Library’s Catalog of Orchestral Music Now Easier to Use

Tuesday, July 25, 2023
Library staff holds orchestral music
Staff member with orchestral performance set

In Spring 2023, collection development added about 500 records for orchestral performance sets to the Kansas City Public Library’s online catalog for better discovery and easier circulation. The orchestral performance sets collection had circulated for 50 years using paper checkout cards. Now that they are in the online catalog, the collection is more visible, and items are easier to check out.

Orchestral performance sets contain all the score parts of an orchestral work, including the conductor’s score and parts for a full orchestra or chamber orchestra to perform a musical work. Parts may include anywhere from 20-100 individual score sheets for various instruments. Each set also includes an inventory listing the contents.

Orchestral Performance Set
Example of an orchestral performance set

Local orchestra and chamber groups may borrow orchestral performance sets from the Library for use in rehearsals and performances. The Library’s collection benefits orchestra groups who would otherwise pay about $400 to rent or buy music for each performance. Given that orchestra groups may put on four performances a year, the collection helps groups save around $1,600 per year. Some of the sets in the Library’s collection are no longer available for purchase or rent elsewhere, which increases the value of their availability at the Library.

History and Scope of the Collection

The earliest known circulation of an orchestral performance set at the Kansas City Public Library was in 1969. Though not listed in the catalog at the time, word of the set spread through the music community by word of mouth. Prior to the sets’ digital cataloging, an orchestra representative would phone the Library to ask for availability and then come in to sign a checkout card in order to borrow one.

Over the years, the Library has accepted donations and made purchases based on suggestions by local orchestras. Many of the Library’s sets were donated by the Kansas City Philharmonic Orchestra, which dissolved in 1982.

stacks of sheet music on table
Sheet Music
Library checkout card
Example of a checkout card

The Library’s collection includes pieces by over 100 different composers, the oldest of which is a piece by Henry Purcell from 1683 and the most recent by Arthur Frackenpohl from 1967. The collection includes composers of the so-called standard repertoire that most orchestras perform but also includes pieces by women and African Americans, such as Amy Beach and William Grant Still.

The sets are housed at the Central location in closed stacks.

Future Goals of the Collection

Library staff stands next to orchestral stacks
Staff member places performance set back in collection

The future of the orchestral performance sets collection is bright. Kansas City has a thriving arts community with numerous community, civic, and professional ensembles. The Kansas City Public Library will continue to grow the performance sets collection to include more diverse composers and newer material as it becomes available. Patrons may use Suggest a Purchase to suggest new performance score purchases.