The only music library in New Hampshire is scrapped

The only music library in New Hampshire is scrapped


norman lebrecht

February 26, 2021

A disgraceful decision by Dartmouth College, which is depriving an entire state of access to music knowledge.

Read this account by cellist Daniel Lelchuk:

A few days after it announced a $75 million renovation for the Hopkins Center for the Arts, to be carried out by the Norwegian design firm Snøhetta, Dartmouth College announced it would be permanently closing the Paddock Music Library and the Kresge Physical Sciences Library. The decision renders Dartmouth the only Ivy League school without a music library.

The college’s clinical, corporate news release included the following line: “High-use material from the Kresge and Paddock collections will be relocated to Baker-Berry over the coming months with the remainder of the collections to be housed in the library’s offsite shelving facility and available by request.”

I, for one, do not believe musical scores belong in an “offsite shelving facility,” and find it frankly pathetic that the college thinks this is an appropriate fate for works of art. And what is high-use, anyway? Is there a quota that must be met or else Dartmouth will take Mozart’s Don Giovanni and bring it to the offsite trash bin it proposes?…

Read on here.

Yo Yo Ma at Dartmouth


  • Allen says:

    One of the great virtues of a library is the ability to browse, and take volumes off open shelves out of curiosity or on a whim. That’s why they are the way they are.

    It doesn’t work at all if you have to know precisely what to ask for.

    • Rogerio says:

      Sir, I fear you have just described the manner in which Americans now choose a president.

    • zenit says:

      Exactly!! As a music student in England, fortunately with access to a great music library, I did not know what to write for my final thesis or even what to look for! ISLMP is good but simply not enough. Also some composers works are not publicly available. So back then, I just browsed for hours through scores and recordings in the peace and quiet of the library. I eventually found something that clicked, and so began a lifetime of exploration in that particular field. Without a library one loses the special sense of wonder, and atmosphere. The inspiration from what has gone before, what is now, and what will be. The feel of a book or a score in the hands. The music becomes tangible, the magic unfolds itself before you. Those hours spent in the library are precious moments of learning and self discovery for every student. In my opinion they are essential for true academic development and quality of research.

    • AnnaT says:

      Allen, this is exactly right. In teaching research methods, I require students to go and browse the stacks, something some of them have never done, assuming they can find everything they need online. They probably can–but what they can’t do is find something they don’t *know* they want or need, see books next to each other and reflecting on each other, and so on. Browsing the stacks sparks something new; chasing down something online (or by request) resolves an existing need.

  • Bone says:

    I was lucky to be stationed near Champaign, IL and the wonderful music library at the university of Illinois. Access was free and I spent countless hours poring over scores of Messiaen, Carter, Wagner, etc.
    I agree completely with the author: this closure is a real tragedy for the humanities.

  • Duncan says:

    It happens on a local level as well. The Winchester library which used to occupy 2 buildings has been reduced to one and re-branded as ‘The Discovery Centre’. All reference books including Grove Music now moved to an out-of-town store and have to be requested in advance. The large collection of scores has disappeared and the music shelves now mostly popular music books. You might just find a book on Beethoven or Elgar if you are lucky. Other books such as history etc also have to be ordered in advance. This is progress…!

  • Patrick says:

    At Dartmouth it’s, “who needs music libraries when you have Wikipedia, YouTube and IMSLP.”

    • Fred says:

      I’m not sure, in the 21st century, that this is not a valid argument.

