University of Rochester Library Bulletin: The Sibley Music Library, A World Collection

Volume XXXIII · 1980

The Sibley Music Library: A World Collection


This paper is a revised and enlarged version of an article published in Notes, the quarterly journal of the Music Library Association, Vol. 33, No. 4, June 1977, pp. 783-502.

Because the Sibley Music Library stands in unassuming modesty on Swan Street in downtown  Rochester, behind the magnificent Eastman Theatre and the beautiful and imposing Eastman School of Music, one is apt to pass it by without much more than a glance at its facade. But if the truth be known, it contains one of the world's outstanding collections, unsurpassed by any other collegiate library of music.

The Sibley Library is a full-service facility which, together with Rush Rhees Library and its branches on the River Campus and the Edward G. Miner Library at the University's Medical Center, is an integral part of the University of Rochester Libraries. Its primary goal is to serve the students, faculty, and staff of the Eastman School of Music. Secondarily it acts as a music reference resource for the community. Its dual role may be understood in the light of its history, which antedates by two decades the founding of the school with which it is now associated.

During the very early years of the present century, Hiram W. Sibley, prominent Rochesterian and public benefactor, had considered seriously what he could do to enrich the cultural life of his city. His decision, made at the suggestion of Elbert Newton, that a collection of music would be most useful, was to establish a library of scores, journals, and books about music which would be available to everyone for study and enjoyment.1 As might have been expected, he appointed Mr. Newton, who at the time was organist at the Central Presbyterian Church, to go to New York to select the items for the nucleus of the Sibley Musical Collection.2 A literary critic and lecturer on poetry as well as a practicing musician, Mr. Newton was a person of catholic and somewhat avant-garde tastes, well informed on matters concerning new books and music. Not only did he choose the first acquisitions for the Library, but he continued to act as its semiofficial buyer until the early 1920's.

The first music to be purchased for the Library was carefully chosen from among the best published scores available on the market and included not only works by the Classical and Romantic masters of Europe, but also by such native writers as Edward MacDowell, the first North American to have his works issued in Germany, and Ethelbert Nevin, perhaps the most romantic of the American Romanticists. Composers like Debussy, Fauré, Sibelius, and Richard Strauss were likewise represented, for they were then the creators of modern music. There being no city library and no college of music at that time, these scores were deposited at Sibley Hall, the library of the University of Rochester on its Prince Street Campus. Because Sibley Hall had been a gift of Mr. Sibley's family some years before, the housing of the new music collection there was surely appropriate. John Rothwell Slater, a beloved professor of English for many years, writing retrospectively in 1946, recalled:

This Sibley Music Library. . . was in the first decade of the century the most distinctive unit in Sibley Hall. Its importance was less recognized at the time by undergraduates or even by most faculty members than by the music-loving public. Occupying several alcoves in the southwestern corner of Sibley Hall, those costly scores of symphonies, chamber music, operas, musical biographies, and technical treatises made for eccentric dilettantes an oasis of art in a desert of science. The writer still recalls how forty years ago, sitting in that quiet window corner overlooking the elms, he used to read the music of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Wagner with the sweet delight of cerebral audition. He blessed Mr. Sibley for those blissful hours, stolen from correcting freshman themes to which he reluctantly returned. President Rhees, also a musical amateur, never blamed anybody for wasting time on music or on any other beautiful, useless, and immortal thing.3

According to the early accession books of the University Library, the first entries for the newly established Sibley Musical Collection were recorded on November 3, 1904: four volumes of the piano works of Johannes Brahms, who was just becoming known in the United States, a volume of his piano sonatas and eight volumes of his songs and duets -- truly a daring choice at the time when Brahms was considered a difficult, complicated, and obtuse composer. Within two weeks the following were entered: Grieg's lyric piano pieces (four volumes), Liszt's virtuoso piano pieces (two volumes) and his Hungarian Rhapsodies -- the epitome of pianistic virtuosity -- (three volumes), MacDowell's piano music (five volumes) and his songs (three volumes), Nevin's music (five volumes), Paderewski's piano works (three volumes), and Richard Strauss' songs -- then considered the ultimate in German Lieder -- (six volumes). It was not until December, however, that Bach made his appearance with nine volumes of music for organ, although, because some scores were purchased as early as 1902, the order of accession was not necessarily the order of acquisition.

Early in 1905, books about music -- biographies, histories, and miscellaneous commentaries like Women's Work in Music by Elson -- began to be accessioned, but the entries still leaned heavily in the direction of scores. By the end of January the Library's holdings included, in addition to the compositions named above, the music of Rubinstein, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Svendsen, Moszkowski, and Schumann-a truly international collection for the time. Quickly the acquisitions amounted to some 2,000 bound volumes of "scores and commentaries."

Mr. Sibley continued to support the collection which flourished as a part of the University Library. Mr. Newton provided the expert knowledge necessary for selection, and the number of historical and critical works, scholarly editions, journals, and a wide variety of music, both old and new, steadily grew through the ensuing years. The collection, described as "a free circulating library," was open to the public, and many items were loaned to individuals and to families for their enjoyment -- piano-duet arrangements of orchestral works, operatic scores and libretti, songs and books treating the music of the greater and lesser masters. Professional musicians were attracted to symphonic scores and chamber music.

