As a “print specialist” at West Music I see a lot of new books come through and I confess it’s hard to resist adding to my library of music at home. Sometimes when a new book comes in I don’t always remember just how many of those songs I already have. I’ve even had people come in and tell me they have bought the same book two or even three times because they forgot they already had it. Controlling an out of control music library can be a challenge, but the rewarding feeling of knowing what you have and what you don’t is priceless.
The first step to organization is to sort your music. Be honest with yourself and if there’s something you will never play consider donating it. Set music aside that you absolutely feel you must keep but won’t play as it can be stored in boxes. Next sort music by seasons, for example sort out Christmas music. Finally sort what remains by type. This could include methods, religious, popular, rock or country. Storage of music can be done in magazine storage containers or file cabinets. Make sure you leave a little space for new music to be easily added to the collection. Use an easy to read labeling system to label each box, container, or file drawer for quick reference. Books like to be stored in a dry place and keep in mind over time light from windows and light fixtures will cause fading. Protecting books from bugs, mice and pets is also important.
Create an inventory list of your music saves time finding music. This can be done by category such as holidays, and styles of music. You can further break it down by composers and artist. For small collections consider keeping track in an address book listing books by title. For large collections a database program such as Microsoft Excel can be used. There are premade templates for movies and books that can be modified for music. Consider not only entering book titles but also the song titles in each collection. The advantage of listing music in a database is that it’s easy to search. With a couple of clicks and entering a title, the computer will sort through the entire database to see if that title exists. You can also add website links to the book for further reference. Teachers using a data base such as this may also want to add the cost of the book so that they know what to charge a student in case of loss. Teachers and professional musicians can also keep a copy of the updated data base in a safe location, so that if the library is ever lost, you can have an accessible list to turn into insurance. Don’t forget to remove titles if you remove books from your library. For those that are unfamiliar with using databases on computers you can use your favorite search engine to find a tutorial.
As technology moves forward people will be able to keep their database on a smart phone or tablet computer and then bring them along when shopping for new music. It’s even possible to look a book up on a publisher website and copy and paste the song list from the website into your database, making entry even simpler.
A final tip for organizing and keeping inventory of your music library is to break the project up into small, easy-to-do sections. Tearing a life’s time worth of books out of their hiding spots and dumping them on the dining room table can be overwhelming. Keep the sorting in a room where you can shut the door such as a spare bedroom or work at the project in small sections that can be completed in a day’s time. Most importantly set a goal of what you want to accomplish and when you reach that goal reward yourself. A great reward would be a trip to the music store to pick up that new book you’ve had your eye on. Happy organizing!