... there is at least one useful task that casual interested parties - 'the rest of us' - could busy ourselves with.
Just before IMSLP was taken down in fall 2007 I posted a "feature request" for a 'Humongous list of composers, arrangers, editors, translators, ...", including the years of their lives. I reiterate my request because, in theory, we need not wait for IMSLP to come back on line while working on such a feature.
One can't underestimate the importance of such information. For most countries the year of death is crucial for determining if a work is in the public domain and can thus legally appear in this library. Having such a list is not only important to IMSLP administration for copyright screening, but for anyone who wishes to donate a work. It's likely that in the past, people posted works on the site because they simply had no idea if they were in the public domain and had little way of finding out. In the future, we can require uploaders to first find all the relevant creators' names in the list, to ensure that minimum PD requirements are met. This would save everyone a lot of trouble.
Note that it is frequently no easy matter to find such information. Though finding dates of the more popular composers is usually trivial, finding editors, librettists and others may be very difficult. A few weeks ago, I set myself a task at a nearby university library, to research some of the names on my orchestra's library listing. I studied encyclopaedias, historical "who's who" volumes, and other reference works. For my efforts I found just four of the twenty people I was seeking and it took nearly two hours.
Such a list might include some additional basic information, such as nationality and firms who published them. Here are a few examples of what I would expect:
Anderson, Leroy (1908-1975) [wikipedia]
published by: Mills Music
Clark, Tom ( unknown - unknown )
published by: Schirmer
some titles: Bach Suite (orchestra)
Hayman, Richard (1920-living 2007)
published by: Mills Music
Lebermann, Walter (1910-1985)
published by: Breitkopf, Hans Sikorsky
As you see from these examples, if we can't find someone, we would include the titles of a few works to aid others who might be able to locate more information. These titles could be removed after the life dates were discovered. We can link to Wikipedia to avoid duplication.
I don't have the expertise to create such a suite of wiki pages on my own - but I do have a list of 'hard to find' editors and arrangers that I would be delighted to contribute.
P.S. On July 1, we will have a double celebration: IMSLP reopening and Canada's 141st birthday!