Monday, February 15, 2010

How to be a BAD Music Library User Taking Good Care of Music Library Materials

Back in August, I wrote a post entitled Some Reminders for our ML Patrons that listed several ways in which you, as a Music Library user, could treat the library well. Today I’m going to address two of those items in greater detail and provide photographic evidence of ways in which Music Library materials have been treated badly. I'll also list the possible costs of various types of damage. (Click on photos for larger view, if needed.)

Please don't write, put tape on or in any way manipulate Library materials, this includes scores.
Here’s the deal, folks. Materials that you borrow from a library do not belong to you. They are not yours; you are borrowing them for a limited amount of time. (Yes, I am aware that I’m being repetitive. I’m hoping that it will help to make my point.) Once you return an item, someone else is going to use it. Shouldn’t they get a chance to use it in pristine condition?

[Writing] Those markings that you made in a score may have been helpful to you, but the person using it after you doesn’t want to see them. You may be saying to yourself, but isn’t it okay as long as I use a pencil? No! Erasing, even when you use a gentle stroke and a special gummy eraser, damages paper. There is a simple solution, just don’t do it. If you’re studying a score in a way that’s going to lead you to write it in, shouldn’t you purchase it for your personal library anyway? That way you, your studio teacher or your accompanist can do as much score marking as you wish.

Cost: $.25 per page for pencil marks; $.50 per page for ink, highlighter, crayon, etc.

[Tape] Tape is an enemy of paper! Audrey Sage of Preservation Services in Jackson Library tells me that, “Tape rots paper.” There it is folks - from an expert, tape and paper don’t mix as far as library materials are concerned. (Please don’t attempt to repair library items with tape; there's more about that in the last section of this post.)

I’ve also noticed lately that some scores have been coming back to the Music Library with photocopies taped to them. It appears that this is done for ease of page turning. Accompanists, please, please don’t do it. Ask someone to turn pages for you.
Cost: Up to $5.00 per page

[Post-it Notes, Sticky Flags, Paper Clips, Folds, etc] Here’s the rule: don’t attach anything to library materials. Sticky things like post-it notes and those handy flags leave chemicals that break down paper. Paperclips, especially the uncoated ones, leave rust stains. Paperclips also damage paper by leaving indentations behind. Folding pages weakens them and leads to rips and tears. If you need to keep your place, use a bookmark or a slip of paper.
Cost: $.10 per post-it notes, flags, paper clip, fold, etc.; More for ripped pages

[Pets] This one is easy! When you take library materials home, make sure that you leave them in a place where your pets can’t reach them.
Cost: from $15 for new cover to $125 for replacement

[Liquids] Keep library materials dry. If it’s raining, ask a library staff member for a bag to protect your scores and books. Don’t drop your library book in a puddle. When you’re at home, don’t read library materials while you’re having a soak in the tub. Don’t spill your coffee on library materials. Be careful! If an item does get wet, bring it to the Music Library immediately. The quicker the wet item can be dealt with the lower the chance that it will have to be replaced and the lower the fees that you will be charged.
Costs: varies according to the amount of damage, but can be as high as $125 for replacement

If a Library item in your possession is or becomes damaged, please do not attempt to repair it. Bring the item back to us and we will send it to the Preservation staff at Jackson Library for repair.
Do-It-Yourself is never a good idea when it comes to repairing library materials. Even if it’s just one ripped page, bring the item to the Music Library and we’ll enlist the help of Audrey Sage and Stefani Hobbick in the University Libraries Preservation Services Department. In emergency cases, we’ll even walk the item to Jackson Library, have Stefani or Audrey repair it on the spot, and bring the item back to you.

Some Important Links

University Libraries' Library Crimes

Dean of Students Office's Academic Integrity Misuse of Academic Resources

Music Library Assocaition's Repairs and Conservation of Scores and Sheet Music

American Library Association's Code of Ethics

If you have any questions about damaged library items, please leave a comment or contact me at If you think of other examples of things one shouldn’t do to library materials, please share those as well.

Thanks for taking care of our stuff!
mka, Your Evening/Weekend Music Library Manager

All photos by Mallory McComas, Veteran Music Library Student Assistant


  1. Today I removed chocolate from a score's cover. It was kinda gross and not much fun. Don't eat near the library materials that you borrow.

  2. Here's the newest: we just got a score with a phone number and a url written in it. Scores are NOT scrap paper. I am resisting the urge to dial the phone number...