Band librarian methods

Does your band librarian require you to split up your recalled music according to the title?

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I recommend to all band librarians the book titled “A practical guide to the music library” by Frank P. Byrne Jr printed by Ludwig Music and available through
During my long career spanning 65 years in many brass bands, concert bands and military bands I saw too many band librarians using time-wasting user-hostile methods of issuing and recalling sheet music. The offending band librarians had invariably never been taught efficient methods and they blindly copied the methods of their predecessor.

The worst error of all is to oblige every musician to split up their recalled music onto a separate stack for each title. One might think that this saves the Librarian work but in fact in increases the workload of the Librarian and it has other negative consequences. Valuable rehearsal time is lost while the musicians scramble to deposit their recalled music on the appropriate stacks. It magnifies the risk of some musicians failing to hand in all of the recalled titles and it does not identify the individual musicians who failed to hand in all of the recalled titles.

Before merging the recalled music back into the appropriate library packages the Band Librarian needs to sort it into the band's standard score order and this sorting can be quite time-consuming in large bands. If the musicians split up their recalls onto a separate stack per title then the Librarian has to perform multiple sorts (one sort per title) but if each musician simply hands in a labelled package of their recalled music then the Librarian only has to perform a single sort of those packages. That is why the "split then sort" method takes the Librarian more time than the "sort then split" method used by professional band/orchestra librarians. In my own experience I was able each month to file twelve titles for forty musicians in half the time taken by the previous Librarian and I needed no volunteer assistants.

And one more tip. Instead of telling the musicians which titles to hand in, tell them which titles are to be retained and let them hand in every other title that they hold. If they are told which titles to hand in, then if they fail to hand a particular title in one month, that title will remain in the musician's custody for months or even a year.


Staff member
We have followed the practice of issuing a list of what should be retained which has worked quite well.

As for taking up rehearsal time, we normally collect any unrequired items at the conclusion of the practice - no time is lost and the incentive is on the player to do it quickly as it is their own time they are taking up!