      • SVM says:

        Wikipedia is biased, has very inconsistent coverage, and is unreliable — in some cases, it may be a good starting-point, but it has far too many factual errors and omissions to be anything more than a vague outline. I would not rely on Wikipedia even for factual information as basic as years of birth and death (to be fair, establishing lifespans of historical figures is notoriously difficult, and even the scholarly music encyclopedias have sometimes got it wrong… Nicolas Slonimsky has commented on the issue with his unique wit and erudition). So, personally, I do not find Wikipedia much use — far better to start with /Grove/ (most municipal libraries in the UK have a subscription to the online version, so most people with a UK municipal library membership can access /Grove/ for free via the internet), /MGG/ (the premier German-language music encyclopedia), or /Baker’s/ (once edited by the great Nicolas Slonimsky, who did more than any other musicologist to clarify and report accurately the actual lifespans of musicians), proper encyclopedias edited by proper musicologists… but even they are nowhere near perfect, and a serious researcher should always consult further sources (in my experience, I often discover lacunae or factual errors in encyclopedia articles after further investigation, especially articles on living or recently deceased composers).

        YouTube, again, is very inconsistent in its coverage, and the quality of music recordings is extremely variable (both in terms of the performance itself and in terms of the fidelity of the recording). Its main benefit is the sheer quantity of material, but that is no substitute for an extensive library of recordings. Discoverability of content on YouTube is also a serious issue: there is no easy mechanism for searching by composer, title, movement, performer, &c.

        IMSLP has very impressive coverage of out-of-copyright music, but it is nowhere near exhaustive. For a volunteer-run resource, it does a pretty decent job of cataloguing its material (much better than YouTube, but not as good as a proper music library run by expert professionals), although it relies usually on the user already knowing something about the composer and the work in question (especially when dealing with multiple versions, arrangements, anthologies, and such like), although there are some honourable exceptions to this. And if you are after something in copyright, IMSLP is no good whatsoever.

        Whilst YouTube and the IMSLP are certainly very useful resources, they are no substitute for a well stocked, well catalogued, and browsable music library with a plenitude of scores and parts **in hard copy** (personally, I find it very difficult to scrutinise music notation via a computer screen, unless I am analysing a very short excerpt without reference to the piece as a whole), as well as a diverse selection of scholarly and ‘coffee-table’ literature on music, ideally covering a variety of perspectives on a given composer/work/performer/theme.

  • Nosema says:

    The music dept at Dartmouth has, for the last 45 years or so, been the turd in the College’s punchbowl. What with such whacko pundits as William Cole whose gibbering fomentations became national news in the 80’s (thanks to Laura Ingraham and the Dartmouth Review), Jon Appleton the oversynthesized ‘professional’ Academic, and now the oversensetized quack William Cheng( no pain – no gain) it’s a wonder that the library( which has quite a distinguished collection of serious music) hasn’t yet been torched. Best to keep it in a safe place.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Wasn’t the distinguished musicologist Charles Hamm in the Dartmouth Music Dept faculty? He must have retired in the 1990s.

    • Correction says:

      The library closure was announced by college administration without consulting Dr. Cheng or any other music faculty. Question your sources if you are hearing that Dartmouth faculty or students would wish harm to their own music library.

    • AnnaT says:

      Bill Cole is owed a profound apology. The only people “gibbering” were Ingraham and her sycophants.

  • IntBaritone says:

    Devil’s advocate position here… but why should the library give space to music scores if no one is looking at them?

    I would love for every library to have a large music selection – but if they’re accessed once a decade, is the demand really there for those scores? Enough to keep them on the shelves?

    This is an issue with the greater public and the death of music education, but less of an issue with the library’s choices. That a cellist feels shorted is unfortunate, but perhaps his time would be better spent encouraging new people to check out music scores than writing articles that only people who already care will read.

    • James Weiss says:

      This is called not being able to see the forest for the trees. It shows ignorance and cluelessness. Shortsighted.

      • IntBaritone says:

        No. It’s not. It’s called supply and demand, James.

        If no one wants to read the scores, why should they supply them (taking up valuable real estate that could be used by more popular volumes)?

        Just because it’s altruistic to keep the texts/scores there, doesn’t mean it’s actually worth it. And that’s ok. The library should have to feel bad because a handful of musicians are upset.

        If you want to do something about it, go to your library and take out a score and encourage others to do so. If you don’t, libraries should not shelve them.

