59 days and counting

You may remember that some time ago, MusiCB3 revealed that its librarians were going to be extremely busy in 2023, with an international music librarians’ congress making its way to the Faculty of Music in July this year. The planning and preparation is now well under way, and my Doomsday Congress clock is counting down (as you can see from my wallpaper). The last couple of weeks, in the run-up to the close of Early Bird booking, have been particularly exhausting, with no less than 113 registrations in the last fortnight.

2023 is a particularly important year for music librarians in both the UK and Sweden with both celebrating the 70th birthday of their branch of the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres (not surprisingly, with one of the longest names of any association, they prefer to be known as IAML (Yamel rhymes with camel)).

So, what does a music librarians conference involve? The IAML Congress is a particularly cheerful congress, with hundreds of librarians meeting up from all over the world – so far our southernmost delegates hail from Auckland, New Zealand, the most northern from Oulu in Finland, the fourth northernmost city in the world, furthest west is San Francisco, and east (not counting New Zealand, which would “win” again) is Tokyo.

Not only do they come from all over the world, but there are a huge range of libraries represented. Everyone can be found at IAML from academic and national libraries, specialist libraries – perhaps dedicated to a particular composer, such as the Martinu or Krenek institutes, or to specific collections – the Gerald Coke Handel Foundation, a music library associated with the carabineri (yes, I was surprised to discover this too), or music related to a country or race such as the Basque music archives. We have representatives from broadcast institutions and their musical libraries worldwide, and from arts organisations including libraries attached to orchestras and opera houses; and then there are the people we work with all the time, the publishers who produce the music, and the suppliers who get it to us. As if this wasn’t exciting enough, we also have musicologists, who depend on libraries to access the material they need for research, and are excited enough to come and tell us more about what they’re doing.

It’s a wonderful opportunity to network, to make new friends, and to finally find out what that person looks like who you’ve been pestering with music enquiries over the last year.

It’s been a steep learning curve with an extraordinary amount to do. As well as the professional programme itself, which is thankfully organised by someone else, but with Cambridge librarians checking that not too many people are shoe-horned into the wrong small room, we have had to make sure that we have enough rooms booked for papers, workshops, working groups and miscellaneous meetings, and then there’s the complicated question of tea and biscuits (or should it be cake? Perhaps it should be tea and biscuits and cake (and don’t forget the oat milk)), pianos and laptops. We also organise concerts throughout the week at different venues, and the Wednesday afternoon social – a variety of trips, with volunteers (hopefully) organised with military precision to get the right delegates to the right event and location, while trying not to leave anyone stranded at a National Trust property, or, even worse, in the Cam.

What have I found unexpected? We heard that the Congress was coming to Cambridge in January 2020, a few months before Covid hit. As you may imagine, it had a huge impact. Food and drink prices especially have been virtually impossible to calculate. There have also been problems around pricing of printing and other costs, which have fluctuated wildly. None of this was foreseeable at the time that we originally agreed to the Congress, and it has made life for everyone from the Cambridge team to the wider IAML UK & Irl family, much more complicated than would have been anticipated back in early 2020.

What was not surprising has been the way in which the team on the ground have worked together, with Anna, Helen, Kate, Meg, and myself all working tirelessly to make this Congress an excellent one.

Today, the first day after the original end-date for Early Bird booking, though it has now been extended to June 6th, has been eerily quiet. It may be the calm before the storm, so time to get blogging and ordering and invoicing before another wave hits.

We’re really looking forward to welcoming our fellow music librarians to Cambridge in July, and can’t wait to see what they think of our beautiful city.

MJ, Chair, Organising Committee, IAML 2023

If you’re interested in coming to IAML 2023 go to our website.

Reposted from MusiCB3 blog

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