The Major Orchestra Librarians’ Association (MOLA) celebrated its 30-year anniversary by holding its annual conference in New Orleans over the weekend of May 11–14. It seemed an obvious choice to dub this MOLA-NOLA 2012. (An earlier possibility, MOLA-NOLA XXX, seemed a bit risqué for such an eminent body.)
MOLA was fortunate to have ICSOM Chairperson Bruce Ridge as the featured speaker for Monday’s first session. Ridge and the ICSOM Governing Board had agreed that if schedules could be accommodated for this year’s conference, the possibility of Bruce’s speaking at MOLA was timely. The convergence of ICSOM’s 50th anniversary with MOLA’s 30th was too good to pass up. (That “union” is a synonym for “convergence” is a happy coincidence.) With the blessing of our colleagues in the MOLA/AFM Liaison Committee, including librarian representatives from ICSOM, ROPA, and OCSM orchestras, the arrangements were made.
Entitled “ICSOM and Librarian Advocacy,” Bruce’s session took the form of an interview, with a brief introduction by Baltimore ICSOM alternate delegate and principal librarian Mary Plaine, describing Bruce’s background and accomplishments and emphasizing Bruce’s commitment to musician and symphonic advocacy. It will surprise nobody familiar with his commitment that in responding to Mary’s well-scripted questions, Bruce spoke eloquently and passionately about the place of symphonic music and musicians in our society and in the world. By sharing statistics, in relating current developments both in the U.S. and abroad, and with his emphasis on the professional roles all of us play—even those musicians who are non-playing—Bruce’s remarks struck just the right balance between praise and encouragement.
In preparing for his New Orleans talk, Bruce focused on realizing the differences as well as similarities between ICSOM and MOLA. Like ICSOM, MOLA’s membership is institutional rather than individual. And individuals’ energies and volunteer enthusiasm power both organizations.
However, the two organizations differ in at least four notable ways:
- MOLA’s membership of close to 300 performing organizations is truly international, representing 5 continents, with non-U.S. performing organizations comprising over a third of the total.
- Unlike ICSOM, institutional size is not a factor for MOLA, which requires mainly that a member institution employ a professional librarian.
- Union affiliation is not required for either institutional members or individual employees.
- There are no delegates to MOLA. Librarian members attend conferences voluntarily, because it benefits them and their organizations professionally. Some organizations subsidize attendance costs for their librarians.
That said, intense interest in union activities and union protections, percolating for years with U.S. librarians and now growing internationally as well, provided Bruce with a rapt audience at MOLA’s 30th annual conference in New Orleans. The timing could not have been better, nor the speaker more appropriate.
ICSOM Governing Board member Paul Gunther is the principal librarian of the Minnesota Orchestra. He was a founding member of MOLA in 1983. He served as MOLA’s first newsletter editor and later for six years on the MOLA Board of Officers, including two terms as president.