In less than 20 years of existence the Sibley Library had assumed impressive proportions for a community of Rochester's size and had established itself as a useful cultural asset. The collection contained thousands of items. In addition to the standard writings or commentaries in English, treating music history and theory, there were biographies and such scholarly works as the 14-volume set of critical essays of Hanslick, long the arbiter of musical taste in Vienna, the 14-volume Histoire de la musiqueof Soubiès, the Archives du chant of Delsarte, and his Chansons anciennes des XVe, XVIe, XVIIe, et XVIIIe siècles. Printed scores of operas, orchestral music, and chamber music compositions were present, as were many hundreds of miscellaneous pieces in sheet music form. In response to the growing interest of Rochesterians in symphony orchestras -- for very soon the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra was to be founded -- program booklets were being received from the major orchestras of Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, and St. Louis. It was no wonder, then, that in April of 1920 an assistant librarian in charge of the music collection was appointed: William K. Porter, who had served on the staff of the University of California Library for 15 years and was "a musician by avocation, having studied under several artists in this country."

A report on the Sibley Library, prepared during the fall of 1921, contains the information that since May 1, 1920, among the many volumes acquired were three significant private collections: the library of Oscar G. Sonneck -- first chief of the Music Division of the Library of Congress, early editor of the Musical Quarterly, the compiler of the LC music classification, and one of the pioneers in American musicology -- containing scores, historical sets, Denkmäler, and journals and described upon its arrival in Rochester from Germany where it had been stored as "27 shelves of thirty-inch length in the state when received, much of it unbound"; the library of H. F. Kreiner of Newark, New Jersey, containing some 3,000 folk songs and critical works in Russian, French, and German; and the collection of M.J. Fleming (purchased through the New York dealer E. Wayne) of books on music instruments, including Vidal's Les instruments à archet, Jacquot's La lutherie lorraine et française, and a manuscript copy of a large portion of Fleming's own Dictionary of Violin and Bow Makers.

According to the same report, the Library had added 350 volumes in 1918-19 (when publication was virtually at a standstill because of the Great War), 3,000 volumes in 1919-20, and 2,227 in 1920-21, and by volume-count it ranked fifth among the music collections of the United States, after the music divisions of the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, Boston Public Library, and Newberry Library. The writer proudly presents figures showing an increase in activity from 132 items circulated for home use in September 1920 to 275 the following February; no statistics are given for in-library activity. In the light of present-day circulation these numbers appear small indeed, but they are considerable when the size and location of the collection are taken into account.

By 1919 George Eastman had made public his plans to establish a school of music which would be located in the midtown area and would form an integral part of the University of Rochester and the city's cultural center. Although at first no thought had been given to the Library in the planning of the School, it was logical that the collection should be housed where the students and faculty could have easy access to it rather than to leave it on the campus, some distance away. Plans were made accordingly, by mutual consent of Mr. Sibley and Mr. Eastman. Off the marble corridor in the southwest wing of the Eastman School of Music was a specially designed reading-room, beautifully furnished with oak panels and shelves, as well as matching tables and chairs which are still in use today. An office for the librarian, a workroom for the staff, and ample stack areas were also provided, together with a section of closed cupboards for the "treasures" which, it was hoped, would soon be acquired. The initial semester for the School began in 1921. In January 1922, upon completion of the library wing, the collection was moved from Sibley Hall, and henceforth it was called the Sibley Musical Library of the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester.

The Library as it was when transferred to the Eastman School is interesting to contemplate. The collection contained some of the best music available in the United States, for Mr. Newton had continued through the years to advise Mr. Sibley on items to be purchased. Mr. Porter had successfully organized both books and scores into a working library and had evolved a system of alpha-numerical symbols to designate the section of the shelves to which individual volumes belonged. But neither scores nor books had been classified according to a nationally recognized scheme. A card catalog of sorts had been started, with short main entries either handwritten or typed on 3" x 5" cards, but few, if any, added entries were made, and descriptive cataloging had not been attempted. Scores were bound individually in linen and boards if they were thicker than 35 pages. Miscellaneous songs and short piano pieces in sheet music format were arranged by type of composition and by composer and gathered into volumes of fairly uniform dimensions, with a handwritten table of contents bound into the front of the book in place of a title page. The collection was comfortably compact, allowing for a good deal of pleasurable browsing.

The appointment in 1922 of Barbara Duncan as its first librarian and of Elizabeth B. Schmitter as its first cataloger began a new phase of the Library's development, during which many rare books and important historical collections were acquired and the permanent card catalog was initiated. Miss Duncan, whose mother had been librarian of the Boston Athenaeum and who had herself been in charge of the Allen A. Brown Collection at the Boston Public Library, added both a presence and considerable glamour to the Library. Miss Schmitter, a fine amateur pianist with a good knowledge of music, was a conscientious and devoted cataloger. The adoption during the early 1920's of the Library of Congress classification by the Sibley Library led to the conversion of the entire University Library catalog to that scheme.

