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Meet the Problem Solvers: Anne Adams, Senior Music Cataloger

Anne Adams is the senior music cataloger at Loeb Music, now in her 6th year here.  She holds advanced degrees in voice performance, music theory, and library science, as well as undergraduate degrees in German and English.  Before becoming a librarian, she taught voice at St. Olaf College, and she continues to work as a freelance translator (German to English). She and her three kids live in Belmont, Mass. 

Senior Music Cataloger Anne Adams is posed with a green-leaved tree behind her. She is wearing a black pantsuit with an I Voted Today sticker on the lapel.

Anne Adams

What does a music cataloger do?

I am responsible for creating or enhancing MARC records for all formats except books and finding aids. That means, basically, that I describe materials so that people can find them. How I do that  depends on what people are looking for. For regular collections I include pretty basic bibliographic information: composer, title, publisher, contents, etc. For rare materials, though, I’ll add much more information, including information on binding, paper type, provenance (who owned it), watermarks, that sort of thing, since many researchers are looking for this information. So description is a large part of what I do, but I also work on a lot of projects like database clean-up and a wide variety of metadata policy. And I communicate with music catalogers around Harvard to make sure we’re all on the same page about changes to the field. 

What’s your favorite thing about the Music Library?

The people. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an amazing collection. It never ceases to amaze me that if I’m looking for information in a resource, I can almost always find it on our shelves. But I think the people are the incredible thing about the Library. I’m always so impressed that people have this deep and varied background in music. We all bring something to the table that is unique and yet we have this shared language, love, and commitment to music. 

Plus, I love all the back doors and secret passageways in the building!

What’s a notable (interesting/challenging/unusual) project that you’ve worked on lately?

In the last year I haven’t had many actual things in my hands which is frustrating. I love to smell and hold and look at rare materials. But I did a big batch project that I designed from start to finish, which was, in a very geeky way, really fun. We had about seven thousand records for recordings that were preliminary: the materials had never been fully cataloged. I figured out how to overlay better records for about 4500 of them. It took me a long time and I had to teach myself several different applications,  like OpenRefine and Microsoft Access, but it was really fun. I likely wouldn’t have had the time to concentrate on this if it hadn’t been for the pandemic. This kind of project really appeals to to the crossword puzzle-solving part of me. 

What resource or service do you wish more people knew about?

The deep deep knowledge that all of the Music Library staff bring to their work. Josh has an amazing knowledge of jazz and popular music. Peter has an amazing love of all different types of music. Lingwei wrote a book about Lei Liang. Sandi-Jo is an amazing cellist. And I could go on… You just keep bumping into people here who have such amazing gifts.

What’s your mundane superpower? 

I make the world’s best cinnamon rolls, so I’m told.

Meet the Problem Solvers: Andrew Wilson, Access Services Librarian

What does an Access Services Librarian do?

Access Services is a very new subdiscipline of librarianship in that it has a label and a name now: it’s only in the last five years that it’s been a recognized specialty in the American Library Association and the Association of Research Libraries. It’s pretty much what it says on the tin: the various ways that we get materials into people’s hands or into their computers or into their eyes or into their ears. It encompasses things like deep storage, resource sharing and circulation. We are often on the front line of managing student workers and we frequently play a big role in space, and space planning. It’s kind of a catch-all for things that always existed but never under the same umbrella. It’s quite a variety. I think that’s one of the things that’s attractive about the field: not only is there never a dull moment but you’re usually not stuck doing the same thing for any long period of time.

How long have you been in this position?

Since 2007, as far as the Loeb Music Library is concerned [Andrew’s position takes him to several libraries on the Harvard campus].

Have you always done this job at the Music Library or did you start in a different position?

It was called different things but I’ve always done the same job. I’ve considered myself really lucky to be able to do so because of the stability it’s brought to my family and financial life, but also because it’s really what I enjoy the most about librarianship. We have the most contact with patrons, We get to learn what our students are studying, we get to learn what our faculty are researching, we get to hear about new ways of distributing information. It’s a really dynamic field that is very focused on our users.

What’s your favorite thing about the Music Library?

Given that I’ve been a professional musician [double bass] for almost 35 years, I really enjoy being able to put my subject knowledge to work in my professional life.

What project are you most proud of that you’ve worked on in the Music Library?

One of the most significant things with which I’ve been involved in the Music Library was discovering a major mold outbreak in time to save the books. That happened in 2006. Somebody came up from the basement stacks and said “It smells kind of musty down there, you might want to take a look.” Before I knew it, we were hiring a company in Texas to hand-clean 10,000 books.

Otherwise, I’m just proud to be, for so many people, the face of the library: to be able to get to know our constituents so well that often people will ask for me by name. I’m very proud of that.

What do you love most about your work?

Again, it’s the human contact.

What aspects of pandemic librarianship do you think might endure?

Converting to all-electronic access for course reserves has been a major challenge but overall it’s been extremely successful and has been a big factor in driving the academic experience forward during these unusual circumstances.

Where do you find comfort in these strange times?

Well, certainly with my wife and son. We also succumbed to what must have been a federal law that was passed during the pandemic that all empty-nest American couples had to adopt a dog, so we’re enjoying that a great deal. I’ve joked for many years that I was a dog person trapped in a cat marriage. I was finally able to get my dog in December, and that’s been a lot of fun.

A chocolate lab puppy named Woody is looking up at the camera. There is snow on the ground.

Andrew Wilson’s puppy, Woody

Thank you, Andrew! This interview was conducted by Christina Linklater on March 17th, 2021. It has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

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