Category: about the library (page 1 of 6)

Meet the Problem Solvers: Christina Linklater, Keeper of the Isham Memorial Library and Houghton Music Cataloger

For the last in our Meet the Problem Solvers series, Kerry Masteller spoke with Christina Linklater about metadata, microforms and magic.

Red, orange and purple tulips grown in a sun-dappled garden.

You can take the Keeper of the Isham Memorial Library out of Ottawa, but she’ll fill her Somerville garden with tulips.

So, tell us a little bit about what you do, Christina.

In my role as Keeper of the Isham Memorial Library, I mostly manage the movement of special collections materials at the Music Library. I also co-administer our exhibition program with my colleague Patricia O’Brien, provide reference assistance to patrons and direct the United States RISM Office. That’s one half of my week. The rest of my week is spent as a music cataloger at Houghton Library.

What’s different about those two jobs?

Well, at Isham I’m in a public-facing role most of the time, ready to assist anyone who needs help with Isham’s materials specifically or special collections research generally. At Houghton I spend my entire day at a desk in the stacks, making records that then appear in HOLLIS.

What role do special collections play at the University?

I’ve seen students encounter Isham’s collections in the classroom, as well as for their research and to discover new repertoire. I also think that the presence of Isham is valuable for students as a place to meet visiting scholars, who find that it is simpler to travel to Isham with its 40,000 microforms than to visit multiple libraries. Bringing together researchers at different stages of their careers is something that special collections is uniquely suited to; while we exist at and for Harvard, a collection like Isham’s can’t help but attract a wide user community, and it’s really nice to witness those interactions.

What’s an Isham Memorial Library secret that more people should know?
That the lives and works lists of composers, particularly composers who are not white men, are much more complex, important interesting than most reference sources can tell you. For instance, Isham’s Joyce Mekeel collection was catalogued after the Grove article came out, and the finding aid says so much about Mekeel and her work that that writer simply couldn’t have known. Same with the collections of Fred Ho and Aziz El-Shawan: all stories can be enriched by looking at archival materials, but it’s especially striking in the stories of people like Mekeel and El-Shawan who published not at all or very little in their lifetimes, leaving these large bodies of manuscript scores that are just quietly waiting for you at Isham.

If we could magically go to a concert right now, what would we be hearing?

How magical is this performance? Like, can we bring people back from the dead?

 It is as magical as you want it to be.

Right! Let’s go to Glenn Gould’s cottage on Lake Simcoe, then, where he’ll play the Goldberg Variations. First the drastic 1955 version, followed by the twilight 1981 version. We’ll sleep well after that.

This interview was conducted by Reference and Digital Program Librarian Kerry Masteller. It was condensed and edited by Christina Linklater for clarity.

 

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.

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