Writing in 1946, Miss Duncan recalled:

From the moment [the library] was moved into the Eastman School building, it was administered with funds from the Eastman School endowment which included a generous appropriation for music, books, and binding. I was lured from my home in Boston by President Rhees and Mr. Gilchrist in June, 1922, to become the librarian of the collection, with promises of a free hand, plenty of money to spend, and plenty of assistance. I shall never cease to be grateful to both of them for keeping their promises.4

Accessions during the 1920's often bear the notation "Eastman Fund" or, later, "ESM Fund," but Mr. Sibley continued to be the Library's chief personal benefactor, not only in the acquisition of materials but also in many other ways. He had donated $1,200 toward a cataloger's salary in 1920 and was ever conscious of the needs of the growing collection. In 1925 he gave $25,000 toward the purchase of books. Donald Gilchrist, as University Librarian, played an important role in the acquisitions program, often consulting with Mr. Sibley or Mr. Eastman and implementing the purchase of materials, sometimes with considerable daring and aplomb. In 1923, for example, he bought-sight unseen and without as much as consulting a catalog-the library of Arthur Pougin, music and drama critic and editor of Le Ménestrel from 1885 to his death in 1921. Containing a large portion of the best writing in France on the subject of theater and opera during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and a large number of musico-dramatic journals and almanacs as well as libretti -- all beautifully bound -- the Pougin Collection was acquired with two cablegrams and was paid for "through the munificence of Mr. Hiram W. Sibley of  Rochester."5

In 1929 Miss Duncan traveled to Europe, with funds from Mr. Sibley and blessings from Mr. Gilchrist, to be royally entertained by Europe's outstanding rare-book dealers and to purchase books for the Library. At that time and in 1931, when she made her second European journey, she established valuable contacts with publishers, dealers, and librarians in addition to acquiring treasures destined to become the nucleus of the Library's now extensive research collection. From the sale of the famous Werner Wolffheim Library in Berlin, for example, she obtained among other items the eleventh-century Reichenau Codex, perhaps the earliest complete manuscript on the science of music extant in America today. Some years later she was to buy the twelfth-century Admont-Rochester Codex. These two codices contain treatises by Aribo, Guido, Hermannus Contractus, William of Bernon, William of Hirsau, and Frutolf of Michelberg -- all outstanding early theorists -- and form the basis for the Library's holdings in the musical scholarship of the Middle Ages.

Upon the death in 1932 of both Mr. Eastman and Mr. Sibley, the total support of the Library fell to the Eastman School of Music. Unlike Mr. Eastman who, in addition to providing the School with two large buildings and a magnificent theater, had left a generous endowment, Mr. Sibley made no provision for the continuation of the Library after his death, in spite of the fact that the funding of the collection had been a project close to his heart. His last gift had been $150,000 to finance Miss Duncan's purchases of rare books in 1929 and 1931.

The annual appropriations from the Eastman School allowed the Library to develop in importance as a research collection. During the 1930's more than a dozen incunabula were added, representing works by Finck, Gaffurio, Keinspeck, Niger, and others. An unusual collection of manuscripts containing examples of early musical notation from the tenth to the sixteenth centuries was obtained from the library of Oskar Fleischer. Among European autograph scores acquired during the decade were those of Purcell, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Brahms, Rubinstein, Fauré and Debussy (including the holograph score of an early version of La Mer and an arrangement for violin and piano of Minstrels, made for Arthur Hartmann, a former member of the Eastman School faculty). Between 1925 and 1940 autograph scores by American composers Chadwick, Foote, Hill, MacDowell, Mason, Porter, Rogers, Thompson, Harris, Copland, Bacon, Antheil, and Diamond were added; some were obtained through purchase, while others were presented to the Library through the American Composers' Concerts and the annual Festivals of American Music, instituted at the Eastman School by Director Howard Hanson. These festivals, begun in 1925 and 1930, respectively, and featuring performances by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra of compositions by young native writers,6 were a pioneer effort to gain recognition for American music. Many of the nation's leading composers were benefactors. The Library also acquired a fine collection of original correspondence, including autograph letters of Handel, Gluck, Liszt, Franz, Berlioz, and many others.

World War II affected the operations of the Sibley Library, although the collection was in constant use while the School continued its classes and its musical activities with a predominantly female student body. As the flow of publications from Europe was stemmed by war, and American firms, facing an uncertain future, cut back on their new issues, the period from 1942 to 1946 was a fallow one in terms of acquisitions. Because of Sibley Library's location close to strategic defense industries, its rare books were moved for safe keeping into the vaults of Rush Rhees Library on the River Campus. Items which were known to be out of print or were no longer available from abroad were restricted to use within the Library.

In January 1942, the Board of Managers of the Eastman School of Music, with the approval of the president of the University and the chairman of the Board of Trustees, moved to discontinue home-use circulation to the general public. With much of the collection in storage or on closed reserve for in-library reference, the bulk of the materials remaining for general consumption were standard works issued by American firms, all of whom were operating with wartime shortage.

The members of the Board were aware that for decades musicians had been borrowing freely from the Library for school music programs, for teaching in private studios, for church services, and for radio broadcasts performed by paid professionals. Many volumes acquired in Mr. Sibley's day had long since been discarded after heavy and sometimes merciless use. For nearly 10 years the acquisitions and the staffing of the Library, as well as its housing and physical maintenance, had been the full responsibility of the Eastman School, a private institution charging realistic tuition fees. It seemed only fair that the collection should now be reserved for the use of students, faculty, and staff of the University of Rochester. In the meanwhile the city had built a fine public library capable of meeting the needs of the community. Because of its many bibliographic tools appropriate to dealing with reference questions in music, however, Sibley Library agreed to continue its in library reader services to the public. Today a member of the community may visit the premises to use its reading facilities during the daytime library hours, and the reference librarian is prepared to answer queries by telephone or by letter, as well as in person.

