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Meet the Problem Solvers: Lingwei Qiu, Library Assistant for Print Music

What does a Library Assistant for Print Music do?

I am a library assistant and work on special material: music scores at the Loeb Music Library. I am managed by ITS (this is Harvard Library’s centralized Information and Technical Services department), but in general, I work with this library directly for print music acquisitions and cataloging. Most of the cataloging work is copy cataloging, but I also work on the original cataloging for some Asian language materials. Besides these, I add music journals to the collection on a daily basis.

How long have you been in this position?

I have been in this position for 15 years.

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

This is the only job I have worked at the Music Library.

What’s your favorite thing about the Music Library?

My favorite thing about the Music Library is the challenge and opportunity. The challenge helps you to understand your current limits and how far you can expand them. The opportunity allows you to create a path towards expanding said limits. The most memorable moment for me was when I was asked to take notes at one of my first staff meetings. I had only been on the job for a few months, I was not able to speak fluent English and did not understand most of workflows in the library. However, I made it with the help of a friendly colleague. I was very appreciative of this and it made me believe that I could do more for the library in the future.

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

The project I am most proud of that I have worked on in the Music Library is not directly connected with my job, but it was only possible because I worked at the Music Library. 2015 was the centennial anniversary of Chinese piano music, and I curated an exhibition on this topic. I used my experience in working with music materials and the foundation of my Chinese cultural background (especially Chinese piano music) to introduce a unique cultural and musical world to the Harvard community. It was very successful. The Harvard Gazette reported on the exhibition. In March 2016, pianists George Li and Alex Beyer played some works from the exhibition, transferring and transforming its contents from paper to sound.

Do you have any non-work projects completed or ongoing that you are proud of and would like to share?

I recently wrote a biography of the Chinese-American composer Lei Liang, a Rome Prize winner and 2021 Grawemeyer Award recipient. In the tumultuous year that was 2020, it was finally published as a significant part of the book Confluence of a Hundred Streams (written in Chinese), published by the Shanghai Conservatory of Music Press.

Where do you find comfort and strength in a scary and unknown time?

As a music lover and a pianist, music has always been my comfort and peace amongst the chaos. To me, it brings happiness and hope.

What do you love most about your work?

Working with all kinds of music and constantly being able to learn more.

 

Lingwei Qiu is wearing a black and white top. She is holding a red score by Lei Liang entitled A Thousand Mountains, A Million Streams.

Lingwei Qiu in the Technical Services workroom following a 2019 class presentation on the music of Lei Liang.

Thank you to Joe Kinzer, Senior Curatorial Assistant in the Archive of World Music, for contributing this post.

Meet the Problem Solvers: Joseph Kinzer, Senior Curatorial Assistant in the Archive of World Music

What does the Senior Curatorial Assistant in the Archive of World Music do? 

I work to preserve and increase accessibility to collections held in the Archive of World Music. I think of these two aspects of archiving as a spectrum, with each side informing the other. When we improve description, adding more context to metadata on the preservation side, this increases discoverability by those with potential interest in the materials.

What’s your favorite thing about the Music Library?

I appreciate the welcoming atmosphere. Everyone I’ve met at the Music Library is so friendly and approachable. I also admire how passionate everyone is about their work. I can only hope that some of this energy rubs off on me; I aspire to be more like my colleagues.

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

Recognizing my bias, I wish more patrons knew about the AWM and the cultural riches it holds! I am working to increase its visibility (audibility?), but pandemic times have made the progress slower than I’d like.

Who are you or what do you like to do when you’re not working in the Library?

I am an ethnomusicologist by training and teach graduate coursework in the humanities part-time at Antioch University. I love working with students and helping them achieve their goals. I play the guitar and oud (Arab lute) in my free time. For my dissertation research, I studied the ways in which musical influences from the Arab world–especially those involving the oud and gambus (another kind of Arab lute)–became entangled in Malaysian identity politics. In this process, I was fortunate to learn from master musicians and instrument makers carrying on long held traditions in a quickly changing Malaysian society.

Where do you find comfort and strength in a scary and unknown time?

Like many others, I often turn to baking: cakes, breads, cinnamon rolls, pizza crust. However, we all know it has its downsides health-wise. I also get really stressed out when something goes wrong. So, it’s not always as comforting as it should be! I’m getting better, though, trying to be more mindful and intentional about the whole process.

What do you love most about your work?

The best part is the outreach component–working with culture bearers to enrich the collections in ways that better reflect the values of the communities from which the content derives.

Joseph Kinzer is seated outside. He is wearing a purple shirt and tan pants. He's carving a musical instrument out of wood.

This is a photo of me in June of 2016 learning how to carve a gambus out of a single piece of wood at the workshop of gambus maker, Pak Awang Besar, who sadly passed away shortly after this trip, in Bongawan, Sabah, East Malaysian Borneo.

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