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Making Music’s ‘Music Libraries’

2nd June 2016

Making Music has been campaigning in various parts of the UK to prevent closures and find sustainable solutions for music sets services in public libraries.

Finding sheet music for use by amateur and youth groups relies on a combination of sources:

  • groups have their own stock, or borrow from others, either directly or via Making Music’s member music exchange;
  • they can purchase or hire from music publishers;
  • some material may be available free or affordably via the internet.

But our members tell us they source 45% of their music through public library music sets services which allow groups to reserve sets in advance and to access, via Inter Library Loans, repertoire held in other libraries across the UK.

There is one problem: local authorities are having to rethink what they deliver and how, due to cuts to their budgets of up to 40%, and music sets are not one of their statutory obligations – unlike books, and even they’re not doing well!

So what to do? We could not win the battle for public sympathy competing against social care, health, education, or even street cleaning.

What Making Music has been doing, therefore, is to fight urgent campaigns when necessary in order to stop a closure or effective dismantling (e.g. by removing Inter Library Loans access) of services.

This is then followed by conversations with local authorities, working with them to find future-proof longer-term solutions.

This has been successful, for instance in Leicester which, obliged to rethink by a public outcry, then teamed up with Nottingham to launch the first regional performing arts library, with the first dedicated IT system to underpin it; and in Birmingham where total closure was avoided, even if the service is now much reduced.

You can help us with this work by letting us know if you become aware of changes to your local service, so that we can act quickly. And even if a temporary stay of execution is achieved, as in Norfolk recently, we still need music makers to be active in working with and supporting the council as it looks for alternative solutions.

We also need stories about the effect the closure of such facilities will have on music making in an area – and the effect on young people tends to be listened to more attentively, so do tell us what your music library means to you!

You can contact me, Barbara Eifler, Executive Director of Making Music, ( on this issue, you can sign up to our free newsletter ( and do feel free to share our information and calls to action with any of your music contacts in your area – together, we can really make a difference!