Almost immediately after the close of World War II, the Library participated in the Library of Congress Acquisitions Project to buy materials published in Germany during the late thirties and the war years. Through this purchase a number of reference books and some journals were received, together with several hundred titles of music scores. Although many were popular and propaganda pieces, there were valuable original editions of the music of such excellent composers as Richard Strauss and Paul Hindemith.

At Miss Duncan's retirement in 1947, the Library was quite different from the one she had encountered upon her arrival in 1922. With nearly 55,000 volumes, the collection was one of the nation's finest. The greater portion of its holdings of materials published during the Renaissance and Baroque had been acquired during her tenure. Her purchases of partbooks included the notable Olschki Collection of sacred music, some unique sixteenth-century Italian madrigals, the Petrucci printing of the Masses of Josquin des Pres, the 1546-51 Masses of Cristóbal Morales, the complete Magnum opus musicum of Orlando di Lasso, five volumes of the Patrocinium musices, and a number of motets.7 Among the authors of theoretical and historical treatises added before 1947 were Aaron, Agricola, Albrechtsberger, Artusi, Banchieri, Bemetzrieder, Berardi, Diruta, Eximeno y Pujades, Finck, Forkel, Fux, Gaffurio,8 Galilei, Geminiani, Glareanus, Gumpelzhaimer, Hotteterre, Kirnberger, Marpurg, Mattheson,9 Mersenne, Ornithoparcus, Praetorius,10 Printz, Rameau, Reichardt, Rhaw, Rousseau, Roussier, Scheibe, Simpson, Sorge, Vogler, Walther, Werckmeister, and Zarlino.

In 1937, a new building had been constructed to accommodate the Library, which had outgrown its quarters in the southwest wing of the Eastman School. Designed with the help of Mr. Gilchrist, the new edifice, located at 44 Swan Street behind the School's main building, consisted of four floors of stacks and two floors of offices, reading and seminar rooms, and work areas. During the Christmas holidays a group of student assistants moved the scores and books to their new location, which was perfect for the operations of the forties. By 1947 all the rare books had been returned from the University vaults and arranged properly on the shelves in the Treasure Room. The acquisitions program had been reactivated. With its name officially shortened from Sibley Musical Library to Sibley Music Library, the collection was comfortably situated.

With the appointment of Ruth Watanabe to succeed Miss Duncan as librarian, Sibley Library entered into still another phase of development in a period of postwar boom. The curricula of the Eastman School, constantly expanding to meet new musical and scholarly demands, affected the Library's operations. As administrative changes were made in the mid-fifties to improve both the quality and speed of reference and circulation services to a growing student body of ambitious, gifted students, the Library was divided into two mutually cooperative but comparatively autonomous collections: (1) a circulating library of current and standard scores and books, supplemented by selected journals and recordings, housed in two floors of open stacks; and (2) a noncirculating research library of rare books, early editions, collected works, historical sets, monuments of music, journals, manuscripts, and microforms, supplemented by a large variety of reference books, bibliographical tools, and indices, housed in a new fireproof vault and two floors of closed stacks, with an adjacent reading room for graduate students. The general reading room with a seating capacity of 65 persons was designated for reserve books and current journals.

During the fifties and sixties the Library's acquisitions clearly reflected the developing curricula of the School. The introduction of the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in performance and pedagogy, music education, and composition resulted in the purchase of multiple editions of standard music, a wide variety of critical and analytical guides, and a considerable number of recordings. The expanded course offerings and research programs for the Master of Arts and the Doctor of Philosophy degrees in theory and in musicology encouraged the addition of treatises (in both original editions and reprint) to an already rich collection, the acquisition of many items on microfilm from European sources, and subscription to a greater number and variety of scholarly journals. Many performing editions of Renaissance and Baroque compositions were purchased to implement the weekly performances of the Collegium Musicum. The increased activity of the opera department, leading to the establishment of the Eastman School of Music Opera Theatre, encouraged the acquisition of books on staging, costume and design, and theater architecture to add a new aspect to the existing collection of books on theatrical history and operatic scores and libretti.

The introduction of an undergraduate minor in the humanities at the Eastman School required the selection of books on cultural history, literature, psychology, philosophy, and aesthetics. A number of works in the allied fields of the fine arts and the dance were also acquired.

A program to build a collection of recordings was initiated. Until the fifties the Sibley Library's holdings were discs bought for classroom listening. Minimal provision was made for them as a music library resource. But with an organized acquisitions program and adequate funding, it was possible not only to implement courses but also to anticipate future needs by collecting a variety of titles. Multiple recordings of standard compositions could be procured for comparative listening, and a number of discs could be acquired for the pleasure of the students. New turntables were installed within the Library and a separate catalog of recordings was begun. Fred B. Gary served as the first recordings librarian, followed by Gerald Gibson.

In the development of the research collection, the emphasis during the thirties and forties upon the publications of the Renaissance and Baroque was transferred in the fifties and sixties to music of the Classical and Romantic periods, from which an enormous repertoire was and is still available in original and early editions. Greater attention than ever before was paid to American imprints of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, looking forward to research in the cultural history of the United States and Canada.

