, maybe some particular MLA or NEMLA memories that were, particularly poignant, memorable, whatever?

TB: My daughter was born in 1992, and the 1992 Spring meeting of NEMLA was at Bates College. Now, ironically enough, my daughter is now a graduate of Bates College. But even more amazingly NEMLA related is, I had some minor jobs that I was supposed to do at that Bates meeting in Lewiston, and Paula Matthews, I believe, was in fact chair at the time–which was why we were going to Bates, and only a couple of days before the meeting was my due date for Sarah May, and she was born on May 20th and, the meeting was supposed to take place on something like the 23rd, so I communicated with Paula and I said, “I’m really, really sorry and somebody else will have to do these little things I was supposed to do, but I just really can’t make it, it’s just too close to the due date.” And, the guys chipped in and bought me a Bates teddy bear, and somebody brought it down to me when the meeting was over, And now it’s my daughter’s, and it sits very proudly on her desk, with his little Bates t-shirt on, and it reminds me of all the amazing people at NEMLA, and how we are a very–I don’t want to say tight-knit, that’s a cliche. We’re a very accepting, and we take pleasure in each other’s professional friendships. Sometimes they blossom into more and that’s absolutely great. But everybody is very much pleased to learn of each other’s work, to see how that meshes with the national scene. But also, we’ve been very supportive of each other’s careers but also each other’s user communities. Most people in NEMLA, in their local area, know all of their colleagues really well, know their collections well, have some idea of who their users are. There’s a lot of reciprocity that goes on, and that’s very satisfying, professionally. You don’t always get a teddy bear out of it, but lots of other things happen. We’ve always had a really wonderful relationship with the Providence Public Library all the time that they had a music department, and in the “darker days” when they took those things apart, they reorganized the library, music became less of a focus for specialists, we were still tapping into the local knowledge that staff there had, even though they no longer had their own discrete department in its own designated physical location in the building. It was important to us; lots of our student performers are looking for popular material that we simply don’t collect, so that reciprocal relationship is really important to us. It’s important for NEMLA members in other areas, that they know who their colleagues are, and they know whose expertise they can tap into for things they–legitimately, by their mission, that’s not what they do, but that doesn’t mean patrons don’t come in with that!

There are a few things that I actually dug up out of my own files, and, in fact, I am wearing one of my MLA artifacts, oddly enough. It’s a little hard to see because most of the damage is up here, under my shirt, but the first national MLA that I went back to after a hiatus of about ten years was the Atlanta meeting. And I love going to breakfast at MLA, and my goal has always been to find a local hangout. Diners are particularly appreciated, but anything that’s “Mom and Pop,” and the locals think is the place for breakfast. And my partner in crime in all of this, for many years, has been Steve Yusko, who is at LC now. But back when I was at Boston Public, he was at Boston Public, too, in the cataloguing department. And so, our MLA ritual has been, go to diners. So, I was tooling–I mean, charging out–down the sidewalk on my way to this diner, which we had found out about in Atlanta, and I must have been distracted. I like birds–so I was looking up instead of down, and one of those things where the sidewalk rises just a little bit, one square next to another, and I caught my sandal in that, and I went over like a ton of bricks. Fortunately most of me went over on a grass verge, but not all. And this pair of trousers–which I love, and have never given up–has concrete pits all across the top of it! And I just wouldn’t give it up. And every time I put it on, I think of that meeting in Atlanta and the fact that we were in this beautiful, modern, high-rise hotel, but I had been charging down the very broken-up sidewalk, looking for this little dive diner that we were going to go to breakfast at. So, my little MLA physical artifact, here.

But, I also pulled some of my files; I have the Fiftieth Anniversary Meeting of MLA that took place at Yale in 1981, and I remember being just bowled over by the people who came to that meeting–people that I had only heard of as names, kind of legendary names–Otto Kinkeldey, and people like that. They were names at the bottoms of articles and at the end of reference books, like this panoply of great stars, and these names suddenly showed up as live people at this meeting. And since I’d only had my library degree for five years–so it was all very (gasps) “Wow! Wow! Look at these people, these people have shown up at this meeting! I just can’t believe all of these names!” I even saved my badge from that meeting, which I had to write myself–they gave us the badge-holder and then you had to write in your own name.

