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.