RNCM Days 8 & 9

Didn’t get round to blogging last night as we had promised to take Mum and Dad out to thank them for having the children this week, however all three restaurants we tried had an hours wait to be seated, so we came home and had a chinese instead!  Ended up being a bit late though.

Day 8 began with further project work until break time when I had another session with Geoff learning about the on-line resources the library subscribes to such as Grove on-line, Jstor and ProQuest.  On-line access is a bit different at RNCM to MMU as each student at RNCM has an individual log-in with Athens, whereas at MMU, being a much bigger institution everything is much more automated and all done through Shibboleth with the students library log-in.  However, the MyAthens homepage did seem to have a lot of useful features.

After lunch Kelly showed me the Inter-library loan system.  This is an area of library work which I have never been involved with either as customer or librarian so it was interesting to see the process.  She showed me ordering both music, books and journals as well as the receiving process as 140 parts of 3 different choral works had just arrived from 4 different libraries and they all needed to be checked and processed ready to be collected by the choir members.

The final part of the day was spent with Doug seeing how he creates resources for the students by recording TV programmes under a special educational license.

Day 9 was spent working on my cataloguing project.  Mostly early editions of Gluck operas and Handel Oratorios today.  Most of the pieces are quite straightforward and the records can be copied from the British Library, but a couple today took quite a bit of investigation to catalogue, especially some extracts from Cherubini’s Medea which were bound into the back of one of the Gluck operas and which didn’t have a title page or publisher information.

I’ve really enjoyed my week at the RNCM.  I’ve seen so many aspects of librarianship that are transferable to any library such as cataloguing, inter-library loans and acquisitions as well as much that is specific to music librarianship.  I would love to work in a music library, but the jobs are few and far between.  I will just have to keep my eyes open.  I’m back at the RNCM in a couple of weeks for a few more days of placement though.

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RNCM Day 7

I’ve spent most of today getting on with my cataloguing project. My most interesting find today was some early editions of Corelli Trio Sonatas which had belonged to Chester Library (with wonderful old library rules plates in the front) and which had apparently been rescued from a skip by a beady eyed librarian.

I spent a couple of hours on the counter dealing with the students. The hardest thing is I keep forgetting to unset the security tags so the alarms keep going off, it’s one of the major differences from being on counter at Warrington. Sarah went through cataloguing CDs in lulls at the counter. I’m beginning to get more confident at some of the cataloguing now, but still struggle to remember punctuation and indicators. I’m so glad I have some practical experience of cataloguing to put on my CV.

One advantage of working the full week is meeting all the staff who work part-time through the week. Today I met Doug and Alison for the first time. Alison and I got on really well and found we had lots in common as we both have several children and run!

Mum and Dad took the children to Liverpool World Museum today and then Mum cooked tea for us as Paul is away in Bath with work.  We stayed on a bit and played an old game the children had found, although they were a bit tired to finish it.

RNCM Day 5

Today I started my first full week placement at the RNCM library.  It started early as I had to pick up youngest from swimming at 7.30am and then went straight on to drop all three children with my mum who is looking after them for three days this week.  A truly heroic feat!

Today I have been shadowing some of the library assistants and doing some processing of acquisitions which involves allocating barcodes, adding security tags and covering books or putting into envelopes if it is music with multiple parts.  The fun bit is covering books with vistafoil – essentially sticky backed plastic.

This afternoon I spent some time with Mary Anne, the archivist, finding out about her job.  Mary Anne works alone and although she trained as an archivist, her job also has records management appended to it, which is a full-time job in itself.  The records of the RNCM have not really been managed properly until now and there are two storage rooms full of documents which are only beginning to be recorded and catalogued so they can be accessed, stored and ultimately disposed of properly.  Records Management also involves Freedom of Information requests and Mary Anne showed me some of the wide range of requests they get, which are often just sent out to all Higher Education establishments, but which all have to be supplied within a really tight deadline.

