President’s report – IAML Riga 18-22 June 2017


IAML Riga took place between 18th and 22nd of June 2017 at the National Library of Latvia.


Australia was represented by:

  • Anna J. Shelmerdine (Australian Institute of Music)
  • Alex Palmer (Australian Brandenburg Orchestra)
  • Denise Tobin (University of Adelaide) and partner
  • Mary O’Meara (retired, previously University of Queensland) and partner
  • Dr Samantha Bennett (Australian National University)


After more than 30 hours of flights and stop-overs I finally arrived in Riga on Saturday, the 17th. I was greeted with a wonderful weather, which held till the next day. It was a perfect opportunity to explore Latvia’s beach culture and visit the famous Jurmala beach, just 30-minute train ride away from Riga. The season hasn’t started yet; wooden platforms housing ice-cream kiosks were still being built.

Sunday evening

As a first-time attendee, I was invited to the introductory session where we were welcomed by the board members. We had a chance to introduce ourselves and start the networking process (the best thing about any conference).

Opening ceremony took place that evening in the atrium of the National Library of Latvia. An eye-catching building – very different to anything else in Riga.

The highlight of the evening was a concert by Laima Jansone, a kokle master. Who would think there is so much power in this traditional, stringed instrument. She was truly a rock star. I do not have a recording of that event but you can see Laima playing here:

Monday – day I of the Congress

We all attended the opening session first. The highlight for me was a talk by Ints Teterovskis, a choir conductor – his story of the song celebration phenomenon was truly touching – it showed an incredible sense of identity that Latvians have. You can learn about the celebrations here:

Next for me was the meeting of the Advocacy committee, chaired by Anna Pensaert.

After lunch the session I’ve chosen was New approaches to collection development. First talk by Callie Holmes and Matthew Vest from the UCLA Music Library in Los Angeles was wonderful.  It stood out for me because it was the only session that covered contemporary music collection – in their case it was a project of collecting albums of various genres (first punk, then hip-hop) from their local area.

Last session for me that day was the Music information literacy and mentoring. Janneka Guise and Katherine Penner’s talk on their mentoring relationship was so entertaining. The use of animation was fantastic (I need to learn how to do that!) and the story itself inspiring.

It wasn’t exactly the end of the day at the Library, yet. Later that evening we enjoyed a fabulous concert by the State Choir Latvija.

Tuesday – day II of the Congress

Another busy day at the conference. It’s always so hard to choose sessions (in Riga there were four concurrent sessions!).

First up for me was the session presented by the Broadcasting and Orchestra Libraries Section showcasing two wonderful platforms: The Berliner Philharmoniker’s Digital Concert Hall and

Quick morning tea and off I go to the next session. This time presented by the Libraries in Music Teaching Institutions. One presentation title drew my attention Collection or accumulation? The origins of the Special Collections at the Royal Academy of Music, London (by Kathryn Adamson). It sounded interesting but I would never think it’s going to be the most hilarious session. Kathryn, possibly off script, took us through turbulent history of the librarians at the Royal Academy of Music (curious to know, is the catalogue finished now? ;))

Lunch at the National Library Café – amazing prices, fantastic food, spacious dining area. Loved it there.

After lunch it was time for a Forum of National Representatives working meeting and then IAML General Assembly (part I).

Wednesday – day III of the Congress

First session up – Copyright committee! Important topic but far from my favourite. I had to leave earlier as well to see our own Samantha Bennett giving her talk at the session presented by the Audio-Visual Materials Section. Samantha’s presentation was about a project she initiated at the Australian National University School of Music (where she is an Associate Professor). What started as a preservation project to save hundreds of archival recordings from the School of Music recording history has turned into a study unit where students learn preservation skills. We need more people like Samantha – with a drive to preserve our past so we can move forward to the future.

One of the next talks I’ve seen was also incredibly inspiring. It actually made me a little bit teary, seeing what a music librarian can do in a public library. Marianna Zsoldos from the Bródy Sándor Public Library in Hungary told us about her music programs for children. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a variety at one library. In Australia, most popular sessions for children that could be described as musical would be rhyme time for toddlers. Marianna’s presentation can be found here: Please watch it if you’re a public librarian!

Afternoon was reserved for excursions. I’ve chosen a tour of the University of Latvia Library (there was supposed to be also a tour of the Music Academy Library but unfortunately, it was cancelled). University of Latvia Library has 10 branches scattered around the city. We could see the one dedicated to research at the Kalpaka Boulevard. Originally, the building was the mayor’s house (Mr Kerkovius, first mayor of Riga). It was built in 1874 and given to the university in the 1940s. My favourite spot was the sun-filled reading room, I would love to study there! (picture below)

After the excursion, I made my way to the Jurmala Beach again. This time for a final concert of the Riga Music Festival. It took place on a stage of a semi-open Dzintari Concert Hall, located near the beach. You could hear the waves and swaying trees while listening to the concert! Amazing experience. And the program itself was fantastic, Poulenc’s Concerto for Organ, Timpani and Orchestra in G Major with Iveta Apkalna on organ – mesmerising to watch; Orff’s Carmina Burana – such an epic work! I’ve had another opportunity here to listen to the Latvija Choir.

Thursday – day IV of the Congress

I skipped the presentations that day and instead made a trip out of town to the Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum. The museum is located in a forest right next to the Jugla Lake and it’s one of the largest museums of that type in Europe. Time has stopped there. The museum is divided into several villages showing how life looked like in different Latvian regions.

In the afternoon, I was back at the National Library for the IAML General Assembly (Part II). Apart from voting on countless matters we witnessed the beginning of new presidency. Barbara Dobbs-Mackenzie has passed the wand to Stanisław Hrabia.

Thursday evening – Farewell Dinner

For the farewell dinner, we were invited to the Riga Latvian Society House. It was a wonderful evening. Great company, good food, wreath making activities and traditional dance! Some of us have partied right till the end and then some more.

Official pictures from the farewell dinner can be found on the IAML Flickr account here: – you may note I don’t smile on any of the pictures, don’t believe it, I had a great time. Traditional Latvian dance was a good fun!

Big thank you the organiser at the National Library of Latvia. The Congress was a success.

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