In this file is actually my note that I wrote to Bonnie Jo Dopp; this is only a couple of years ago, when I started working through my files, and came across a whole bunch of MLA stuff and said, “Gee, I wonder if the archive wants this?” So, a lot of my more mundane material from when I was a member of the statistics committee–that would have been back in the ‘90s when I was doing other kinds of jobs and collecting documents, and I sent them all off, but I kept a few of them, particularly the New England-related things, like the Yale meeting for our anniversary. But I kept a number of other things that I thought were just fun stuff. Here’s a follow-up to our comment on how we used to teach: “The supplementary guidelines for bibliographic tools,” this was 1991, and this was a session at MLA in Indianapolis. (reading) “Reference ‘Lacunae’ and what you should know about them” from October 1986, and this would have been the meeting at Eugene, Oregon, which was the first time I ever had fruit-flavored beer, and thought it was the most amazing thing ever! This is the Milwaukee meeting of 1986, (reading) “Linking music and culture: what you need to know about world music materials” and I have a note to myself that says, “Check the catalogues to see who has this material,” and I’m thinking, “I wonder if anybody in Rhode Island actually has most of this.” Here are my notes from the Austin meeting of 1984, “There was a big discussion at the Orlando meeting among a bunch of us who had been at Austin about the absolutely bizarre place we stayed in, which was a motel with a cowboy theme, which had little–they weren’t quite cabins, but they were pretty close! And you could see the chuck wagon drawing up outside in the morning.” It was hysterical; they were somewhere between a quarter and a half mile away from the University of Texas campus, so, really funky. Now I understand that place is underneath a highway overpass and no longer a motel, but lots of things from Austin here, including notes for things (reading), “Unique, new accessions at the Bodleian.” “MLA workshop on small academic music libraries,” which, quite frankly, when I came to Rhode Island College in 1983, we were a relatively small music collection, the collections are a lot bigger now and our music department and its offerings are a lot bigger now. But this was a presentation that Laura Dankner gave at that pre-conference in 1983, and the presentation was called A Day in the Life, so it was a description of how the generalist in a small music library has to get along and wear a lot of hats, some of which are musically-related hats and some of which have nothing to do with music at all. The other two presenters at this were Linda Solow–who was not yet Linda Solow-Blotner–and Ruth Watanabe. So, lots of, again, amazing names from MLA’s middle years, if I can put it that way. And, here’s the actual stuff from the Fiftieth Anniversary Meeting, which had a beautiful commemorative brochure: gorgeous gold lettering, MLA, and beautiful listing of 1931-1981 in script that I would describe as being the kind of script you’d expect to see for a book published during the German ‘30s period, kind of industrial-looking. And this being New Haven, Connecticut, we were at the fancy hotel downtown, the Sheraton Park Plaza, and Ruth Watanabe was president then, and Don Krummel was Vice President. Nice thank you letter for people who showed up and did various small jobs. Walter Gerboth was there from Brooklyn College, he gave two sessions according to this. There was a big session on sound recordings and dealing with those. I’m trying to find more of those famous names of people who came…oh! We got the, “hello” from the Yale librarian of the time–he was actually quite a character–Rutherford Rogers. A look back over things that have happened since 1931, he actually gave one of the presentations–Rutherford Rogers, that is–but so did Virgil Thomson, and Bill Lichtenwanger, and David Hall. So, again, big deal; Vivian Perlis was there, Lehman Engel was there. All of the famous MLA people that you can think of of that period, Dena Epstein and Mary Davidson, and other famous musical people: Ezra Laderman, Phyllis Curtin, Clara Steuerman. It was just–everywhere you turned was a wow; Otto Albrecht, –we heard a tape recording of Eva O’Meara that was brought by, I think, Carol Bradley. The “Who Signed Up” for the meeting, so I have the whole roster of everybody who came, and it is pages and pages and pages of people, many of whom had not come to a meeting in many years and had been retired for many years showed up at this, so it was really, it was quite a deal.

Not MLA-related; Boston concert related. That’s another BPL project: Boston area ensembles and who is in them and how to contact them. I actually have all of my notes from when we were doing that project. Now we just look them up on the web and they’ll all have a website. Of course, a lot of these ensembles are things that don’t exist anymore.

I have one of the original Chicken Singers scores, so for those of you who have not been in MLA for many, many years, I believe one of the founders of the Chicken Singers was, in fact, Susan Sommer. And we used to have a regular singing performance every year, as well as having the big band and instrumental performance–and the Chicken Song was always featured, kind of like a theme song. And it’s a work by Irving Jones, arranged for chorus by Bill Brooks, and it’s, “All birds look like chickens to me,” and it is a ridiculous song. It was a Vaudeville comedy song, originally, and it’s ridiculous, and it has choruses where everybody but the soloist is going, “cluck, cluck, chick, cluck, chick, chick, chick, cluck, caw.” It had many things added to it. So I’ve got manuscript additions to the original score, which somebody then interpolated various high descant parts and interlocking cluckings of various sorts. I also have some of the music from some of the other things that we did, we did a performance in 1988 of “The Minstrel Boy,” and a very odd performance of “Turkey in the Straw” for four-part chorus. So, it’s a tradition that I’m sad we no longer have, because there are lots of us, like me–my instrumental skills are good enough to pass theory, no one would want to listen to them as an audience. But, I’m a good singer, we’ve got lots of really good singers. Now we occasionally get regaled by people as soloists, “band singers,” if I can put it that way. But, we don’t think as an ensemble anymore, and I think we should–my personal opinion, we should revive that. We’ve got lots of talent to draw on.

