Library Student Day in the Life – Round Two, Day Four

I interrupt your regularly scheduled blog posts to participate in Hack Library School’s Library Student Day in the Life.  For the week of October 28 – November 1, 2013, I will be posting each evening to share with prospective library students what a day in my life as a library student at Florida State University’s iSchool is like.  Regular posts will resume November 2, 2013.

On Being a Music Librarian for an orchestra

A photo of the center of a violin

Violins are the signature of an orchestra
Photo by dyet on RGBStock

I joined the community orchestra almost two years ago.  When I told my fellow horn players that I was going to go back to school to become a librarian, they told me to talk to the music librarian at the time.  We’ve chatted a few times while I’ve played with the orchestra.  In May, she told me she was going to resign because she had a lot of other things going on.  I offered to take over, if the board would approve.  Thus began my volunteer work as a Music Librarian for a community orchestra.

Duties of a Music Librarian for an orchestra

Clearly these apply to my specific community orchestra and probably do not go across the board for all orchestra music librarians.  So take from them what you will.

  • Finding out if music the conductors want to play is in the public domain
  • Posting the parts into a password protected site so that only our players can access the music
  • Printing out and binding scores for the conductors (well, actually only one)
  • Ensuring that the rehearsal marks from the players’ parts align with the rehearsal marks in the score
  • Verifying that all music on the repertoire and library list is actually in the library
  • Ordering or renting music that the conductors want to play that is not in the public domain

Other insights about being a Music Librarian for an orchestra

Violin sheet music

Making sure everyone has their music is the most important thing

There were many things I did not know going into this gig.  Don’t get me wrong, I definitely enjoy it, but it can be a difficult at times to play and be the librarian.

  • The same people will always forget their music.  To help alleviate costs for the organization, before I started they had instituted a policy where players would print their own music (in general) and bring it to rehearsal.  For a while they had even instituted charging $0.10 per page for the librarian to make copies.  When she was passing me the torch, she told me it never really made much money and did not seem to be worth it.  So I am not doing it this year.
  • Printing on the small little printer the orchestra owned ate a lot of toner.  For the first rehearsal of the season, I needed to have the scores prepared for the conductors.  Little did I know that one of the conductors has copies of most of what we’re playing, or he obtains it elsewhere.  When I printed the score for one symphony from the public domain, it ate whatever was left of the cartridge from before I started, plus some of my personal cartridge.  Another score we were using used another cartridge plus some.
  • Some weeks, no one forgets their music.  As a brass player, I am not needed for all of the pieces we are playing (some are strings only).  The player in me wishes I could come late or go home early, depending on what order we rehearse.  The librarian in me knows that there may be someone who forgot to ask me during break for a certain piece.  Or that at the end of rehearsal someone will remember they were sharing with their stand partner and they actually need their own copy.
  • Finding out what we are playing for a concert can be like pulling teeth.  The previous librarian had warned me that the conductors have a habit of not finalizing our pieces until even a week or two into rehearsals.  This can make it difficult for me to make sure everyone has access to the music.  So the first few weeks are certainly the most hectic.  Also, because we are generally still recruiting players, sometimes the reason people don’t have their music is because they were never given the password to download it.
  • The librarian doesn’t get to keep track of the music in the library.  Weird, I know.  I’m not really sure why, but there is someone on the board who is in charge of maintaining a list of all the repertoire the organization has played as well as all the music that is in the library.  I had to ask him to send me his spreadsheet in order to go to the library and double check that everything is present.  And the absence of authority control on that list is bewildering to behold.

Although it wasn’t quite what I expected it to be, it is definitely a neat experience.  I will be creating a manual so that whoever takes over after me does not have to start from scratch or try to remember what I tell them.  It’s not a typical librarian position, but it’s a necessary one.


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