    • Peter San Diego says:

      Another solution would be to scan the scores and volumes destined for off-site storage and make them available electronically. That way, they’d remain immediately accessible to all, and for uses demanding the original medium, they’d still be available on order. It might not be ideal, but in some respects — e.g., availability to more than one person at a time — it would be a superior solution to just having the materials on the library shelves.

    • Dan Lelchuk says:

      Speaks the cellist referenced above: I do not live in the area. I grew up there. “That a cellist feels shorted” misses the point. I feel shorted on behalf of anyone who uses that library, who uses it as a place for wonder and discovery.

      I did not write the piece for Slipped Disc, I wrote it for the Valley News, which is the local newspaper where Dartmouth is located. Many people from the area have emailed me to thank me for writing about a cultural issue in their area.

      So no, I didn’t write it for people who already care; it seems most people didn’t even know. Perhaps if you read the actual article before commenting you would have more context.
      Now, back to work standing on the street corner begging people to go to the music library and check out scores!!

    • westcoasttrumpeter says:

      In the midst of this interesting and articulate exchanging of views, we have our self-proclaimed “Devil’s Advocate” riding to the rescue, eager to point out that cellists should stick to… well, not voicing their opinions, anyway. Anyone else reminded of Laura Ingraham telling LeBron James to “Shut up and dribble?”

      Also hard to notice that this comment seems to wildly miss the article’s source—an oped publication in the hometown newspaper of Dartmouth College— in order to make the sorry-but-not-quite-tautological claim that the only people who read articles are those who care about them. Hmm… I guess that describes people who read newspapers?

      Of course, there’s a larger point being made by our Beelzebubian Advocate: don’t keep things on the shelves if they’re not constantly being checked out. By that token, why should libraries stock Thomas Mann when people want James Patterson? Why should film archives keep Federico Fellini when all people really want is Bryan Singer? etc. The beauty of ANY library is precisely that, rather than bowing to the immediacy of popular culture, it seeks to retain, cherish, and make available the very voices that might be most forgotten. That’s what I always thought, anyway. Maybe I’m no good as a Devil’s Advocate.

    • Alexander Platt says:

      “That a cellist feels shorted”……Do you realize what you’re talking about?

  • David K. Nelson says:

    As Mark Twain once wrote (more or less) of course the Devil has a case. The Devil always has a case. The late Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain would get one of his biggest laughs reading that essay of Twain’s, particularly where Twain wrote that deciding the case against the Devil without listening to his defense was contrary to our notions of justice. “Why, it is un-British! It is un-Amerrrrrrican. [actorly pause] … It is French.”

    Personally I have benefited from this attitude of librarians, which seems to have come about in the last three or four decades, perhaps as they too battle to show their relevance and worthiness for continued funding — that the least checked out books should be discarded or put in that same storage warehouse seen in the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the only the most checked out books should be kept on the shelves.

    I say I benefited from that because many libraries have sales of the discarded stuff and I have purchased wonderful books, magazines, recordings/CDs, and yes, sheet music, for pennies on the dollar. That’s how I got my copy of Margaret Farish’s “String Music in Print” (1965), almost impossible to get nowadays, or Ruth Anderson’s incredible and rare “Contemporary American Composers: A Biographical Dictionary” (1976) with names that escaped the notice even of Slonimsky/Baker’s. As for the sheet music, some was old and rare, some was not, but all of it would now be horridly expensive and here are libraries selling it off for 10 or 25 cents.

    My own view, which seems to prevail nowhere, is that a real library is there mainly for those things that are not being checked out on an everyday basis. Bookstores exist for those fleetingly popular things. Librarians are taking it easy on themselves, since libraries can readily quantify how often something is checked out, but have no notion often something is consulted and actually used (unless they meticulously keep track of what their minions have to re-shelve of an afternoon, which I doubt). So since they have the data, it becomes for that reason important data. A Grove’s would be a perfect example of something which a researcher might need to consult. Ditto a Hoboken catalog. There are many such examples.