In addition to current acquisitions, some interesting collections were obtained by special purchase. Among those received by the Library between 1949 and 1962 were:

  • The library of viola music of Samuel Belov, conductor and former member of the Eastman School faculty (1949)
  • The chamber music and string library of more than 2,000 compositions from the estate of Jacques Gordon, former concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony, leader of the Gordon String Quartet, and member of the School's artist faculty (1949)11
  • 1,124 pieces of European chamber music scores and parts, printed between 1750 and 1850 and consisting generally of first and unique editions (1951)
  • 300 additional pieces of chamber music of the same period (1958)
  •  A collection of 70 Italian operatic songs, 40 ballets, and 48 opéras-comiques from the late eighteenth-century London and Paris stage (1953)
  • A supplementary smaller collection of similar materials (1955)
  • 100 opera scores from the period 1880-1930 (1953)
  • 774 operas, mostly French piano-vocal scores, from the period 1880-1930 (1955)
  • 90 full scores of French operas, 1880-1930 (1958)
  • A collection of the published music of Chadwick and of Foote (1955)
  • A large selection of Composers Facsimile Edition issues of contemporary American music, published by the American Composers Alliance (1957-61)
  • The complete catalog of American compositions published to date by the Tritone Press (March 1962)

Moreover, the complete printed output of a score of contemporary American and European composers was added through special purchase in order to implement graduate courses in the analysis of new music.

Significant gifts during the same period included:

  • Books and music from the library of John R. Slater (1953-54)
  • A collection of 100 piano pieces, presented on the occasion of the Eastman School of Music's first Summer Piano Institute (1954) by Walter Hinrichsen, president of C.F. Peters Corporation
  • A collection of 200 organ compositions, presented on the occasion of the Library's participation in the Pipe Organ Panorama at the Rochester Museum of Arts and Sciences (1955) by Walter Hinrichsen
  • The published works of Charles Villiers Stanford, given by Harry Wilkinson (1957)
  • A collection of 400 miscellaneous songs and piano pieces, from the estate of Phyllis Oster (1958)
  • The library of violin works from the estate of Ben Dennof (1960)
  • The complete manuscript scores and orchestral parts of the works of Weldon Hart, given by Mildred Hart Harder (1961)12
  • Sketchbooks of Parks Grant, given by the composer (1961)
  • A selection of facsimile editions of American music, given by the American Composers Alliance (1961)
  • A collection of 55 autograph letters and five telegrams from Charles-Marie Widor to Madame Trélat, given by Robert Metzdorf (1963)

In addition, the Library received 23 holograph scores from Howard Hanson on the completion of his first quarter-century as director of the Eastman School of Music in 1949, supplemented by an additional gift of three scores in 1950.13

The late 1960's were a period of great expansion of the collection, but simultaneously of near trauma in an effort to contain it within the four walls of its building. Blanket-order arrangements, previously negotiated with a few major American publishers to receive their new issues automatically, were extended to include more firms, both European and American. A significant number of contemporary scores from Eastern Europe began to be acquired. To the research collection were added many early editions of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century compositions, especially works in the larger instrumental and vocal forms -- operas, symphonies, and chamber music. Quite naturally the augmented acquisitions program resulted in a heavier cataloging load, while the rise in the volume of circulation (14,000 to 21,000 items per month) led to a change in reader services. Thus, by the end of the decade Sibley Library was departmentalized into the following interacting units with a professional staff member at the head of each: Administration, Acquisitions, Cataloging and Classification, Circulation, Rare Books, Recordings, and Reference, with the latter also in charge of interlibrary loans.

As for problems of space, it was painfully apparent that the Library had long outgrown its building, which had originally been designed to house 150,000 volumes. It was thought in 1937, when the plans were drawn, that no respectable music collection should need to exceed that magic volume-count, but no one then could have foreseen the postwar boom with its information explosion. With well over 200,000 fully cataloged volumes, some 12,000 33 rpm recordings in addition to 21,000 78 rpm discs, a thousand titles in microform, and literally hundreds of thousands of pieces of sheet music, booklets and pamphlets, and other miscellanea which were uncataloged-either because they represented backlog or because, being intended for ad hoc research, they were not destined for full cataloging at all-the situation was serious. The only solution was storage, and the Library's overflow was housed in five different places in the Eastman School building and at Rush Rhees Library; all items were available on 24-hour recall.

It was not only the burgeoning collection which created space problems; new Library activities demanded both work areas and equipment. A University Press, begun on October 14, 1952, on a grant of $45,000 from the Eastman Kodak Company, was an example of a new dimension given to the Library's function. The grant allowed the University of Rochester to publish scholarly materials in microform on opaque cards of whatever size seemed appropriate. With University Librarian John R. Russell as administrator and Margaret K. Toth as director, the University of Rochester Micropublication Service was established. Music was deemed one of the several subject fields suitable for this project, and the physical format for publication was determined to be the 3" x 5" microcard.

It was early envisioned that Sibley Library, with its large resources, would become a clearinghouse for microtext publications in music. An initial project entitled the Music Dissertations Series was started to issue the writings of Eastman School graduate students selected on the basis of the demand for their theses and dissertations on interlibrary loan. Eventually works by graduate students in other universities were added to the series. Dr. Watanabe acted as advisor, Mrs. Toth as editor, and the Micropublication Service as publisher and distributor. The technical work was done by the Northern Printing and Engraving Company of La Crosse, Wisconsin, under the supervision of the National Microcard Committee and the Microcard Foundation, both organizations composed largely of professional librarians.

