That Was Then: A Brief History

The Beginnings

In 1921, when the IU Department of Music became the School of Music, Dean Winfred Merrill began collecting a library of recordings, books, and scores for student and faculty use. This library was housed in glass cases in the Dean's office, and was supervised by his secretary. By 1928 the collection was of sufficient size to be listed as a departmental library in the University's guide to the library. With the opening in 1937 of the new Music Building (since renamed for Dean Merrill), separate quarters were provided for the Music Library on the building's second floor. In 1939, Indiana's first full-time music librarian was appointed, Miss Ethyl Louise Lyman.

By 1943 the collection had grown to 15,000 books, scores and periodicals, and 3,000 sound recordings, ranking it as third in size of IU branch libraries after Law and Medicine. There was also a large collection of orchestral and choral performance materials. In 1950 these large-ensemble materials were removed from the general collections of the Music Library to a separate subdivision, and a full-time staff assistant was appointed to manage them. These performance materials remain under the aegis of the Music Library today.

The Middle Period


When Miss Lyman retired as Music Librarian in 1960, the collections had grown to include 35,000 books, 80 sets of periodicals, 12,000 recordings, and more than 137,840 items of printed music. A separate microform reading room had been established for the users of the 250 rolls of microfilm and four catalog trays of microcards. A list of the collected editions and monumenta owned by the Music Library was now being published in the School of Music Bulletin, presumably to assure prospective students of the resources of the Music Library.

In 1963 Dominique de Lerma was appointed as Music Librarian and Associate Professor of Music. During the 1960s, two important special collections were established in the library. Juan Orrego-Salas arrived in 1961 to establish the Latin American Music Center, with its adjunct Latin American Music Collection. In 1970 a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities enabled the establishment of the Black Music Center and the Black Music Collection.


During the 1950s-1960s the library expanded its physical quarters several times. The recordings collections and listening facilities were removed to the ground floor of the Music Building, while the print collections remained on the second floor. By the 1970s the need for additional space for collections and readers had become critical, and a newly renovated area in the basement level of Sycamore Hall, adjacent to the Music Annex, was made available for the book, periodical, and score collections. Sound recordings and listening facilities remained on the ground floor of the Music Building, and music for large ensembles remained on the second floor of that building, dividing the collections among three separate locations. Additional renovations in the 1980s expanded these spaces.


In the 1970s-1990s there was substantial growth in staff as well as in collection size. In 1971 Dr. David Fenske, the recent Head of the Music Library, joined the School of Music as Associate Music Librarian. At that time there were three librarians (the head and associate music librarians, and a technical services librarian). In 1976 a change in the administrative structure and the addition of one new position brought the number of librarians to four (head, two reference librarians, one technical services librarian). A fifth position (sound recordings cataloger) was added in 1979. Reorganization in the 1990s and the addition of two professional (PA) staff positions brought the Music Library professional staff to eight (head librarian, collection development librarian, reference librarian, electronic music resources librarian, two technical services librarians (cataloging), and user services and computing professionals).


This Is Now

William and Gayle Cook Music Library Facility

The Cook Music Library facility opened in January 1996. 


The Music Library's primary collection of printed research materials now includes among its 700,155 cataloged items more than 72,500 monographs, 17,350 journal volumes (500 current subscriptions), 155,617 scores, including a comprehensive collection of historical sets and collected editions, and 20,498 microforms. The strengths of the collection include: 19th-century first or early editions of orchestral, chamber, and opera sources; extensive holdings of printed operas; theory treatises from the Renaissance to the late nineteenth century; Russian/Soviet music; early keyboard and violin primary source materials (the Willi Apel collections); Black and Latin American music collections; as well as other special collections of print and audio materials. In addition, the performing ensembles collection contains more than 241,818 for large ensembles, including virtually all the standard orchestral and choral repertoire in support of the School of Music's several choruses and orchestras.