  • Jer says:

    There appears to be an open Google Doc circulating with testimonies about all the ways the Dartmouth Music Library has been extensively used. We should probably read a few of these before making assumptions about whether people have found the library useful or not.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    The above report is inconsistent with what has been posted at the Dartmouth website:
    “The libraries’ staff and high-use collection items will be relocated to the main Baker-Berry Library system, while all other resources will be housed off-site and available upon request. Though the College will no longer lend materials out of Kresge, it expects to reopen the library’s study spaces to students once the COVID-19 task force deems it safe to do so. It has not yet determined whether study spaces in Paddock will also reopen.”

  • Karl says:

    I have a friend who plays with the symphony there sometimes. He says they only care about sports at Dartmouth. Looks like he’s right. The orchestra plays really well, but they have a terrible hall.

  • Bill says:

    Is this ideal? No. Is it an impossible burden? Again, no. In my experience, libraries with large collections are often forced to keep part of the collection in less convenient storage And it is far from obvious that any Tom, Dick, or Harry could make any use of the collection if not affiliated with Dartmouth anyhow.

  • Herbie G says:

    I bet the majority of the content of the library relates to colonialist, racist, un-woke, imperialist, white-privileged slavery-supporting culturally-appropriating authors, performers and composers. It has no place in the modern post-white USA then.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    “High-use material from the Kresge and Paddock collections will be relocated to Baker-Berry over the coming months with the remainder of the collections to be housed in the library’s offsite shelving facility and available by request.”
    That doesn’t sound like a closing to me – it’s a relocation. And many libraries are turning to the “materials available by request” model to make better use of available space.

  • Correction says:

    not borrowing != not looking
    esp for non-circulating materials (obv)

  • Mark Woodward says:

    Absolutely criminal. It’s not like Paddock used up a lot of space. The music library should be where the Music Dept. is, or there’s no sense to have either. The Hopkins Center seems to be continuing its descent into irrelevance.

  • ken roberts says:

    There is also a large Music Library at the University of New Hampshire, in Durham, the other side of the state, so saying that the Dartmouth one is the only one in the state is not accurate. This does not change the awful fact of Darmouth ‘Shelving” their collection. Roberts

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    I don’t know if this counts, but Philips Exeter Academy in south east New Hampshire definitely has a music library. I have a niece who’s married to the music librarian.

    • Tom Moore says:

      “ Located within the Music Media and Technology Suite, Phillips Exeter Academy’s Music Library gives students, faculty and staff the opportunity to explore the literature of music in a convenient and comfortable setting. It also serves as a resource through which students may supplement and enrich their classroom, ensemble and private lesson experiences. The Music Library’s collection currently exceeds 7000 items”……

  • Nosema says:

    Paddock Music Library had pride of place in the geographical center of the Music Department when Hopkins Center opened in 1962. Students could browse through scores and sheet music in the aisles, could listen to LP’s peacefully for hours. One could even congregate and talk music with other similarly minded students or faculty.But already 20 years later in the mid 80’s things had changed. It was clear to the majority of the music faculty at the time that Paddock was harbouring a harmful collection of masterpieces from the Western Musical Canon. So the library was booted a long way down a linoleum highway of a corridor – as far away as you could possibly go in the Hopkins Center
    What replaced this former heart of the music department? An electronic ‘music’ studio – the door to which was most of the time mercifully locked.
    Now Dartmouth makes history again with the total elimination of the music library. As I have seen no objections of any sort from the Dartmouth Music Department I have to assume thatthey are ,at best,weeping crocodile tears. Well don’t cry me a river too close to the electronic music studio – you might get electrocuted…..

  • Tom Moore says:

    Pace Ken Roberts, I am informed by an authoritative source that UNH does NOT have a Music Library, nor a music librarian. It has music materials in the main campus library.