Another series was soon started on the strength of the success of the Music Dissertations Series. At the time the Micropublication Service was getting under way, Sibley Library was preparing a report of its holdings of early scores, manuscripts, and books on music for inclusion in the International Repertoire of Musical Sources. Mrs. Toth, aware of possibilities of a project devoted to reproducing such works on microcards, distributed a short-title checklist of 210 items published before 1701 from among the Sibley Library's holdings to some 250 members of the Music Library Association and to a number of music departments within universities and colleges to determine the need for an Early Music Books Series. As a result of their response, several dozen titles were initially issued on microcards, followed shortly thereafter by some long runs of early music journals for which the Library of Congress as well as the Sibley Library supplied the originals. New titles were added in rather quick order, so that by 1967, when the University discontinued the Micropublication Service, the music materials available on microcards exceeded 600 items. The Early Music Books Series, the Music Dissertations Series, and all other works on music were immediately transferred to the Eastman School under the new name of the Sibley Music Library Microprint Service. The distribution of microcards was thus continued without interruption, although new titles were not generated until several years later.

Still another dimension was added to the Library's activities during the fifties. On the suggestion of Allen Irvine McHose, director of Eastman's Summer Session, a workshop for music librarians was initiated in 1957, with guest speakers, demonstrations, and discussions coordinated by the librarian and involving members of the professional staff. The rationale was that although each library may differ from every other, the basic problems confronting all music librarians are basically similar. Not only were such prosaic details as insuring security arid enforcing rules discussed, but such more important functions as acquisitions, technical processing, and reference -- for which librarians are theoretically trained in the course of their formal education but which present problems in real professional life -- were integrated into the sessions. Workshops and institutes for music librarians, which became models for other such endeavors in the country, were continued until 1977 on a biennial basis, with some sessions devoted to acquisitions, some to bibliography, some to reader services and reference, and still others to general problems of the music collection.

In the seventies, with the change in the tenor of the times, the Library's activities were concerned not so much with dramatic growth but more with the effective administration of the collection. The Sibley Music Library Microprint Service entered into a new period of development and refinement under the direction of Stuart Milligan when, on April 28, 1973, new titles were added and its stock of micropublications was replenished. According to Mr. Milligan's report, prepared on November 1, 1976,

The Eastman School of Music purchased and installed some Recordak equipment in the Library. . . to attain capability to produce both roll microforms and microfiche (Model MRD-2 planetary camera, micro-thin jacket reader-filler, microfiche diazo printer, and a microfiche diazo processor). Testing and experimentation started in March of 1972, and for the first time in the history of music micropublication at the University of Rochester, the Service was able to manufacture its own products directly. This capability brought with it a series of quality control programs to insure that the end results would be comparable to the work of commercial micropublication firms and bureaus. Among other items, this required the addition of a book cradle to the planetary camera, filters, film editing station, microscope, resolution test charts, eye loops, and a transmission densitometer. About 80 works were added during the first year of production.

New titles being added regularly made it difficult to update a catalog of works currently available. Computer programs were written to sort and list the master file, thus making it a simple matter to make revisions and supplements. New works being filmed by the Sibley Library Microprint Service are also listed in the Micropublishers Trade List Annual and the Guide to Microforms in Print. Starting in January 1977, Microform Review will publish Microlist, an ongoing current checklist of microform publications, and will include recently completed or in-progress publications of the Sibley Music Library Microprint Service.

The Microprint Service is designed to serve a dual purpose: to generate a microfilm master copy of the irreplaceable rare books in the Sibley Library, and to make copies available to scholars and libraries. In no way is it a commercial venture. Microfilm in 16 mm roll format and microfiche are its principal products, available at cost through the Library.

Within the past several years many activities have revolved around the reorganization of the collection, for it became clear that the crowded conditions could only lead to confusion. As a preliminary step, three members of the professional staff (the librarian, associate librarian, and reference librarian) spent several months during 1974 carefully studying the Library section by section to determine the condition of the holdings, amount and kind of use, comparative rarity and value of items, current availability, and relevance to the Eastman School curricula and research. The goal was to reorganize the collection into four fairly well-defined sections: the rare books in the vault; the research tools and scholarly materials in a restricted area; the actively circulating scores and books pertinent to the present curricular offerings; and inactive items in storage. As a result many volumes were designated for transfer to appropriate areas.

During 1974-75 the vault was enlarged. Incorporating the former vault area, it was extended to a shelf capacity of approximately 25,000 to 30,000 volumes, plus provision for oversize books and several vertical files for autograph letters and single sheets of manuscript. An effective smoke-detection device was installed, together with a Halon fire extinguisher similar to that maintained by archival and business agencies. Using a nontoxic gas, the system quenches flames in a matter of seconds while remaining harmless to human beings-a qualification of primary importance in the opinion of the staff. During the summer of 1975 the volumes designated for the vault were moved into the new facility 14

In 1975-76 a portion of the basement of the Library building was converted from a civil-defense shelter into a large stack area for the storage of inactive volumes (i.e., those titles currently not in demand, titles not designated for immediate cataloging, and duplicate copies). The Library's overflow which had been in storage in other University buildings was returned to the Sibley Library and placed there together with books and scores retired from active circulation. The cataloged volumes have been arranged on shelves in call-number order and may be secured for use on a 24-hour recall, and provisions have been made to transfer back into the circulating collection any items for which sufficient need arises. The uncataloged volumes have been arranged according to broad subject fields, with provisions made to catalog any work which becomes necessary for class use or long-term research. The basement area also contains space for the sorting and filing needed to gain bibliographic control over the thousands of miscellanea and archival materials in storage.

