My music library has been taken over by binders filled with various photocopies of music. I rarely throw copies away because I want to have access to the scores in the future (in theory, at least). If I know I have played the piece before, I am tempted to toss it out, but I rarely do because I know that I cannot easily put my fingers on the music. What was originally meant to be a treasure trove of music quickly grew to an unmanageable mess! I literally have all of the vocal music I played throughout my graduate studies as well as the other random pieces I have encountered since then.
When I began to discuss this issue with other pianists, I found that most kept their music in a single binder. I decided to tackle this Herculean task until I actually counted and realized that I have 21 three-inch binders filled with music! I had to come up with a solution. After several faulty attempts, I finally arrived at a method that works for me.
Since most of my scores are art songs and arias, I separate the music by language. All French repertoire is located in one binder while another houses the English songs. (The separation is only by the text used and not the composer's nationality.) After I separated everything, I alphabetized the songs by composer's last name. This was so academic and beautiful in my mind, but I quickly found out it was not the most useful. Students could easily tell me the title of their repertoire, but didn't always know the composer with the same degree of certainty. After accepting that my library's usefulness was more important than its correctness, I began to alphabetize according to title. (Whether or not to include definite articles such as "der," "die," and "das" in the arrangement is a constant battle for me. At the moment I include definite articles in the alphabetizing.)
A master list of all works filed in the binders can be found at the beginning of each one. The first copy of the list includes only the songs in that volume arranged by title. Three additional copies of the entire catalogue follow, sorted by title, composer, and language respectively. These lists are helpful when trying to construct a set of songs by a single composer or in the same language.
Is there an easier way? Possibly....and I welcome hearing how you organize your amassed photocopies in the comments section below. Now that I have the catalogue begun, it is simple to update it at the end of each semester. I am still in the process of merging the music from the remaining 15 binders of graduate school music, but it's actually not too bad to do. As I organize the music, I'm reminded of wonderful music I have played and rediscover some gems of the repertoire that I had forgotten about.