Brooklyn Library Reopens Its Orchestra Collection

Member to Member

Volume CIII, No. 3March, 2003

Basil Kyriakou

Of great interest to Local 802 conductors and orchestral players is the reopening of the Brooklyn Public Library’s Circulating Orchestra Collection, making available – after a ten-year hiatus – its extensive holdings of more than 600 titles to ensembles of all kinds at minimal costs.

Established during the 40-year tenure of the late Sue Sharma, the former head librarian of the Art and Music Division, the collection has been thoroughly revitalized by librarian and Brooklyn composer Louis Cigliano who continues to amend the catalog with clear intent to add many more works of 20th century composers.

This now returns the Brooklyn Public Library to the small but important circle of noncommercial sources of orchestral material, including those of Lincoln Center, the municipal libraries of Baltimore and Philadelphia and others.

In our time of greatly reduced availability of many musical publications, especially sets of orchestral parts, the collection is of prime interest to both amateur and semiprofessional orchestras that program works mostly from the standard repertoire, which at this time continues to make up the vast majority of the collection’s holdings.

In addition to the purely orchestral works – including orchestral fragments from larger stage works – the collection contains material for numerous complete operas, mostly Italian classics. A few of the better-known operettas are also available. The sets, mostly from older reprinted editions, are in essentially good condition for their age and prior use, and an adequate number of string parts exists for these works. As part of the inventory process, composer Cigliano also accomplished the difficult but indispensable task of locating and obtaining replacement parts, making most titles ready for immediate use.

At this time, the lending terms are extremely generous – although they may change in the future – especially in light of the huge increase in replacement costs of this material. A responsible representative of an orchestral organization must submit a registration application. A sliding-scale annual fee may be required, but there is no registration fee for New York nonprofessional groups. Even more generous is the willingness of the library to accept applications from out-of-state orchestras.

On top of this, a small fee, depending on the number of sets desired, is due at time of borrowing. (Stage works cost slightly more to borrow.) The total costs are much more reasonable than rentals from publishers at commercial rates, especially for those older, out-of-copyright works that are no longer for sale.

Even though the orchestra collection is available only to standing organizations, the rest of the library’s holdings offer a great deal to individual musicians. The selection of full and study orchestral scores in the library’s general collection is less conservative and more comprehensive than the offerings of the Circulating Orchestra Collection. It is well complemented by a fine assortment of piano music, art songs, solo compositions for all instruments, chamber works with separate parts and multiple copies of piano/vocal scores of numerous stage works.

All of these scores, together with a fine array of many books about music, are all circulating materials for New York Public Library cardholders. (From other boroughs, have your card amended for use in Brooklyn.)

In the non-circulating reference stacks, one will find a similarly complete selection of books as well as the true centerpiece of the division, a most impressive archive of collected editions.

This major local resource is housed at the Brooklyn Central Library, located at Grand Army Plaza, in Brooklyn’s historic cultural district, near the fine Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and the magnificent Prospect Park. It is easily reached by the 2 or 3 subways, equidistant from either the Grand Army Plaza or Eastern Parkway stops.

For complete information on all aspects of the Circulating Orchestra Collection, please contact Louis Cigliano or Harold Stern at the Arts, Media, Music and Sports Division at (718) 230-2183 or send an e-mail to

Basil Kyriakou is a Local 802 member, retired symphony orchestra musician and regular patron of the Brooklyn Public Library.