As we all have experienced firsthand, great music can make the soul sing. It can change our mood or even evoke powerful memories under the right circumstances. The right arrangement of notes can transport us. No one knows this better than orchestral musicians. The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) has been one of the city’s jewels since 1895, making it the sixth oldest orchestra in the United States. At the time of the CSO’s founding, composers like Brahms and Dvořák were still making magic. Cincinnati, meanwhile, was but a village. Throughout its nearly 125-year history, the CSO has delighted fans locally, nationally and around the world. That history is all contained in its collection.
As is true with any large-scale production, putting together that musical brilliance requires the efforts of a lot of people. Some of those people are seen by audiences, while others are not. Among those behind-the-scenes individuals are those – numbering fewer than 10 – who work in the CSO’s Music Library, where more than 11,500 sets of music are maintained. They help to safeguard and keep organized sheet music for not only the CSO, but also Cincinnati Pops, Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Ballet, the May Festival Chorus and Vocal Arts Ensemble, plus the CSO Youth Orchestra. Even here, working in harmony is key.
When funding was provided for a renovation to the whole of the CSO’s building, that included the music library. For Associate Principal Librarian Christina Eaton, it meant it was time to finally realize some big ideas.
“The shelving that had been in here was all static shelving,” said Eaton. “We had tried to cram in as much as possible, so the aisles were about 24 inches wide. We were clearly in an untenable situation. We had outgrown our space. In addition to our shelves, we had three or four annexes elsewhere in the building where we had music squirreled away.”
When Patterson Pope Sales Representative Gordon Kwiecinski first saw the space and met with Eaton and Principal Librarian Mary Judge, he quickly understood the scope of the project.
“They were very clear on what they wanted to do,” he said. “This was a space where they spent a lot of time, and it was very clear that doing things the right way was important for them. I can always appreciate that kind of clarity.”
Discover how a large hallway/walkway just feet from the library’s main office area was repurposed to feature more than 35 mechanical assist high-density carriages, allowing the library to store its more than 11,500 sets of music with additional capacity available for future growth of the collection.
Reinterpreting Music Library Storage
Before the renovation, the library’s static shelving was tightly fit into a 2,000-square foot room next door to the main office area. As Eaton alluded to, additional items were stored in other locations around the building. The central change made with the help of Patterson Pope and an understanding architect was the repurposing of an upstairs hallway. The expansive area had been used as a walkway between two buildings when the structure was new but had been enclosed decades earlier. The installation of three expansive mechanical assist high-density compact shelving units allowed Eaton and her compatriots to comfortably store music for not only the CSO, but its partner organizations as well.
“Having that space made available for the compact shelving was a real opportunity to deliver on exactly what they needed,” said Kwiecinski. “The forethought that their team put into the project was hugely helpful in bringing everything to fruition.”
Three high-density units were installed – two modules totaling 27 carriages stretching 75 feet long and nine feet wide, and a third eight-carriage unit measuring 25’ x 27’ at the far end of the hallway. Combined, the three systems can accommodate nearly 4,700 linear feet of music! Inside the units themselves, music is stored in custom–designed, archival quality, intricately labelled boxes. Now, librarians can easily find any piece in the collection, thanks to detailed organization and recordkeeping.
“We’re not a lending library, so we have a limited number of people who actually access the music stored in the units,” said Eaton. “There are three full-time librarians, two part-time people, and four wonderfully dedicated volunteers. I’ll tell you, the shelving itself, along with the box and label design, have worked out wonderfully. The labels are so bright and easy to read, especially against the gray of the shelving. Having them has not only helped us organize everything, but it’s given us extra space in the downstairs part of the library. Now, we each have an enormous amount of desk space, which I for one really appreciate.”
And the Band Played On
The library’s office area was also made larger thanks to the elimination of a wall and a number of small enclosed offices. In their place is brand new static shelving that holds music that is pulled for use during the CSO’s current season, much of which is identified a year in advance.
The front of the office area now boasts double doors, making it easier for orchestra members to enter with their instruments. And when those musicians come in to pick up sheet music that they’ll need to practice for an upcoming concert, they collect it from brand new slotted casework specially designed for the purpose.
“The new casework has been amazing,” said Eaton. “In our heads, we imagined it sort of like a fruit cart you might see at a farmer’s market. You’d come in and get only what you wanted – and it’d be easy to do. Prior to the renovation, we just had a six-foot folding table just inside the door where musicians would pick up their music from inside cardboard boxes. You couldn’t get too many people in and out at the same time, and you couldn’t fit a lot of people around the table. So we did a lot of talking about traffic patterns, about what the access could and should be. And then to figure out how they could physically reach music that we had picked out for them. I hardly need say it, but this is better.”
Patience and Professionalism
Before the renovation even became a reality, the CSO librarians spent a great deal of time brainstorming what they wanted. Eaton, Judge, and Assistant Librarians Matt Gray (former) and Elizabeth Dunning (current) realized that it was high time to survey the collection, weed out what was no longer needed, and invest some time, energy and imagination into composing something new.
“We have so much respect for Patterson Pope’s professionalism and, frankly, patience,” said Eaton. “This project was years in the making. Gordon and everyone at Patterson Pope always extended a listening ear and valuable advice when we needed it.”
And when the time came to execute?
“What a performance,” added Eaton. “When it was finally actually happening, everyone from Patterson Pope jumped in. Their team was instrumental in every step of several collection moves, as well as the installation. There was always tremendous oversight. They had a good handle on how things were going to happen. I can’t imagine having tackled this project without them.”
Whether it’s Haydn or Tchaikovsky, Mozart or Beethoven, Rachmaninov or John Williams, there is power in great music. Thanks to a reinvigorated space, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Music Library has another century of magic to look forward to… and then some.
For more information on this project, check out the Case Study.
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