• Libr 200: User Experience at the UCLA Music Library

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    For this week’s blog post, I interviewed two faculty members from UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music. I’ll refer to them as Interviewees #1 and #2. I offered them a survey of five questions regarding their user experience with UCLA’s Music Library. In writing the survey, I kept in mind the emphasis that the lecture and readings place on the importance in libraries of organization, inviting aesthetics, innovation, and understanding of user needs. My goal was to learn whether the UCLA Music Library fully meets those requirements and offers a positive user experience or not, and whether its target community embraces it or prefers other information sources.


    I asked the interviewees the following questions:


    1. How frequently do you use the Music Library for your information needs?

    Interviewee #1 uses the Library several times a week, while Interviewee #2 uses it only once every few weeks, but uses its website more frequently.

    1. What other information sources do you use? How frequently do you use them compared to the Music Library?

    Interviewee #1 uses online sources such as Wikipedia or Oxford Music Online when he needs to look up information quickly, but the Library is still his primary source. Interviewee #2, on the other hand, uses online sources and her personal book collection daily, more often than she uses the Library.

    1. Does the Music Library have any shortcomings – not just in content, but in terms of organization, aesthetics, etc. – that keep you from using it more frequently than you do?

    Interviewee #1 has no complaints, while Interviewee #2 dislikes the Library’s current website design.

    1. Do you find any aspects of the Music Library outdated? Do you prefer other information sources for being more “contemporary”?

    Neither interviewee considered anything outdated.

    1. What improvements would you suggest that the Music Library make?

    Interviewee #1 said only “Find more money and buy more things!” Interviewee #2 wishes the Library would display the current issues of journals at the entrance, so that anyone who needs them knows instantly when they arrive.


    If these two interviews are all indicative of the faculty’s general opinions, then the Music Library’s user experience seems to be essentially positive. The faculty uses it often, finds it “in touch with the times,” and doesn’t have many improvements to suggest. True, there are some areas that the Library may need to rethink, i.e. the website design and the organization of its journal collection. But for the most part, its seems to know its users needs and deliver them.

  • LIBR 200: Interview with a Community Member

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    Until I started taking LIS courses, my knowledge of music libraries was based exclusively on my experience with the UCLA Music Library as a student. In my mind, music libraries revolved around the study of music, not the performance of it. I never saw them as having a purpose beyond supplying professors and students with materials to help them better understand various musical works.


    But now, thanks to Dr. Patrick Lo’s 2013 article A Conversation with Robert Sutherland, Chief Librarian at the Metropolitan Opera Library, I know more. In this interview, Sutherland discusses his chief duty: providing the musicians with the scores they need for performance. This is no simple task. Many opera scores exist in multiple editions and many singers need certain passages of music to be transposed. For each opera production, Sutherland needs to confer with the conductor, the stage director, and the singers to decide which edition of the score (or amalgam of editions) and which keys will be used. Sometimes those decisions can be altered at the last possible moment for various reasons.


    Sutherland and his fellow librarians also proof-read the scores intensively to insure that they’re free of errors, preserve the markings written in the scores by various conductors, and ensure that when those conductors perform, those markings are copied onto the parts for all the orchestra members. They also have the job of repairing damaged sheet music (a necessity when a library has materials dating all the way back to 1883) or replacing damaged material that’s beyond repair. Although Sutherland loves his job and describes it as “like winning the lottery (Lo & Sutherland, 2013, p. 90), he also describes it “relentless” (Lo & Sutherland, 2013, p. 86) – the librarians need to be constantly busy to ensure the best quality performances. He also claims that his background as an orchestra musician helped prepare him for his current career, because it helps him view each score from the performers’ point of view. One of the keys to his job, he says, is to know which scores are the best for performing, not just reading or displaying.


    Of course the study of music is essential to all of this. Sutherland’s duties sometimes include such scholarly business as analyzing a composer’s handwriting to determine the exact meaning of the score’s markings. But it’s never study just for the sake of study. The ultimate goal of everything he does is excellence on the opera stage.


    Even though the Met is a performance library, not an academic library, I’m sure that academic music librarians have similar responsibilities. Colleges offer music performances, too. UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music offers plenty of concerts every year, as well as the occasional opera and Broadway-style musical. Not only that, most music students are actively studying to be musicians (it’s all too easy to forget this sometimes, but people like me who only study Music History are the exception, not the rule). Who supplies the materials that they need to give the best performances possible? The library! Academic music librarianship may not be identical to Sutherland’s job, but I doubt it’s drastically different either.


    Thanks to this interview, I know now that music libraries do more than just teach people about music. They also play an essential role in helping musicians bring music to life.



