Thursday, August 9, 2018

getting scores

So I reported yesterday that San Jose State, which is my default academic library and the only one I have borrowing privileges at - owing to its joint venture with San Jose Public, which they have recently begun to dismantle and I fear for its long-term prospects - has decided to declare its entire musical score collection non-circulating.

This is a burden on me, because I often borrow scores for study prior to reviewing a complex or unfamiliar piece, and, if it's a pocket-sized score, taking it with me to the concert to follow along. I trust I don't have to explain how tremendously useful this can be for a reviewer or other student.

I mentioned this to several people I talked with at the Menlo festival, who shared my dismay. Why did they do this? I don't know and I'm not planning on finding out. Past attempts to talk to SJ library administration on other matters have been so frustrating and useless that I'm not tempted to try again. Also, at most I would satisfy casual curiosity for the reason (which is likely to be specious anyway and hence frustrating to learn), and it certainly wouldn't reverse the decision. Not if the college music department isn't up in arms about it.

One person suggested an alternative. San Francisco Public has lots of scores and is on the user-accessible inter-library loan system that San Jose Public is on. I could borrow from there.

True, but that requires time for the loan to arrive, which I don't always have after being assigned a review. Many's the time I've dashed down to the library for the score of a work I've just been assigned to review the next day.

Also, I found this. The inter-library loan search page does not allow searches to be limited by type of material. That means any search for a musical work will have the scores drowned by results for recordings.

The only thing I could think of to do is to go first to SFPL's own web catalog and find an item, copy down its exact title-page title, and search for that on the ILL page (which is where I'd have to go to get it by ILL). That produced fewer false drops on the test search I made, but I also found the SFPL's pocket score of this work is incorrectly called a set of parts (which I don't want), and is grouped with another library's holding, which might be the one I get if I make an ILL request.

At least for chamber music works, which tend to be few enough pages to copy, it's probably less trouble to do what I did for the pieces I needed for Menlo, which is to download the score from IMSLP (an excellent online score library) if it's available there, or scan a library copy - probably at Stanford, which has a bigger music library than SJSU and whose scanner is more likely to be operational, when they feel like letting non-affiliates use it - and then print out a photocopy. IMSLP's are full-sized, so I printed them out and then copied that copy at 2-page-to-1 reduced size to make a pocket score. What a nuisance, and it cost about $10 and took half an hour, but it's what I had to do.


  1. You do know you can get a San Francisco Public Library card just by going there? Not that having to run all the way up to SF to borrow a score would be great, of course. (I got a SFPL card solely for the online Oxford English Dictionary, though it now turns out I occasionally borrow a e-book because they have more available on Kindle than the Palo Alto librery does.)

  2. Yes, I know that: but to "requires time for the loan to arrive" could be added "or to make the time to run all the way up to the City just for the score," which as you note isn't much of a time-saver either.