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Handling of music parts varies from one library to another, depending partly on habit and historical practice, but more importantly on the size and mission of the library. It is reasonable for a general library with a small chamber music collection to safeguard its parts by circulating them separately and storing them in file drawers accessible only to staff. For a large music library this course would be a logistical nightmare for staff and patrons alike. Each of the following suggestions for binding and processing of parts will work for some libraries and not for others.




  1. Process and bind parts for individual shelving and circulation. This option is the most expensive up front and takes the most shelf space, but allows maximum control, security and protection for the individual parts.
  2. Attach parts to scores, or together as chamber ensembles of parts, for binding and circulation. This binding option is less expensive and takes less shelf space than individual shelving/circulation, and does not require extra work at the circulation desk. It does require circulation staff to be trained to check for all the parts on return and means that the borrower of the score will be charged for the loss of a part by another member of their ensemble. An alert sticker on the front of a score showing the number of parts to check for is helpful.
  3. Store unbound, circulate in reusable folders. This option is cost-effective for small music collections, as noted above, since most of the expense is in circulation staff time, which is small when the amount of material circulating is small. It does mean that circulation staff must know where to find the parts and covers when needed. A means of accounting for all parts borrowed is also needed, whether it is separate item records or an alert sticker on the folder stating the number of parts.

Parts to be attached to a score may be left unbound (though removing the staples and replacing them with stainless steel staples is recommended), or bound in light cover paper (which is cheaper but affords less protection for heavily used music) or heavier card stock, reinforced with Tyvek or cloth at the spine.

The binding chosen will also affect the type of pocket that will be needed to accommodate the parts and their coverings.

No type of binding or covering can prevent the occasional loss of a part. One question that arises when considering library policy for part replacement is how to interpret the section of copyright law that permits libraries to copy lost, damaged or deteriorated materials for which publishers cannot supply new replacements, when publishers will not supply replacements for individual lost parts. It is approximately as onerous for a library to have to purchase a complete new set when one part is lost as it is for a publisher to have to break up a complete set in order to supply a replacement part. Once again, different libraries will develop different policies for this situation, depending on their size, relationships with music vendors, and the expertise of acquisitions staff with music materials.


For libraries that attach parts to scores a variety of pocket options are available, and different options will be best fitted to different situations.









  1. The pockets that come as an optional addition to pamphlet binders distributed by library suppliers are elegant but tend to have a limited capacity.
  2. A pocket designed at the Sibley Music Library to be added to purchased pamphlet binders works well to accommodate multiple parts safely and durably. It will hold materials up to ¼” in total thickness, depending on the height and width of the parts and the thickness of the score. For thicker attachments, including many large parts or other media, it is necessary either to make a customized binder with a spine cut to accommodate the extra width, or to outsource the binding to a commercial library binder.
  3. A lighter version of the Sibley pocket would suffice for light to medium use an can be made by cutting 4” cloth tape.
  4. There is no standard pocket among commercial library binders. Details to look for (and ask for if you don’t find them) are the strength of the connection of the pocket to the cover, and an added layer, if needed, to cover the join of a pocket to a cover (illustration 4b.)

Alice Carli - Formats
Last updated: February 16, 2008, at 07:44 PM EST

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