Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ending Eras

This evening I securely packed up my oboe, took it to FedEx and shipped it eastwards to be cleaned, tuned up, and eventually sold. There's already a buyer interested, so depending on the condition of the instrument and the whims of the buyer, the transaction could go on for a while. But for now I've done what I can to make sure that it will go to a good home instead of languishing on my shelf as it has for at least two years now.

I came into the idea in passing. An aside comment by my mother made me realize it's been literally years since I picked up the instrument, let alone took a lesson or played for an ensemble or even made a reed. My final year of college, though difficult, really brought me to the pinnacle of what I could do musically. I played a fabulous repertoire with brilliant musicians. I had the chance to solo on English horn. I played for two years on my own reeds (with the occasional tweaks). At the end of it all, over a decade of playing, I really felt I had done what I needed to do. Music has given me so much. I will never regret playing. I will always think of the positive influence of Joel, Cheryl, and Mr. Newton. But I'm done.

It seems final and it's really not. I'm not done with music forever, but rather my time as a participant, a performer is past. I had my chance, ran with it, and then necessarily moved on to different things. I know people who have managed to keep music as a part of their life, who have careers and are musicians, but I don't feel that's where I'm at or where I'll ever be. This sounds somewhat apologetic and I don't mean it to be. I'm happy with my choice. I'm glad there is now an affordable used Rigoutat on the market for some young player who needs more than a crappy plastic Selmer.

It's time to be someone else now or, rather, to be the person who is already here.

And worse case scenario, there's always an alto sax in the closet. At least I can get those reeds from the store.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Quick, quick, as there are many rules in AACR2R to read before I sleep...

"We are living in an era experiencing tremendous acceleration in many fields. Ours is a society that demands rapid access to large bodies of information. How can we proceed to satisfy the needs of the student, the scholar, the researcher during the period in which both intellectual and technical difficulties prohibit the development of a utopian library?" - From The MARC Pilot Project, Library of Congress, 1968.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Passing Time

Today I looked like a student. AK is taking another class on campus and though it's my day-off, I'm nearby housesitting and I needed to print some readings, so I followed him to class. After nearly hitting two students while trying to park (look up, guys!), we wended our way through the parking lot and onto campus proper. I left him at his building and began to make my way to the library. Dressed in a black hoodie, jeans, and Chucks with a backpack over one shoulder, I looked like everyone else around me. I bobbed and weaved through the mass of students moving from one class to another, skidding to a halt when the girl in front of me had to stop to hug a friend, jumping over a bike strapped haphazardly to a bench.

Though I'm in school and the federal government gives me student level tax breaks, I sometimes forget I'm actually a student. The residencies up in Seattle drove that point home at the start of every quarter, when I was fighting with untold thousands of other students to get coffee before a morning lecture. In London I was a little more detached from that kind of student life. I road the morning and evening train with commuters. But after dropping off my coat in a coin-operated locker, carefully placing my work for the day into a clear plastic bag (better visibility for the security guards), and flashing my pass as I walked into Humanities 1, I was part of the world of scholarship, the people who could sit seemingly motionless for hours in front of a stack of paper, only jumping up with great energy and excitement when the little green light on my desk went off.

Judging by the newly moving groups of students behind me in the reference room and the growing crowds outside, it's passing time again. Time to pack up and go.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cataloging the Quarter

So a new quarter is begun and I'm taking my first elective (531) and my final core requirement (580). I'm happy to report that thus far I am not feeling too overwhelmed by work or concepts, but rather I'm actually rather exhilarated and excited. I know freaking out about MARC and Charles Ammi Cutter (already mentioned here as inherently awesome) marks me as a special type of nerd, but I really don't care. It's so exciting for me to finally get the "why" for so much of the work I do on a daily basis or work that I've done before.

My history with cataloging is complex and piecemeal. While I had managed to develop and understanding of library catalog records from playing around in OPACs as a patron and a page, I didn't actually get into the meat of things until my first summer at the Music Library. The cataloging librarian, who is utterly amazing at her job, had severe problems with her wrists and hands. I believe the damage was done during some crazy retro-con project. In order to protect her wrists from further damage, and to allow her to continue to play oboe (and she is a very talented player), students were assigned all of the heavy typing work. I got a crash course in MARC and heading searching and was sent on my way. I would search for all appropriate subjects/performers (I did a ton of scores and CDs, as most of the books we bought were copy cataloged) and print them. She would work her magic and order them into a MARC template, which I would then type up and upload. I knew enough to pay attention to exactly what was written, but that's it. I knew enough to do the job and to do it well, but obviously when you have a ridiculous backlog of scores to retro-con, you're not going to take the time to make sure your student has a strong conceptual grasp of the fundamentals of cataloging. Especially when she'll be gone in three months.

This "sorta understanding" of the catalog followed me through the rest of my library jobs, but didn't really call upon them until my current position (in the Archives I worked primarily with finding aids). Again, I relied on my understanding of the bibliographic record as an advanced catalog searcher to get the work done. This was expanded when I trained to produce LHRs for our collection, but I was still working under the notion of "it has to be like this to validate", not 'it has to be like this because of X principle". It wasn't until I was assigned authority work that I finally sat down to learn what my coworker meant when she said "245 field". I read a few LC pubs and essentially threw myself into the work, asking innumerable questions and leaving things for others to look at when I could. Eventually things started to slide into place.

A cataloging exercise this past week finally helped to cement together my day to day notions and the larger picture of cataloging. I find it thrilling to finally look at something that you know has to work a particular way and to finally grasp WHY it works that way and to see how that rationale stretches all the way back to the nineteenth century (okay, maybe I'm the only one who is excited by Victorian era cataloging writing). I still have miles to go before I can sit down and catalog something from scratch, but I feel that the potential is there, that it's no longer as mystical and obscure a process as I once thought.

Right now a paper on this very subject is calling, so more later.