Tuesday, April 13, 2010

You live, you learn

I mentioned awhile ago that I'd been offered a spot on a Career Advisory Service. I'm pleased to announce that the site is now live and I'm an advisor for the Music Library Association's Career Advisory Service. They have great resources for those pursuing careers in music librarianship, and now this gives people a chance to ask real people directly about their experience in the field in a message board format. I wrote up the following for my introductory post and thought it would be appropriate to share with you! (I'm fully aware that I'm not nearly as anonymous as I might pretend I am, but I have edited out some specifics.)

I'm the Fine Arts Librarian for [my local school district]. I have a BA in Theatre Arts Studies from Brigham Young University and a MLIS from the University of South Carolina. The library I manage holds mostly choral, orchestral, and band sheet music, but also other resources for general music, art, and theater, which is accessible to all fine arts teacher in the school district. I've now been part of [this district] for four years, and my focus here has been directing a retrospective conversion of all library records from a Filemaker list of accession numbers to a fully searchable catalog compliant with MARC and AACR2 standards and the district's union catalog. I'm not aware of any other central music library in any other school district, and I'm truly excited to be part of such an original and interesting challenge.

So, how did I get here? Truthfully, this was never my plan. As I mentioned, my bachelor's is in theatre, a degree I was planning since high school. But, as I was working on that, a friend of mine recommended I look into working at the campus Music and Dance library, so I did. The hours were flexible, the subject matter related to my own field of study, and I was involved in interesting projects and challenging reference queries. As an avid life-long learner, I love being able to teach and share with other people how to find answers to their own questions, but I never wanted to teach in a formal setting like a classroom (library instruction classes notwithstanding). Working in a fine arts library setting allows me to employ both of these passions - teaching/learning and arts/creativity. In my two years at the BYU library, I worked primarily on reference/circulation, original cataloging of sheet music, and editing/maintaining a finding aid for the musical theatre holdings.

That experience, my own background in the performing arts, and a promise to earn a Masters landed me my current position. I didn't know exactly how to go about a retrospective conversion (or even that was what it's called), but in my first year at [this district] I took a mental inventory of the policies and practices of the Fine Arts Library, improved a few immediately (like doing away with carbon copy checkout forms in favor of Word documents), and asked a LOT of questions. I'm actually a solo librarian, but I'm blessed to work in connection with highly supportive fine arts teachers/administrators and those in the district's central library support services. I started my own MLIS after starting the conversion, and was able to apply what I was learning there to my work immediately.

I don't work directly with the students, but the materials in the library have to be appropriate for them, with the system/circulation/instruction appropriate for the teachers. It's an interesting mix.

Like any good librarian, if I don't know the answer to any question, I know how to find it, and I'm happy to help any way I can!

And with that, happy National Library Week!