A Brief History of the Music OCLC Users Group

By Jay Weitz

Even before the Library of Congress (LC) MARC Development Office published Music: A MARC Format: Specifications for Magnetic Tapes Containing Catalog Records for Music Scores and Musical and Nonmusical Sound Recordings in 1976, representatives of the Music Library Association (MLA) and OCLC had met in Columbus, Ohio, to begin plans for the implementation of the format.  Out of that same October 1975 meeting, which included MLA President Clara Steuermann (University of Southern California) and MARC/MLA committee members Walter Gerboth (Brooklyn College), Mary Lou Little (Harvard University), and Donald Seibert (Syracuse University), came an MLA proposal to establish a permanent joint advisory committee for music to establish priorities and access points.  In November 1974, however, OCLC instead suggested the formation of a task force based on MLA’s recommendations that would serve until the implementation details of the MARC Music format were firmly in place.

This OCLC Task Force on Cataloging of Music Scores and Sound Recordings met several times during 1976, advising OCLC on the music workforms, indexing, quality control, the printing of catalog cards, input standards, and related matters.  OCLC published On-line Cataloging of Sound Recordings and On-line Cataloging of Scores in September 1976 and implemented the new Score and Sound Recording formats on November 24, 1976.

When MLA met in Nashville, Tennessee, January 31 through February 5, 1977, a group of music users of the OCLC online system met to discuss the need for a Music OCLC Users Group (MOUG).  Lenore Coral (University of Wisconsin–Madison), Karen A. Hagberg (Eastman School of Music), David “Jack” Knapp (Oberlin College), Mary Lou Little, and Karl Van Ausdal (SUNY College at Purchase), volunteered to draft bylaws, compile a mailing list, and start planning a first official meeting.  In October 1977, the first issue of the Music OCLC Users Group Newsletter was published, announcing the first MOUG meeting to be held in Boston, Massachusetts, in conjunction with the MLA annual conference in February 1978.  That inaugural MOUG meeting on February 26, 1978, remains the best attended, with some 250 registrants.

In 1980, NELINET, the New England regional OCLC network, published The Music OCLC Users Group Tagging Workbook and Reference Manual by Ruth Patterson Funabiki and Karl Van Ausdal.

One of MOUG’s early successful projects was the OCLC Musical Recordings Analytics Consortium (OMRAC), coordinated by Richard E. Jones (University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee).  MOUG members did the composer/uniform title added entry authority work for the Sound Recordings and OCLC Quality Control staff added the fields to the records.  At its third meeting in 1980, MOUG formed the Retrospective Music project (REMUS), which created MARC records for Scores and Sound Recordings that had been cataloged prior to the implementation of MARC Music.  These two MOUG initiatives helped inspire OCLC to look for ways to empower its cataloging users with new capabilities that would allow them to share even more directly in the growth and maintenance of the bibliographic database.  The direct result was OCLC’s Enhance Program, implemented in December 1983 with significant MOUG participation.  By 1988, REMUS evolved into the NACO-Music Project (NMP) under the coordination of Ralph Papakhian (Indiana University).  NMP was the first of the Name Authority Cooperative (NACO) “funnel projects” and remained under the MOUG umbrella until its transition to MLA in 2015.

When the search key for Johann Sebastian Bach became the first in the OCLC implementation of the authority file to exceed the system limit of 256 records retrieved in 1983, MOUG members began to document the Bach authority records and those of other prolific composers.  These lists served as the basis of the first edition of The Best of MOUG in 1987, edited by Ann McCollough (Eastman School of Music).  Although OCLC resolved the indexing issues by May 1992, eight editions of The Best of MOUG would eventually be published through 2008 due to popular demand.

MOUG and its sibling organization, Online Audiovisual Catalogers (OLAC) held their first joint conference at OCLC in Dublin, Ohio, April 30 through May 1, 1984.  Since then, the two user groups have met jointly in 1994, 2000, 2008, and 2014.

Although cataloging had been the focus of MOUG through its early years, the profile of reference and public services had been rising, resulting in the creation in 1988 of the MOUG Reference Task Force.  Through various names and configurations, by 2016 it had evolved into the Reference, Discovery, and Collections Services Committee (RDCSC) with the Reference, Discovery, and Collections Services Coordinator serving on the MOUG Executive Board.

The first MOUG Web site was created by Ralph Papakhian in 1996.  MOUG-L, the MOUG electronic discussion list, was established in 2000 by Cheryl Taranto (University of Nevada, Las Vegas).  In July 2008, the list was moved to a new host at the University of Kentucky, where it was administered by Kerri Scannell Baunach.  In 2013, a Web Visioning Task Force was created for redesigning the MOUG site.  That group was succeeded by a Web Implementation Task Force in 2014, resulting in a completely revamped MOUG Web site introduced in 2015.

MOUG established its Distinguished Service Award in 2002 to recognize “someone who has made significant professional contributions to music users of OCLC.”  When the esteemed Ralph Papakhian died in 2010, MOUG established the Ralph Papakhian Travel Grant in his honor, supporting the attendance at the annual MOUG meeting of a student, paraprofessional, or professional in the first five years of her or his career.

During 2005, MOUG began the long and involved process of changing from a 501(c)(6) nonprofit to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, contributions to which are tax-deductible.  As part of that effort, MOUG officially reincorporated in December 2007.  Nonprofit 501(c)(3) status was finally granted to MOUG in 2012.

In order to facilitate the smooth transition of financial and fiscal responsibilities within MOUG, the position of Treasurer-Elect/Past Treasurer was created in 2008.  Further ensuring the well-being of MOUG, it formed a Financial Planning Working Group in 2014, one result of which was the 2015 launch of the First 100K Capital Campaign.


1975 – 1976OCLC Task Force on the Cataloging of Music Scores and Sound Recordings (MOUG’s predecessor) is established; growing need for continual involvement and feedback from music cataloging community becomes evident.
1977, OctoberFirst Music OCLC Users Group Newsletter is published containing proposed bylaws, list of nominees for first elections, and announcement of first meeting.
1978, February 26First annual MOUG meeting (~250 registrants).
1979, MarchSecond annual MOUG meeting; possible official relationship with MLA is discussed.
1980The Music OCLC Users Group Tagging Workbook and Reference Manual by Ruth Patterson Funabiki and Karl Van Ausdal is published.
1981, JanuaryFollowing mass conversion of headings in OCLC database, OCLC users officially begin cataloging in AACR2.
1982, June 28Jay Weitz joins OCLC as quality control librarian specializing in music formats.
1983, MayAfter authority records for Johann Sebastian Bach exceed the system limit of 256 records retrieved, MOUG urges OCLC Users Council to resolve authority file searching issue.
1983, DecemberOCLC introduces Enhance capability, influenced heavily by MOUG’s trailblazing projects to contribute authority data (OCLC Musical Recordings Analytics Consortium, or OMRAC) and transformed pre-MARC catalog records (Retrospective Music project, or REMUS) for music resources in OCLC.
1984, MayFirst joint meeting of OnLine Audiovisual Catalogers (OLAC) and MOUG.
1987Listings of authority records for J.S. Bach and other composers form the basis of the first edition of The Best of MOUG. Further editions continue to be published and well-received even after OCLC resolves the authority indexing issue in 1992.
1988REMUS project evolves into the NACO Music Project (NMP) under Ralph Papakhian’s direction.
1989, MayJay Weitz’s first Q&A column is published in the MOUG Newsletter (no. 39).
1996MOUG’s first website created by Ralph Papakhian.
1998MOUG’s 20th anniversary is celebrated at the MOUG meeting in Boston, MA.
2000MOUG-L listserv is created.
2002Distinguished Service Award is established.
2003, FebruaryMOUG’s 25th anniversary is celebrated at MOUG meeting in Austin, TX.
2004Collection of Jay Weitz’s Q&A columns from 1989-2002 published as Cataloger’s Judgment: Music Cataloging Questions and Answers from the Music OCLC Users Group Newsletter.
2005, FebruaryFRBR is discussed at MOUG meeting in Vancouver, BC.
2005MOUG began application to change from a 501(c)(6) nonprofit to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, allowing tax-deductible contributions; change not officially approved by IRS until 2012.
20088th and final edition of The Best of MOUG published.
2008, JulyMOUG’s Mission and Objectives substantially revised.
2008, SeptemberFourth joint meeting of OLAC and MOUG in Cleveland, OH. RDA is discussed.
2010After Ralph Papakhian’s death in January, the Ralph Papakhian Travel Grant is established in his honor.
2014Fifth joint meeting of OLAC and MOUG in Kansas City, MO. BIBFRAME is discussed.
2014 – 2015MOUG website undergoes redesign and adopts new membership management system.
2015Workshops held to introduce new Library of Congress Genre/Form Term and Medium of Performance Term vocabularies.

NACO Music Project moved under the auspices of the Music Library Association’s Cataloging and Metadata Committee (MLA-CMC).


All information drawn from Jay Weitz’s more detailed account of MOUG history published in 2012:

Weitz, J. (2012). Furthering Access to Music: A History of the Music OCLC Users Group. In Papakhian, A. R., Lisius, P. H., & Griscom, R., Directions in music cataloging. Middleton, WI: Music Library Association.

Executive Board History

Also see 40 Days of MOUG, originally shared via MOUG’s social media presence by our inaugural Social Media Coordinator, the inimitable Michelle Hahn, in the 40 days leading up to the celebration of MOUG’s 40th conference in 2018.