Music Library moving into Davis this summer

From a post on the LIS blog:

Last Saturday, the Middlebury Board of Trustees approved a project to relocate the Music Library from the Mahaney Center for the Arts (MCFA) into the Davis Family Library, moving the History of Art and Architecture Department into the vacated music library space.  This project is scheduled to begin next June, with completion hopefully by September.

The article says this will increase use of the MCFA facilities, which “declined steadily” ever since Rehearsals (the old cafe on the first floor next to the Museum of Art) was closed due to budget cuts.


  • People won’t have to walk all the way across campus to access the 50,000-plus albums, music scores, and books on music.
  • Studio Art and Architecture Studies will have more space.
  • The super-creaky tracks of the movable shelves where the scores are kept will be gone.


  • There will be lots of albums to browse through in Davis (listed as a con, as this will be magnificent procrastination material).

9 thoughts on “Music Library moving into Davis this summer

  1. I’m tremendously disappointed by this news. The Music Library is by far my favorite spot on campus. The atmosphere is nothing like the rest of Midd; once you step into the music library, the hustle and bustle that is ubiquitous on the rest of campus vanishes, leaving a place for escape. In addition, its proximity to music classrooms and lesson spaces were of great help—it was easy to quickly grab some sheet music or a recording that pertained to an upcoming class. This will no longer be possible with the move to Davis.

    The only reason I could see this as beneficial was if the current multimedia rooms and second floor classrooms were converted to practice rooms, to allow more room for instruction and individual practice, which is limited now by the few practice rooms.

    I would much rather see the music library remain where it is, leaving the atmosphere and resources untouched. The proximity to music classrooms and lessons is essential to some teachers’ instruction, with the amount of examples that are integrated into the curriculum. This move will most likely complicate the music education one can receive at Middlebury.

  2. Nathan: I doubt the music dept faculty was not consulted and agreed this was in the best interest of the arts at Middlebury and the college overall.

    I think gone are the days of preserving spaces for so few a number of users: the college will try to utilize its spaces more so as to not have to build more. The luxury of a music library, especially like ours, which is underused (though those who use it may very well like it) when art history and or studio art needs space so badly, is just too costly. Besides, from the program perspective, all this makes good sense. I suspect any discipline/major/dept would love their own library, but how many does a liberal arts college need?

  3. I’m in favor of the move as well. I’ll add one more pro to the list: the music library had terrible acoustics. You could hear every note played in the surrounding practice rooms, as well as all the keystrokes from the next computer station.

    I do wonder where they’re going to fit all the CDs in Davis, though.

  4. I definitely disapprove.

    The Music Library not only had music materials, but also dance and some (though limited) drama; hence, it served to some degree all departments found in CFA. The History of Art and Architecture Department already had its own building where all of the architecture and art classes were (at least to my knowledge). The Music Library does not actually have that much room in it anyway, and the rooms it has do not actually seem like they would be good to have class in them anyway.

    I frequently go to the Music Library and as Nathan already stated, it has a completely different vibe. Also, it makes sense when practicing music in CFA to just run downstairs to the library and get more sheet music or do some quick research concerning the style or whatever necessary. But, Davis is quite far from CFA and will certainly hinder the music education on campus whether for specific classes or individuals.

    As for the music department’s involvement in the decision, I wouldn’t be so quick to say that they knew about the decision when it was made or even support it at all. I can’t say either way because I haven’t heard a single teacher mention it yet. But, I don’t honestly see why they would support it.

    Of course, none of this has anything to do with the history of art and architecture department, and they are certainly most welcome to CFA; however, the better question may be why CFA was not created to be big enough to house all of the art departments with the expectation that they might grow some over the years. Film Studies could also have been in CFA.

    As to JP Allen’s point: sure it had bad acoustics, but now that means that the history of art and architecture department will have to deal with it now. It will certainly be a distraction in class, whereas before it was only a distraction in a studying environment where one could choose to leave.

    And to the poster: you actually couldn’t put one real con to the move? I respect your views, but I believe that they are biased.


  5. Pete — as someone who had recently arrived when the CFA was planned and approved by the board (one day after the great market crash of 1987), you ask a good question — why were more arts programs not included in the building. Finances. Simple as that. The market crash almost killed the whole building as financing the project was very difficult in 1987-88 as a result of the crash. In fact, history of art WAS in the plan to go to the new building, but was taken out at the last moment. Arts facilities were so dated (think of Johnson having the museum, art history, studio art, and music all in it — which it did then) the trustees decided to go ahead with the project even though a program had to be removed, which was a real blow to art history: separating the museum from the department is almost like separating the bio dept from its labs.

    The music library was controversial from day 1. It is rare to have on a campus like ours independent libraries — an incredible luxury whose decision many here think was purely political and based on anything resembling rational decision making. The music dept was in turmoil and needed something thrown its way to sooth some of the battles going on. Too bad, as the space would have been far better used for teaching spaces (classrooms) and the art history faculty and students, and the CFA would have been accepted far sooner by students if it had been vibrant, which it is decidedly not today. As someone who has attended the concert series for 18 years, there is no doubt that the concert hall, dance studio, and blackbox theater spaces are superb, but the building is like a morgue. Bringing in history of art, bringing students into the building, and providing a link between the museum and academic program so far exceeds the potential inconvenience of having the music collection off site for a small number of students that one has to wonder if one who protests this move thinks he or she came to Middlebury to study at a conservatory rather than a liberal arts college. This move will benefit far more students and academic programs than retaining the status quo. In addition, it will not require more building to help history of art and studio art, which, unless donors wanted to put up all the funds necessary, is not likely to happen for a long time.

    There will still be nice spaces in which to study at the MCFA; now there will be a lot more students, there, too.

