Ruminations on Specialism

Last spring I played host to two library science students from Germany who were doing internships with the University Library Services as part of their degree. One of the first activities I arranged when they arrived at the Music Library was a trip to Collection Management Services at McKenzie House to look at various music acquisitions and to learn more about the process of cataloguing music materials, in particular music scores and sound recordings.

 Cardiff University is very fortunate to have on staff the talented Janice Finnie, who has done the lion’s share of cataloguing University Library Services’ music materials for many years now. With the JISC-funded project, we also of course had Loukia Drosopoulou, a specialist in rare and antiquated music materials.

 Our visiting library students were able to first spend time with Loukia, who walked them through the process of using RISM (the international catalogue of music sources), to track down plate numbers, investigating signatures and bookplates to identify provenance, and the various highs and lows of attempting to catalogue materials that challenge modern cataloguing processes.

 They then spent time with Janice, who walked them through the intricacies of the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules II, MARC 21, and how an item that could contain a multitude of authors, titles, and many additional layers of information can be squeezed into sometimes quite rigid record formats.

 Watching Loukia and Janice each demonstrate their skills, the tools of their trades, and examples of the surprisingly vast variety of materials they catalogue (considering all fall under the heading of “music”), really crystallised for me the importance of specialist information resource management and provision.

 Perhaps it’s simply a side-effect of globalisation and increasingly ergonomic technology, but I think that the seemingly shrinking value placed on specialists flies in the face of the growing need for knowledge and skills equipped to meet the demands for personalised service.

 As an active member of the national music librarian community, it has been painful to watch the intersection of increased expectation for skills diversification meeting the increased number of niche interests, as they together brave the oncoming storm of dwindling resources and bureaucratic apathy.

 That Cardiff University has managed to maintain its library experts to support students and staff in meeting demands both broad and narrow, and to help build collaborative engagement opportunities both internally and externally, is a testament to the institution and to the University Library Service. That Jisc  has supported what might be seen as a ‘traditional’ cataloguing project as part of its digital innovation programme is a testament to their organisation, as well.

 Tonight, I’ll be raising a glass to Loukia and her many discoveries and achievements with the Music Special Collections. I’ll also raise a glass to our Project Steering Committee and to the memorable experience of watching what happens when specialist skills, knowledge and experience come together. I hope that we’ll continue to buck the trends and that there will be many more opportunities to celebrate our specialists in the future.

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Greetings from the Subject Librarian for Music

The Music Library at Aberdare Hall

The Music Library at Aberdare Hall

Now that the academic year is winding down a bit and students are sitting the last of their exams, I thought I’d take a moment to introduce myself as someone connected to the project.

1st November 2012 will mark my fifth anniversary with Cardiff University as the Subject Librarian for Music. When I started here, the Mackworth, Aylward, and BBC Collections were housed two floors above the Music Library in locked cabinets lining a small ensemble/seminar room. This JISC-funded project marks the culmination of plans begun back in 2008 on how best to maximise access to the Music Library’s Special Collections.

In addition to holding a basic consultant position in the Project Team, I also co-presented with David Wyn Jones and Richard Chesser on the project at this year’s Annual Study Weekend (ASW) for the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives, and Documentation Centres’ United Kingdom and Ireland Branch (IAML UK & Irl). This is the annual national conference held for professionals (future, current, and past) in the business of curating and providing access services to music information resources.

For more information on our conference, please see my recent post on the Cardiff University ‘Library News’ Blog.

A week after the conference (which was held at the Cardiff University School of Music this year, the weekend after Easter), I attended a 2-day JISC meeting on behalf of our project team. It was really terrific to be able to put some human faces to the JISC brand and to forge connections with other JISC project participants.

More recently, I was thrilled to meet up yesterday with our new project cataloguer, Loukia. I first met Loukia when she attended the ASW a little over a month ago, and was quite excited to learn that she was given the appointment.

Loukia and I have already begun to talk about how to draw Music Library staff and School of Music students into her work on the project to increase visibility and personal investment from our community. Some ideas include having Loukia give a 50 minute presentation to our Third Year Dissertation students in November, and to perhaps arrange some job shadow opportunities with the Library staff.

It’s been amazing to see this project come together and I’m eternally grateful to the active members of the Project Team and to JISC for making it happen. I’ve very much enjoyed the exhibition these past two months, and can’t wait to see cataloguing records emerge from what was once obscured.

New staff for the Project

As of May 14th we welcome a new member of staff to the Project – Dr Loukia Drosopoulou. Loukia will be the new Cataloguing Librarian for the Music Collections in the Project. With a research background in 18th C. music, and having worked on music cataloguing projects with Royal Holloway – University of London, as well as with the British Library’s collections, Loukia brings a range of valuable knowledge and experience to our Project. We will look forward to future blogs on this site from Loukia as the Project develops further – so, watch this space!