A. Ralph Papakhian Special Achievement Award

ralph papakhian; photo courtesy of Richard Griscom.This award recognizes extraordinary service to the profession of music librarianship over a relatively short period of time.

Throughout his career, Arsen Ralph Papakhian (1948-2010) was active in the Music Library Association, and he made significant contributions to the association as an officer, committee chair, and author.  He served on the board of directors as assistant fiscal officer and fiscal officer (1986-88) and executive secretary (1988-92).  In 1992, he was the first recipient of MLA's Special Achievement Award for his "countless efforts to bring the Association into the electronic age of communications"--most notably, for his role in founding MLA-L in 1989--and in 2008 was presented the MLA Citation in recognition of his distinguished service to the profession.  He received two Richard S. Hill Awards for the best article on music librarianship: the first in 1985 for the article (written with Richard Smiraglia) "Music in the OCLC Online Union Catalog: A Review" and the second in 2002 for his article "Cataloging," both published in Notes.

The MLA Special Achievement Award was renamed in Papahkhian's memory in 2011.

Ralph was best known for his work as a music cataloger.  He was a model practitioner and teacher.  Beginning in the late 1970s, he taught classes and supervised internships for library students enrolled in the music specialization offered by IU's School of Library and Information Science.  In the mid-1990s, he and Sue Stancu instituted a summer cataloging workshop, and each year the roster for the workshop filled within days and names were added to a waiting list.  Over the years, he trained dozens--if not hundreds--of music catalogers and he instilled in each the importance of accuracy, curiosity, and intellectual rigor.

Ralph served as vice-chair and chair of the Music OCLC Users Group, and he was the driving force behind the NACO Music Project, a cooperative effort to manage and build a database of authorized music headings.  In 2005, MOUG presented Ralph with its Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his contributions to the group and to the profession of music cataloging.

Ralph is remembered for his brilliant intellect, his principled approach to cataloging, and the spirited fights he waged for what he knew to be right.  His calm, serene manner belied the fire in his mind and spirit. When he described how a cataloger makes a decision "in the heat of the cataloging moment," we all laughed, because the anxiety and struggle implied by the words seemed so foreign to Ralph's character.  The heat was there, though; he kept it contained and controlled.

Ralph is also remembered as a friend and colleague.  He was a person who dealt with everyone on a level playing field.  He enjoyed meeting people and would spend as much time talking with a first-time attendee as he would a library director.  He spoke honestly and plainly, and valued people who did the same.


2018 recipients

The  Music Library Association presents the 2018 A. Ralph Papakhian Special Achievement Award to Judy Tsou & Michael ColbyDiversity and Inclusion are critical goals across our profession.  Within Music Librarianship, MLA was fortunate to participate in an IMLS-funded program supporting ARL-MLA Diversity and Inclusion Initiative Scholars.  As with all grants, the challenge intensifies as the program draws to a close.  Judy Tsou and Michael Colby refused to let MLA’s momentum in this important area dissipate.  They chose to step forward personally and professionally, insisting on the priority of continuing a Diversity Scholarship program, and volunteered of themselves to ensure that there would be leadership to accomplish the task.  Judy and Michael gave generously of their time, their energy, their personal resources, their professional connections, their vision, and their creativity.  Their commitment galvanized a movement that resulted in no gap in support between the grant-funded program and MLA’s own.


Past recipients

2016 Mark Puente
2015 Jean Morrow
2014  Brenda Nelson-Strauss
Tracey Rudnick
2013 Kathy Glennan
Ruthann McTyre and Judy Tsou
 [2011] MLA Special Achievement Award renamed in memory of A. Ralph Papakhian
2007 Nancy Bren Nuzzo
2003 Paula Matthews
2001 Jane Gottlieb
1999 Lowell Ashley
1998 Sherry Vellucci
1996 John Howard
1995 Lenore Coral
1992 A. Ralph Papakhian



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About MLA

The Music Library Association is the professional association for music libraries and librarianship in the United States. Founded in 1931, it has an international membership of librarians, musicians, scholars, educators, and members of the book and music trades. Complementing the Association’s national and international activities are eleven regional chapters that carry out its programs on the local level.