The audio collection contains more than 165,701 cataloged sound recordings for use in class assignments, applied music study, and research. The collection is particularly strong in the area of opera, and features among its special collections the Jussi Bjoerling Collection (the world's largest collection of recordings by the Swedish tenor, about 3,000 items), and the Ross Allen and Alvin Ehret collections of vocal recordings (37,000 recordings of operatic and vocal repertoire, including virtually all complete operas recorded between 1950 and 1975, many of them unique or rare in the United States). Grants from the Title II-C program for original cataloging of these collections have made bibliographic records for a significant proportion of these sound recordings available through OCLC.  The Leon Aufdemberge Collection will add another 13,000 recordings of operatic and vocal music when cataloged.

Administrative Structure and Staff

The Music Library is administered by the Director of the Music Library and the Associate Director. All of the music librarians and professional staff share administrative responsibility for five operating divisions.

Public Services

The Head of Public Services librarian is assisted by a staff of three, who share responsibility for general supervision of circulation policies, preparation and circulation of reserves, stack maintenance, library security, and administrative support. 

Reference service is provided by the librarians and staff, and by reference interns enrolled in the Music Specialization Program in the School of Library and Information Science.

Teaching and Learning
The Head of Public Services coordinates the JSOM Information Fluency program, teaches information literacy skills in music for faculty and instructors, and teaches internships on instruction for music library specialization students.

Technical Services


The Music Library Technical Services Division provides all cataloging services for the Music Library, excepting journals. The Music Library has participated since 1976 in the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC).  In 1983, the quality of the division's cataloging was recognized in open competition and external evaluation when the Music Library received authorization, as one of the first twenty libraries participating in OCLC's "Enhance" program, to modify and upgrade master records in the OCLC database. The Music Library is also a participant in the Music OCLC Users Group's NACO-Music Project, which contributes to the Library of Congress's Name Authority File using the Linked Systems Project as implemented by OCLC and the Library of Congress. Technical Services staff consists of the head of technical services, a librarian cataloger who also heads the cataloging department, the sound recordings cataloger, two staff catalogers, and student assistants.

Collection Development and Acquisitions

The Collection Development Librarian, assisted by the library's administrative support staff, selects and acquires materials in all formats for the collections. Music is the sole branch library on the Bloomington campus with responsibility for purchasing its materials directly rather than through the University Libraries centralized acquisitions department. 

Technology Support

The 120 networked public-access non-catalog computer workstations in the library are managed and supported by the University Information Technology Services Department. Consultants from UITS are available for general (non-music) hardware and software support during most hours that the library is open.

A computing specialist on the Music Library staff also supports the library staff workstations, and the music applications that are available on the public workstations. Hardware and programming support for the VARIATIONS servers (see below) are provided by staff of the Digital Library Program of the University Libraries. Staff and servers for the Jacobs School of Music's local area network are also housed within the Music Library, although not under the administration of the University Libraries.

Variations Projects

The VARIATIONS Project, developed by a team headed by former Head of the Music Library David Fenske, successfully experimented with digitizing analog sound, and playing the resulting digitized sound files on networked workstations in the Music Library and over the campus network. While work on the first project known as "VARIATIONS" began in the early 1990s, the first system was put into production on April 1, 1996. Since then, students and faculty using the William and Gayle Cook Music Library on the Bloomington Campus of Indiana University have been able to access a continually growing collection of digitized sound recordings and scores from the world's first ever digital music library.

Currently, IU students and faculty can access more than 21,000 complete sound recordings and 500 scores from the Variations Digital Music Library.

For more information on the history of the Variations and the various projects completed and currently underway, please see the Variations homepage.

For a more complete history, see Mary Wallace Davidson's, “Indiana University’s William & Gayle Cook Music Library: An Introduction,” and John F. Anderies', “Ethel Louise Lyman and the Beginnings of the Indiana University Music Library,” both found in Notes 59 (December 2002):125-–87.