I have the original “Wellesley College Folder Welcomes NEMLA for their Twenty-Fifth Anniversary,” and they did a bang-up job. Jean Morrow was chair then, and Dorothy Bogner was vice-chair, and for a number of years, Dorothy Bogner was chair of the Publications Committee, and when she was chair I was editor of the Membership Directory. This was back in the, “we-did-it-in-paper era,” long before we converted it to an online file. Somewhere, sadly, in the boxes that are still not unpacked in my brand new office, is the last directory we published–which, I believe, was 1989–before it became a computer-based file.

I have the chapter history, which I assume our archive has a copy of as well, 1962 to 1988, so the Twenty-Fifth Year Chapter history book. And Jean, Dorothy, Bob Louden [Loud], Sylvia St. Amand–she was at Springfield Public Library–did the chapter history, so we’ve got things to draw on from that era that are actually written down as an official print publication. Lots of cool stuff happened at this meeting, I have my Twenty-Fifth Anniversary badge with the gorgeous silver “Twenty-Five” on it. Again, these are things that, when the day comes when I become–cross your fingers–Emerita at Rhode Island College, a thing much to be wished, because it will give me ongoing access to our online resources, for one thing. These things will go to our NEMLA archive for safe-keeping for the duration.

That Spring meeting at UNH 1989 had a theme of looking at traditional music–so various sorts, which was pretty neat–including, “U.S. Parlor Music,” was one of the sessions. And we are blessed with having a tradition of almost always having a performance as the end of our meeting days. It is important (laughs)–sometimes, in general librarianship, it’s a bad thing that people now seem to want to–or feel free to, or think it’s even maybe a good idea to–bash the idea that we are about books as one of the things we do (laughing), that somehow that, “book” is a dirty word, and we want to back away from that or get away from that in some sense. And I think music librarians have never bought into that psyche, that music is very much what we’re about, and to say that we–that performance is as important to us as any of the technical esoterica that we have to deal with in order to do our jobs is one of the delightful parts of being part of this part of librarianship.

And, one of my favorite backfiles here was, our Fall ‘98 meeting was at Brown, and that was a lot of fun, having it be a locally-produced meeting. And that was late enough that Brown had its new music facility available to us. When I was an undergraduate, the music department was in a tiny, little, old house, and we had no recital space that wasn’t something else–a chapel, a lecture hall, a something else. The music collection was part of the humanities and social science library–the Rockefeller Library–and the sound recordings collection there was in a hot closet that had once been a reading room for one–the kind of things grad students can sign up for–with no ventilation. Most of the sound recordings were in the little house where the music department lived, but even there, there was no serious climate control of any kind. They were all LPs, things would warp and degrade rather quickly, and their ability to purchase the Orwig Mansion and expand it with recital space and a true music library with climate control and better-fit classrooms and all of that kind of stuff, it was huge. So, it was fun having the meeting at the new music facilities at Brown–or at least they were new-ish at the time, not quite spanking new, but pretty close. And it was a great meeting, lots of stuff about, both the technical side–we talked a lot about vendors and networks and library resources and how to get a hold of them. Nelinet–Robert [Cunningham] gave a part of the morning was, in fact, getting a handle on music authority control in our various national networks. We were all talking about our new online systems, WLN as an example of getting a handle on music cross-referencing, so there was at least one institution in the local area–and it wasn’t Brown, actually, that had WLN. So, lots of interesting talk about forming of consortia in various places. We didn’t yet have a big consortium in Rhode Island–which we do now, it’s called HELIN–but, people were beginning to coalesce in those ways, because technology was making that more and more possible as a way to cooperate across libraries in an area. So, (sighs) memories, memories. Great stuff, it was a wonderful day; we toured the whole back and the front of the new Orwig Library and classroom spaces. We talked about American Editions–the Music of the United States of America had just–just–started, and they outlined their editorial plan for us. Okay, dealing with your new music online catalog, and all the bugbears and stuff–I remember that one, they almost couldn’t shut down the Q&A after that, so many people wanted to tell about their war story, and I think that’s an important function of what we do at the NEMLA level, that we can take the time to say what our local experience is as part of that conversation. That it is–just because you are using a system that’s not widely used by others here doesn’t mean that that experience can’t add to the collective knowledge about how things work and how people are doing what they’re doing in their music library.