  6. Greetings!
    As part of the LIS Administration team (and as someone who worked in the Music Library for 6+ years as music cataloger), I gratified to see that, for better or worse, the music library is inspiring this discussion.

    I’d like to speak to a couple of points and assumptions people have raised about the move. 1) It’s not at all certain that the CDs will be any more browsable after the move to Davis than they currently are in the Music Library. To make them browsable in any useful manner will require reclassifying them (e.g., organized them by genre/artist instead of just assigning them sequential numbers), updating the library database, and relabeling/recasing to make them more secure against loss and theft. This is a lot of work considering the number of CDs we have. We’ll have to see how that goes. Personally, I would love to do it, but factor in an LIS that’s 20% smaller than 12-18 months ago and… you get the idea.

    2) To the best of my knowledge, the music faculty were either consulted or, at least, informed of the decision before it was announced. Whether or not that makes the pill any easier to swallow is something I’ll leave for others to say.

    3) People are correct in that the Music Library is, technically, the music and dance library, along with housing a small case of theater-related materials. This move will clearly affect those groups as well.

    4) I agree that the vibe in the Music Library was much different from Davis. I will miss it (I already do miss it, since my office has been moved to Davis!). It’s a wonderful experience to be able to talk with others who are interested and invested in music, but certainly that is true whatever one’s field. And it’s wonderful for music students and faculty to have the benefit of a music library staff that all have academic music degrees, and most of who have graduate music degrees as well. Dealing with music in libraries is a rather specialized endeavor, and this will be a challenge for the regular Davis staff to cope with as well. However, there are a surprising number of music-savvy folks in Davis (and the music library staff will all continue working in the main library building as well), so hopefully the service for music-related needs will be just as good after we move as it has been in the Music Library.

    Of course, as the 25-year staff member mentioned, it is rather a luxury for a school like Middlebury to have a music library. I worked at St. Olaf College for a while, and they also have a Music Library, but for them music was sort of like languages are for Middlebury — it was one of the main things St. Olaf is known for.

    Finally, I suppose I should confess to the fact that my statement about MCFA traffic declining “post-Rehearsals” is based on my own observational and anecdotal data. I do not have hard numbers to back up the assertion. So, although I’d be very surprised if numbers did not back up my statement, please don’t take it as gospel at this point. It’s based on what I’ve seen over there in the CFA personally.

    As always, if you have any questions, concerns, constructive comments, etc., about this, please do contact me.

    Terry Simpkins
    Director of Research & Collection Services

  7. To add to my original post: My own (though limited) experience of having stopped by the music library in the past was always positive: the “vibe” that some of the comments have described is definitely a great thing. It is indeed a shame that will be lost due to the demands of efficient space usage, etc.

    @Pete: I admit my one “con” was a bit facetious, and that my own editorial addition to the basic re-post of the information was biased with respect to my lack of experience with and lack of practical interest in having a music library.

    I suspected, though, that there would be a strong push against this move on the part of those dedicated to having the space available, and so my aim was not to comprehensively examine the pluses and minuses of the decision, but rather, provide a space for our readers to discuss!

  8. Things That Happened, Things To Do—Week of November 1 - Middlebury Magazine

  9. Casey; I am very glad to see that this is being discussed, and definitely thank you for the space to do it in.

    A short disclaimer: I am definitely biased with my being a music major. So, hopefully I am not coming across as too strong.

    25-year staff member: Thank you for sharing the historical information regarding the art departments here at Middlebury. I of course can understand the college’s difficulties when the economy is down. I am definitely speaking from a point of view which is more idealistic than pragmatic. As you said, it is very important that the museum have closer ties to the history of art and architecture, but I also believe it is important to have the music library’s contents close with the departments currently in CFA. You make a point that this is not a music conservatory. I completely agree, but I also do not believe that the resources that Middlebury College has really compare to those found in a conservatory. As to the unnecessariness of the “music” library in a private liberal arts college, it is also worth noting that BiHall contains a science library. This library serves well the students and faculty there and seems not to be controversial while the ‘music’ library is essentially the same thing in that it serves the departments, perhaps unequally, found in CFA. Of course serving them equally is preferable, but as it stands, the ‘music’ library does to some degree serve everyone in CFA.

    As to ideas about student interaction in CFA. Unfortunately, I do not believe that this change will result in much difference in inter-art student interactions. I hope that I am proven wrong, but as to the design of CFA, it does not seem to really encourage interdepartment interactions. This is of course my own experience and opinion, and is possibly inaccurate to some degree. Because of the way that this is now, I do not really think that moving the history of art and architecture department here will really encourage more interactions; particularly because the one place in CFA outside of their respective department areas that students go to is the music library.

    I admit to feeling in the dark about specifics regarding this move, particularly regarding the “nice spaces in which to study” as well as where the record and cd players in CFA will be relocated to. I hope that they will be in Davis Library so that students can continue to use them if they do not have their own record or cd player. As to the study spaces in CFA, where will these be?

    Additionally, the browsability of all the materials, specifically DVDs, CDs, and records also remains a question of particular interest as brought up by Terry Simpkins.

    I of course would like to reiterate that the History of Art and Architecture Department should definitely feel welcome, but I do want to make sure that all of the pros and cons are fairly considered.

    I am not well acquainted with the process that actually happened when this was decided, but I do wish that I could have had the opportunity to provide either my opinions or support for my beliefs.

    As a final note, I hope that no one sees this as weighing one department versus another, but rather as a collective betterment of the college for the student body. And if the issue has been fairly considered by the Board of Trustees and decided afterward, then I will accept their impartial judgement and will support it.

    Please feel free to comment, question, or even just to say something random, such as hello. My email is

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