    Lo, P. & Sutherland, R. (2013). A conversation with Robert Sutherland, chief librarian at the Metropolitan Opera library. Fontes Artis Musicae, 60(2), 76-91. Retrieved from eb.b.ebscohost.com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/ehost/detail/detail?vid=3&sid=356cd544-71ca-40ce-9afd-9050d454290a%40sessionmgr111&hid=103&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=llf&AN=89990716

  • LIBR 200: My Information Community of Choice

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    The information community I’ve chosen to study this semester is the community of music libraries in academic settings. As I wrote in my first blog post, the Music Library at UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music was vital to my work as I was earning my BA. That particular library offers a wide variety of communication forms to distribute information:


    • Books (scores, opera librettos, dictionaries, volumes on music history, composer biographies, analyses of various works, and technical guides for beginning musicians and composers).
    • Periodicals (magazines, newspapers and music society journals).
    • Audiovisual recordings (CD, LP, cassette, DVD, Blu-Ray, VHS and Laserdisc).
    • The Internet (the collection catalogue, digital audio and video reserves, e-books, online articles and journals, encyclopedias, research guides, and The Music Blog, which offers advertisements and in-depth discussions of various events and items in the collection).
    • Special events (concerts, exhibits).
    • Teaching services (courses, tours, research workshops and teaching workshops).


    The library provides all the professors in the School of Music with the materials they need for their courses, as well as students with any music-related materials they could want, either for research or for fun. And like any good information community, they reach out to many different groups of people. Their tagline is “All the Musics of the World” and one of their most important missions is advancing the field of Ethnomusicology, as evidenced by their Ethnomusicology Archive with its collection of music from every country and every culture. Its walls and website regularly contain advertisements for concerts and exhibits devoted to the music of far-flung times, places and ethnic groups, as well as the familiar Western “canon” of art music.


    I wouldn’t say that the Music Library breaks any economic barriers, since it’s only accessible to professors, students and alumni. But it certainly does all it can to break geographical and cultural barriers by exposing people to music and music-related materials that they otherwise might never have known existed. And since it’s open to all the university’s students, teachers and lovers of music, it definitely fosters a sense of connectedness among like-minded people. If I find a job either with that library or with another music library like it, I think I’ll be happy, and I know I’ll be proud.

  • For Libr 200 – My Interests and Goals

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    Hi, everyone, I’m Jordan.


    Of all the information communities I’ve looked at so far, public and academic libraries intrigue me the most.


    As it’s clear from the majority of this blog, I have a passion for opera. I see as many opera performances as I can and constantly listen to recordings and read books about the art and history of opera – most of which I find at libraries. I love orchestral art music, too, of all types. My BA from UCLA is in Music History. And I couldn’t have earned it without the various books, recordings and documents I found at libraries, particularly the magnificent Music Library in the Herb Alpert School of Music. I still visit it fairly often. I love exploring their collection of countless scores (and different editions of scores), countless books of history and analysis, and countless sound and video recordings, both classic and modern, in every possible form. Nor do they have any shortage of journals or electronic resources. If possible, I might like to explore the Music Library as part of this class. I’ve often fantasized about becoming a librarian or circulation supervisor at an institution like that one.


    But music librarianship isn’t my only interest. I might also like to explore the field of K-12 school libraries, or the children’s departments of public libraries. I’ve always related well to kids and enjoy working with them. I’ve even created a volunteer program for classrooms, Opera Quest, to introduce young people ages 8-12 to the word of opera – I’ve presented it at four different schools with resounding success every time. I also love children’s literature and have written drafts of several children’s books of my own. Working with kids in a library setting is another path I might like to explore.


    Another goal of mine is to work with people who have special needs, either children or adults. I have Asperger’s Syndrome, as I discuss in this blog post from 2013. I’d love to help other people on the autism spectrum, or parents thereof, find information that helps them understand and learn to manage their disorder or their children’s. I only hope I can do this in a library setting.


    I’ve never worked in a library or any other information community before. I still have a lot to learn about the field. But I hope that over the next few years, with the help of all the courses I take, I can put my interests to good use and make my goals see some light.

  • Why I’m Studying Librarianship

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    Why on earth, some people might ask, is a passionate opera lover with a BA in Music History studying librarianship? Why didn’t I try to become a Music History professor, or an author of books about opera?


    Because I wouldn’t be a passionate opera lover if not for libraries. I’ve written about that fact before (see “Opera at the Library: My Tribute”). Ever since I first discovered opera, libraries have been my main recourse for sound recordings, videos, DVDs, and books of all kinds that provide insight into the world of opera and classical music. Not to mention the educational Opera Talks that my local libraries present every year in tandem with the LA Opera’s season, culminating in an end-of-season concert featuring singers from their Young Artist program.


    I still don’t fully know what it’s like to be a librarian. I don’t know everything that studying librarianship will entail. I’m just getting started. But I’d love to spend my life helping library visitors find the wealth of passion-cultivating information that I have. If I can, I’d love to help a library expand its collection of opera- and classical music-related books, film and recordings, and to help promote that material. I’d love to be able to guide people with passions like mine to the exact types of books and information they’re looking for, both with the help of technology and with any knowledge of my own that goes beyond what computers know – this is why the idea of working for a school or university library appeals to me. I’d love to promote and take part in music education programs within the library, like the Opera Talks I’ve grown up with. I’d love to bring Opera Quest, the opera education program I’ve created for children, into at least one library, which I hope my degree will help me do. I’d love to eventually write books about opera music history, but not rely on them as an income source, and have them become part of the collection of the library where I work.


    In spite of all the music- and opera-history classes I took at Santa Monica College and UCLA, libraries have been the real source of my knowledge and passion, more than academia ever has been. By studying librarianship and hopefully finding a career in it, I hope I can help keep that source of knowledge and passion alive and strong for everyone. I hope I can play a part in helping people find their passion and identity through library resources just like I did.