This article presents a broad survey of music collections in public libraries in the United States. Characteristics common to the majority of American public libraries are discussed, including origin, funding, and mission as an educational institution. Using a 1949 survey compiled by Otto Luening, Music Materials and the Public Library, as a basis for comparison, the authors surveyed seven libraries representing one or more of the following communities: small towns, school districts with nationally recognized music education programs, large cities, and locations associated recognizably "American" musical styles (e.g., New Orleans and jazz). The results this informal web survey demonstrate that certain features of American public library music collections have remained essentially the same since the time of Luening's survey. Recordings still make up the majority of music collections, particularly in smaller cities, and there is still a lack of money to acquire materials and a shortage of qualified personnel to administer the collections. The decrease in arts education in American public schools has much to do with what public libraries are collecting with regard to music. There have been movements in the United States to increase awareness of the importance of music education, but none of these national groups has made formal connections to public libraries, nor have they addressed the important role that public libraries could play in this effort.

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Copyright © 2002 International Association of Music Libraries. This article first appeared in Fontes Artis Musicae 48:4 (2002), 327-341.

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