The major renovation of the Sibley Library building was begun in 1976. With Michael Doran of the Rochester firm of Todd and Giroux as architect, in consultation with representative students, faculty, library staff, and Eastman School administration, plans were drawn during early spring, and demolition of nonstructural walls and a staircase commenced in June. Construction continued throughout the Summer Session and well into the first semester of the 1976-77 academic year, with both clients and librarians dodging workmen with surprising agility and as much good humor as could be mustered under the circumstances.

With the major renovation completed, every portion of the building except the four floors of stacks, the basement storage, and the enlarged vault are new: departmental quarters and work areas for administration, acquisitions, technical processing and binding, bibliographic control, reference and rare books, circulation, and microprint service; storage areas for both books and supplies; a reading room for general study and reserve books, a graduate study and reference center, a rare-book reading room, and a listening center for recordings; and a seminar room for classes making heavy use of library materials. These changes constitute a part of the overall renovation program of the Eastman School of Music, and although the Library remains within the same four walls of its building, the reallocation of space has resulted in a significant addition of usable footage to each department. The new facilities allow for some expansion as well as for changes in operations in the near future.

Staff members on duty during the renovation period deserve recognition for their services. Charles Lindahl, associate librarian of the Sibley Library, was in charge of the day-by-day operations of the move. It is clear that his leadership was an important factor in the successful renovation project. He had the able cooperation of Stuart Milligan, circulation librarian, in designing and implementing the public service areas and the Microprint Service; of Louise Goldberg, reference and rare book librarian, in planning the graduate study center and rare book facilities; and of Karen Hagberg, then head of the Catalog Department, and Helvi McClelland, then head of the Recordings Department, in effecting the successful moves of their respective areas. Needless to say, all other members of the staff, including the student assistants, were deeply involved in the renovation.

The present active resources of the Library include some 365,000 fully cataloged volumes of scores, books, and journals; some 65,000 compositions on 33 rpm recordings and several hundred reel-to-reel tapes for in-library use; and several thousand titles in microprint (film, fiche, cards), together with reading equipment. The Library subscribes to some 435 journals. Its subsidiary resources contain approximately 250,000 pieces of uncataloged music, pamphlets, books, and miscellanea; approximately a thousand volumes of clippings and programs and an unestimated (and unestimable) number of photographs, slides, memorabilia, and papers.

The collection includes extensive and varied materials on all aspects of music except therapy, for which the Library acquires basic literature and journals. It is strong in music history, biography, and theory; in books about opera and dramatic music; reference and bibliographical tools; libretti; journals in Western European languages, both early runs and contemporary issues; collected editions and historical sets; opera scores; chamber music scores and performing parts; orchestral works in both full and miniature scores; and contemporary music with emphasis upon composers of Western Europe and the Americas.

Within the past decade the Sibley Library collection has been developed along new lines. Of special interest is its fine accumulation of books on the dance in general and on ballet in particular, many containing illustrations and most demonstrating the close alliance between the art of movement and the art of sound. It is well known that for centuries the evolution of musical forms has been strongly influenced by those of the dance. Many of the world's outstanding composers today are creating music for the ballet, and audiences throughout the country are becoming increasingly interested and knowledgeable about the many companies and their stars; witness the expanding dance series offered in Rochester.

Closely allied to the activities of the concert hall are those of the theater. The Library's collection includes significant resources for research in theatrical history: almanacs of the French and German theatrical seasons of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, books dealing with stage settings and theatrical costume, accounts of famous theaters (including famous opera houses), and studies of dramatic traditions.

Within the specific field of music itself, the Library has recently built a useful and growing collection of materials on ethnic and non-Western musics: African, Asian, and folk, including recordings and books about non-American and exotic cultures. A large gift of several hundred recordings, received from Milan Dvorak during the 1979-80 academic year, has greatly enhanced these resources. Simultaneously, the Library has initiated purchases in musical iconography -- the pictorial and sculptural representation of music -- which will provide another dimension to historical research.

For the convenience of choral directors and church musicians of the community there is a file of thousands of choral octavo titles in single reference copy, with a special catalog giving access to the collection. Patrons browse freely to determine the suitability of compositions to their particular choral needs, with the aim of acquiring the desired music in multiple copies for their own organizations. The octavo file serves, therefore, as a reference and a purchasing guide.

The present acquisitions policy places primary emphasis upon the comprehensive implementation of course offerings and research at the Eastman School of Music, with a conscientious attempt simultaneously being made to provide for the future expansion of subject areas. The Library purchases as many scores, books about music, journals, and recordings as the market permits and adds, by gift or purchase, such special collections as may be pertinent to its holdings and its goals. Some notable examples include the gift of unusual ballet scores with choreographic notation, presented by Enid Knapp Botsford, originator of the early Eastman Theatre Ballet and active protagonist of the dance; the gift of several volumes of beautifully engraved European and American sheet music comprising songs and piano pieces from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, presented by Mrs. Leon H. Metzger, Mrs. Isidore M. Lowenthal, and Norman Israel, in memory of their parents, Fanny and Julius Israel;15 and gifts of the works of outstanding composers, presented by their families, the music of Karl Weigl and the selected works of S.C. Eckhardt-Gramatté being the most recently received. Special collections purchased within the past decade include the Leo Scheer Library containing a hundred scores of nineteenth-century composers in first and early editions, bought with funds from the David James bequest;16 the complete printed works of Friedrich Kuhlau;17  the library of the late Theodore Fitch, choral conductor, composer, and educator; and the collected edition of the music of Prokofiev, purchased with funds from the Friends of the University of Rochester Libraries.

