Public music libraries facing closure, redundancies and more

I was sad to learn last week that Yorkshire Music Library has had to close. This is due to its parent company, Fresh Horizons, going into liquidation. Yorkshire Music Library had the largest collection of performance sets in the UK. It loaned over half a million scores and orchestral sets to 2,000 choirs and orchestras (Glover, 2016). Two librarians ran this popular service and both have been made redundant.

Apparently, the Society of Chief Librarians Yorkshire and Humberside, who are the legal custodians of the stock, are trying to find a way make the collection available again (Making Music, 2016 (a)).

I met one of the librarians, Sophie Anderson, at a IAML Study Weekend in 2014. She seemed really lovely, bright and passionate about her job. I hope her talents can quickly be put to use in a similar job elsewhere.

Unfortunately other regional music libraries are also reducing their services due to cuts in funding. Last year, Birmingham City Council proposed closing down Birmingham’s music library altogether (Making Music, 2016 (b)). The music library had only just moved into the new Library of Birmingham and offered users fantastic services (see earlier blog post). The proposal was contested and the library is now up and running again. However, there are less staff and the interlibrary loans service is no longer running. Similarly, Manchester’s Henry Watson Music Library is no longer providing interlibrary loans.

The amateur orchestra that I play in (London City Orchestra) has borrowed orchestral sets from Westminster Music Library and (via interlibrary loans) the Barbican Music Library on several occasions. Without these services, we would only be able to use out-of-copyright sheet music available from sites like IMSLP or hire from music publishers, which would be far more expensive. We also use music libraries to help us plan programmes and do research for programme notes. For example, Barbican Music Library gives members free, remote access to the reference work, Oxford Music Online, and music streaming service, Naxos Music Library. I have used both of these resources to research programme notes for our concerts.

On 19 March, I went on a tour of the Barbican Music Library organised by Making Music. This is a public library run by the City of London Corporation but you don’t have to be a resident of the City of London to join. Their collection includes sheet music, books, ebooks, magazines, CDs, DVDs, journals and various electronic resources like Oxford Music Online and Naxos. They also have two practice pianos, which can be booked. And they regularly put on exhibitions in the library space (the current one is on punk rock, featuring photos by a renowned rock photographer). This is such a fantastic resource. I only hope that regional music libraries will be protected from further cuts and closures.

Glover, C., 2016. Social enterprise, Fresh Horizon, in liquidation [online]. Huddersfield Daily Examiner. Available:

Making Music, 2016 (a). Music libraries campaigns update and Yorkshire Music Library news [online]. Making Music. Available:

Making Music, 2016 (b). Birmingham music library: back up and running! [online] Making Music. Available: