The Gerboth Award was founded in 1984 in honor of Walter Gerboth, librarian, teacher and mentor, a leader in the Music Library Association, and a pathmaker in music librarianship.
Walter Gerboth (1925–1984) was Head of the Music Library and Professor in the Department of Music at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. He was instrumental in the development of what became the MARC format for machine readable cataloging of music. Active in MLA, Walter served as MLA President from 1969 to 1972, as a member-at-large on the board of directors, and chaired many of MLA committees. Walter also created many of MLA's serial publications. The Music Cataloging Bulletin was his idea, as were the MLA Index and Bibliography Series and the MLA Newsletter.
Of the many accomplishments for which Walter was most loved and admired, among the most important was his role as a mentor, initially to individuals, but ultimately to the profession of music librarianship itself. As a result of his encouragement, many of his students at Brooklyn College became music librarians. At annual MLA meetings he always acquainted himself with the newest members and saw to it that they were given responsibilities for MLA projects and committee assignments. In recognition of his stature in the profession, Walter was posthumously awarded MLA's highest honor, the 1985 MLA Citation.
The Walter Gerboth Fund, endowed by Janice Gerboth and the contributions of hundreds of MLA members, supports the Walter Gerboth Award. Few music librarians work in institutions that encourage them to conduct research by providing release time or subsidy. The Walter Gerboth Award enables MLA to recognize promising work by its newer members (a group to which Walter Gerboth gave special encouragement), to support scholarship in music bibliography and librarianship, and to honor the memory of one of MLA's most distinguished and loved members.