As one of three major collections of musicalia maintained by the Eastman School of Music, Sibley is the reference library with the aim to implement courses and research and to provide scores of music for all media for study and browsing.18 Recordings are maintained for both individual and classroom listening, as well as for pleasurable audition. Except for titles used for collateral reading or for class assignments, the Library does not customarily stock duplicate copies, 19 nor does it stock multiple performance parts and choral works. It is the aim of the Eastman School of Music Ensemble Library, a separate agency operating with its own staff and maintaining its own catalog, to supply orchestral sets and vocal scores to fill the needs of such major organizations as the School's orchestras, wind ensembles, and choruses. While the Sibley Library acquires only commercially manufactured discs and tapes for its collection, the Eastman School Recording Services tape, maintain, and administer the materials recorded in-house; this agency likewise keeps its own catalog and is housed within its own quarters.

In addition to the conventional services offered, the Sibley Library plays host to a number of visiting research scholars (some of whom spend considerable time with rare books and manuscripts); groups of students, ranging from classes of young children to graduate seminars from nearby colleges who wish to tour the facilities; and service and cultural organizations of the city and vicinity. For special occasions the Library mounts exhibits of music, as was the case during the Bicentennial when materials selected by Mr. Lindahl and bibliographic specialist Neil Bunker were part of a traveling educational exposition.

Members of the staff are active in the several national and international organizations devoted to music librarianship and scholarship, the chief among them being the Music Library Association, the International Association of Music Libraries, the Association for Recorded Sound Archives, the American Musicological Society, and the International Musicological Society. Locally there is participation in the program of the Friends of the University of Rochester Libraries. The majority of the Sibley librarians are bibliographers and/or historians whose works are published in either monographic form or in professional journals. Several staff members also teach.

When Mr. Sibley founded the music collection more than 70 years ago, he could not have known to what extent it would develop, but it is certain that he wished it to serve a cultural purpose. During his lifetime he gave generously, never begrudging the Library anything which had value for the music lover and the student. For nearly a half-century since Mr. Sibley's death, the Eastman School of Music has given the administrative and financial support which has allowed the collection to become one of the world's greatest and the members of the staff to realize a good measure of satisfaction from their work. Most particularly is credit due to the continued interest in the Library manifested by the present administration of the School and of the University. Many changes and advances in technology are being projected for the immediate future, to which everyone is looking with optimism. We hope that Professor Slater's idea of the beautiful and the immortal will continue to be realized.


  1. The bronze plate in the foyer of the Library clearly indicates Mr. Sibley's intentions: "This musical library, given by Hiram W. Sibley, is for the use of all music-lovers in Rochester."
  2. The Library was variously called Sibley Musical Collection, Sibley Musical Library, or, simply, The Musical Collection. During the mid-1940's its name was established as Sibley Music Library. Note that it was not founded as a memorial.
  3. John Rothwell Slater, "President Rhees and the Library," University of Rochester Library Bulletin I (June 1946), p. 42.
  4. Barbara Duncan, "The Sibley Music Library," University of Rochester Library Bulletin I (February 1946), p. 27.
  5. Ruth Watanabe, "The Pougin Collection," University of Rochester Library Bulletin III (Spring 1948), p. 55.
  6. Ruth Watanabe, "Autograph Scores from the American Composers' Concerts, 1925- 1930," University of Rochester Library Bulletin XVII (Spring 1962), pp. 58-62.
  7. Ruth Watanabe, "Some Partbooks Printed by Italian Printers of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries," University of Rochester Library Bulletin XIII (Winter 1958), pp. 13-30.
  8. Ruth Watanabe, "Some Theoretical Works by Franchino Gaffurio," University of Rochester Library Bulletin IX (Winter 1954), pp. 29-36.
  9. Fred B. Gary, "Some Publications of Johann Mattheson," University of Rochester Library Bulletin XVII (Spring 1962), pp. 54-57.
  10. Ruth Watanabe, "Michael Praetorius and his Syntagma musicum," University of Rochester Library Bulletin X (Spring 1955), pp. 46-52. 
  11. Ruth Watanabe, "The Gordon Collection of String Music," University of Rochester Library Bulletin VII (Winter 1952), pp. 25-27.
  12. Ruth Watanabe, "Music Manuscripts of Weldon Hart," University of Rochester Library Bulletin XIX (Winter 1964), pp. 27-30.
  13. Ruth Watanabe, "Howard Hanson's Manuscript Scores," University of Rochester Library Bulletin V (Winter 1950), pp. 21-24.
  14. The concern expressed by President Robert Sproull has resulted in a rare book facility unsurpassed by those of any other American music library.   
  15. Ruth Watanabe, The Israel Collection, described in "Gifts and Acquisitions," University of Rochester Library Bulletin XXIX (Summer 1976), pp. 190-194.
  16. Ruth Watanabe, The Leo Scheer Collection, described in "Gifts and Acquisitions," University of Rochester Library Bulletin XXVIII (Winter 1975), pp. 141-147.
  17. Ruth Watanabe, The Kuhlau Collection, described in "Gifts and Acquisitions," University of Rochester Library Bulletin XXVII (Winter 1973-1974), pp. 106-112.
  18. Students are expected to buy music used for their studio lessons; library copies are used for sight-reading and browsing.
  19. The Curriculum Center maintained by the Department of Music Education relieves the Library from the obligation to stock school music series in multiple copies.


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