How do you organize your church music library? Do you collect scores after each mass?
  • tomboysuzetomboysuze
    Posts: 289
    I'm organizing a library for a church that has never had a music program before and would like to know what different approaches to managing choral music people use. I have a system I've used for years, but I'm always changing and tweaking it. I will have a "student librarian" and about 10 feet of shelf space in the basement of the rectory. I'm also putting a filing cabinet, some shelving and copier in the choir loft - which is very large. I'd like to go to a library where most of the music is digital, but I distrust technology and am rather ocd about having everything we need when we need it, so it's likely that there will be a decent amount of files as well.
    I'd love to know several things:
    1. What is your system for filing and distributing scores?
    2. Do you allow choir members to keep binders of music, as long as it's alphabetized?
    3. Are you using any cataloging software and if so, which one....and does it work?
    Many thanks!

    (PS...I'll definitely be using Frogman's Catholic Choir Books - which I've already found to be wonderful publications, beautifully done. I very much recommend them. Noel, can you insert link below this post? )
  • tomboysuzetomboysuze
    Posts: 289

    (finally figured out how to do a hyperlink....duh, I know.....)
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,949
    What is this "organize" that you speak of? I am not familiar with the concept. LOL. My choir music is filed in alphabetical order in the cabiniets, but some of my choir members have archives in their music binders. It would take stratigraphy to determine the age of some of it. After choir mass on Sunday, those who don't keep music dump it on a counter in the choir room. I often go downstairs, get coffee, and file music during sermons.
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  • Marc Cerisier
    Posts: 416
    We have 3 of the Wenger pull out music cabinets and about 6 4'x7' bookshelves filled with our anthems--which are kept in Gamble music boxes. They are arranged in the order we bought them, and we have them all in a big Excel spreadsheet so they are sortable and searchable. The excel file started out as a temporary solution as we outgrew Church Musician and wanted to look for new software. 5 or so years later, we've found that Excel works well for us.

    We would like to get more of the Wenger cabinets, but money is an issue.

    We have a big, 2-sided rolling cart with about 60 numbered slots ("the choir cart") where the choir binders are kept. Each week, they are processed by the music secretary to put in new music, and take out old music. During Christmas and Easter we add a second binder to the slot so their binder doesn't get too heavy.

    We do allow members to take their binders home to practice, but not to keep any music. The music is all numbered, and inventoried going into and out of each binder to make sure we don't lose copies.
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  • tomboysuzetomboysuze
    Posts: 289
    @ Charles......hahahahahahaha......."stratigraphy"??? like you have to use on tree stumps to find out how old they are??? So, so funny.....thanks for true.

    @ Marc - thanks so much - I have no idea what those things are, but I'm going to find out. Well, I do know what an excel spreadsheet is, but I've never had a choir in a parish that didn't give me a hard time about buying anything except the basics.

    You have quite the system, I must say! Is the music secretary paid or volunteer? It's always a problem to get choir members to organize their own binders - so that's impressive.
  • The longer you are in this business the more you appreciate the need for an efficient, user-friendly choir cataloguing system. First, it’s important to use a program such as EXCEL that allows you to easily update the library when you add scores. Always create a catalogue binder that you can carry with you.

    It is very helpful to classify scores according to use, such as “general” or by liturgical season or topic. It is also most practical to distinguish works by voicing. You will always have days when a whole choir section will be absent and you’ll need a ready reference for a two or three-part work. (Throughout my career, I always kept four-voice and less than four-voice works in separate listings; that is, the hard-copy catalogue always was divided so I could have immediate access in an emergency.)

    When filing scores it can be beneficial to use color coding for folder and cabinet labels. If for example you have a tradition of doing special musical events for Christmas, having easily distinguished Christmas folders and cabinet drawers is really a time saver.

    Finally, any catalogue entry will have these basic headers:


    The latter is important for conveying special information. For example, if you have a score requiring the sopranos to hit a high A, and your present sopranos can’t make it above a G, it’s important to have that reminder in print.
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  • Marc Cerisier
    Posts: 416
    You can see the Wenger system I mentioned at:

    Ours was installed before my time, so I'm really not sure about its cost.

    The secretary is a paid position, though I've known many choirs to have a volunteer choir librarian who would spend a day or a half-day each week organizing binders and music. The more of that you can accomplish outside of rehearsal, the more time you can spend on music-making.
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  • Leslie
    Posts: 2
    If you have a small choir, you probably don't want to read this. We have from 40 to 50 members in our chancel choir at any given time. We have an extensive library. There are at least 10 5-shelf units of boxes of anthems alone, plus Masterworks, Collections, as well as handbell, organ, and service music.

    Anthems and Masterworks are kept in labeled, black Gambel (now we use Valiant) boxes in order by alphabet letter in the format A000. The newest anthem gets the next chronological order. Keeping in them strict alphabetic order doesn't work because we'd be moving dozens of boxes just to insert a new anthem. We use library software (see below) which provides an easy alphabetic lookup. In addition each anthem is stamped with the church name, address and anthem number, making filing easy. We always order 65 copies of every anthem and each anthem is numbered from 1 to 65.

    We keep photocopies of service music from the hymnal alphabetically in folders so that the choir doesn't have to carry cumbersome hymnals.

    Each choir member is assigned a number (from 1-65) and is assigned a box. Anthems to be rehearsed/sung are placed (by choir member number) in their box as needed. Choir members may mark up their copy. When the anthem is sung at a later date, they receive the same copy back with their markings.

    Service music needed for the next service is placed on a counter and picked up by each choir member before rehearsal.

    After the service all music is handed in (placed in neat piles) and then later refiled by one of two volunteer librarians. Sounds cumbersome by works well. With anthems costing upwards of $2 each, we find it important to maintain the library. It's always easy to tell who didn't turn in their music!

    Re library software. Since 2006 we have used The Choir Keeper a free, Access-based database that has worked great. Unfortunately it does not support 64 bit computers and can no longer be downloaded and is no longer supported. We are therefore looking for a more established "published" software package to use. I have found only 3: RCI from Riden, Church Musician 5.0 from tempomusic office and Music Library Organizer from PrimaSoft. Only RCI has responded to my email requesting additional information and they responded by telephone call. tempomusic has no phone number or address, which is worrisome. Riden is willing to send me a 30-day trial. I'm hesitant to take the time until I can find someone who actually uses any of these that can give me some practical feedback. If you use any of the 3, know someone who does, or other software, please let me know.
  • The RCI software is pretty good. I have it an have used it quite a bit. The other one which I use is Church Music Tooleworks, Which is very good as well.
  • Leslie
    Posts: 2
    Do you have a preference for one or the other? Are there any significant differences?
  • awilliamsawilliams
    Posts: 95
    I have a filing cabinet I stack my music on top of.

    The seminary I am at has a filing cabinet for psalms by number, a motet cabinet filed by feast, and misc by composer.
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