This is newer, but it’s also Rhode Island’s, so these are my two Rhode Island-related files, local stuff. This is when we had MLA in Newport in 2008. Oh, what a weather mess! And a logistical mess; the hotel was under construction and it was out on Goat Island–which is in Newport Harbor–and it has a permanent causeway that goes out to it, but as you can imagine, this tiny little avenue was the only way the get to the hotel from any place that was actually in the city of Newport, and even in the best of times, it’s a traffic jam–that all local folk know about–but with everything under construction it was that much more of a hell-hole traffic jam at the time. So, February of 2008 we actually had a blizzard hit during the conference–that was an (clears throat) interesting occurrence. Rhode Islanders are used to snow, but Newport is not particularly used to snow, because being right in the middle of the bay, snow usually melts pretty quickly for them. So when they get snow, they expect the snow to just disappear, except it didn’t. (Laughs) So then people had to negotiate all of that. And, lots of fun stuff happened with that: people got to eat a lot of seafood, which is good; Newport is well-known for its seafood cuisine. I’m trying to see if there is anything particularly session-unique about this. I commuted to this! I wasn’t on Goat Island, I was in Providence and I commuted down for all the daily meetings, and that was an interesting thing once the snow hit. For those of you not intimate with Rhode Island geography, Newport is about a forty-five minute drive on a good day, with the sun shining, so when snow flies it’s a commute that’s more like–add something to about an hour and fifteen minutes for, not just the general weather, but how everybody else will handle the general weather badly on the road. So, I actually missed the start of several sessions by just not being able to arrive on time. And I did bring down a couple of Providence folk at various times, I’m pretty sure I gave a ride to Margaret Chevian from Providence Public Library to a couple of these sessions, so that was a fun thing to do. She was their sound recording specialist at the time. Okay, so that’s the trip down memory lane through the files here, that was the best stuff.

MC: That was wonderful. Any closing thoughts? You’ve been extremely thorough.

TB: Just that I hope people take advantage of this. I will tell you, honestly, I had some worries; I, am a good teacher, so I like to talk, and I know how to talk off the cuff. But it’s still funny talking about yourself, and also talking about your friends, to a certain extent. But it’s a real opportunity for the chapter to not only know about the careers of people who are still with us–like me–but also the people who are no longer with us, who were my mentors, who were important to the chapter and we can’t hear from them anymore, and they were key to many of the things that the chapter did, and to the gestalt that we’ve been able to keep up all of these years, because that was their way of organizing their professional association. And I think we’ve kept that way, which was very much to involve ourselves in each other’s professional developments and professional activities, and we should be faithful to that, in the future, and this will help us know who we were, in a different way than that printed history did from our Twenty-Fifth.

MC: That’s a wonderful way to close. Thank you very much.

NEMLA Officers

Marci Cohen
Assistant Head
Music Library
Boston University
771 Commonwealth Ave.
Boston, MA 02215
mcohen2 at
(617) 353-3707
Sarah Funke Donovan
Associate Archivist for Digital Assets
Boston Symphony Orchestra
301 Massachusetts Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
sdonovan at
(617) 638-9452
Past Chair:
Jared Rex
Music Librarian
Fenwick Music Library
College of the Holy Cross
1 College Street
Worcester, MA 01610
jrex at
(508) 793-2295
Secretary-Treasurer:Alan Karass
Alan Karass
Director of Libraries
New England Conservatory
290 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115-5018
alan.karass at
(617) 585-1247
Patricia (Tish) Brennan
Associate Professor/Head of Reference
James P. Adams Library
Rhode Island College
600 Mt Pleasant Ave
Providence, RI 02908
pbrennan at
(401) 456-2810
Newsletter Editor:
Memory Apata
Music & Performing Arts Librarian
Dartmouth College
Paddock Music Library
Hopkins Center, HB 6245 Hanover, NH 03755
memory.r.apata at
(603) 646-3234
NEMLA Archivist:
Vacant Post
Website Editor:
Lisa Wollenberg
Public Services Librarian
Allen Library
University of Hartford
200 Bloomfield Ave
West Hartford, CT 06117
lwollenbe at
Office: (860) 768-4840

Publication Information:

New England Quarter Notes is published quarterly in September, December, March/April and June/July.
Back issues may be accessed from:

Address all correspondence concerning editorial matters to:
Memory Apata

Inquiries concerning subscription, membership and change of address should be directed to:
Alan Karass

Membership year runs September to August.
Regular Personal Membership:$12.00
Student and Retired Membership:$6.00
Institutional Membership$16.00

Return to the New England Music Library Association home page.