The archives themselves comprise three main areas: the archives of the Northern School of Music, the archives of the Royal Manchester College of Music, and the archives of the current college, the Royal Northern College of Music which formed in 1973 when the other two schools merged.  There are lots of unique and interesting collections, including the collections of several composers.  Mary Anne explained some of the issues of cataloguing archives, how do you maintain the integrity of a ‘collection’ but still make it accessible to searchers in the google age where keyword searches do not always show context?

One of the biggest challenges Mary Anne faces is making the archives available and promoting them to students and other researchers.  She does this through workshops, talks, displays and through the website.  One of the more innovative promotions is a resource for KS3 and 4 developed with Bolton and Trafford archives ‘Investigating the life of Thomas Baron Pitfield’ a local musician, artist and craftsman which links the Music, English, Drama, Art and Design, Citizenship and History curriculums http://www.rncm.ac.uk/component/content/article/151/302.html

I finished off the day by processing a few more books.  Already looking forward to tomorrow.

RNCM Day 4

Just realised I haven’t written up last weeks experiences at the RNCM library, and as I’m about to start my first full week placement I better not get too far behind!

This week gave me an insight into one of the issues of running a small library with a small staff and little room for cover.  One of the library assistants Mimi is ill and although all the other staff were extremely sypathetic to the situation, it did cause a lot of extra work to make sure the desk was always manned.  In the public library where I work I am one of the bank of casual staff who can be called on to cover sick staff or during holiday times.  This is a luxury they don’t have at the RNCM.

I was supposed to be shadowing Mimi today to see the reservations process, but obviously this didn’t happen, so I spent the first part of the morning finishing off my first mini cataloguing project of attaching the individual journal chapters to the parent book record.

Next I spent some time with Alan seeing how he processes journals when they arrive and how he keeps track of missing copies so that the library resources remain complete and up to date.

In the afternoon I spent some time with Anna, the Chief Librarian who explained her role and the various academic committees she and other members of staff sit on.  Anna has the main academic liaison role, ensuring that books and articles required by courses are available in the library and arranging digitisation of key chapters with correct licenses and records.  Anna is also responsible for buying journals and she explained how they keep records of use and relevance to teaching.  She also spoke about getting access to on-line resources and some of the pitfalls and problems they have had with students sharing password access to resources with students from other institutions.  Equally when students were asked to register with Athens to activate their account how many problems this had caused when students had not registered in the required time period.  It is hard to strike a balance between ensuring expensive resources are not abused and making sure access is easily available to all students when they need it.

Anna then introduced my new project which is to catalogue a large collection of early printed music which is currently stored in the archives area.  It is not archive material as it is not original, but it is not being accessed as it has not been catalogued and therefore no-one properly knows what is there and how to find it.  This is where the cataloguing theory from the course all starts to make sense as I can see that if I do the cataloguing correctly I will be making a new resource available to students and possibly scholars around the country.  Luckily most of the material has a catalogue record with the British Library so I have to import the record and then tidy it up to fit the RNCMs catalogue.  Most of the music was printed in the early to mid 19th century so it is a fascinating link to the past.  One piece even had a plate in the front saying ‘Property of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’ although there was nothing else to suggest if this was really the case.

It was quite time consuming work trying to track down the correct records at the British Library, especially as my brain is still a bit fuggy following a migraine the previous day.  Hopefully I’ll be in better form tomorrow.

libday8 day 2

A slightly less hectic day to today and up at the more acceptable time of 6.30am. Lunches made, bags packed for the day and I’m off biking to the station. My bike is working much better today, amazing what a bit of oil can do.

Today is my favourite day as I do a work placement at the Royal Northern College of Music library. The possibility of this placement was one of the reasons I chose the MMU course, and I’m loving my time at RNCM.

Today I was shadowing Sarah who has a very varied role. She chases overdue books and music, catalogues audio-visual material, produces all the libraries statistics, timetables the staff on counter and deals with technical system stuff. She likes her role as it is so varied, but she needs to keep her ‘to do’ list up to date.

One of her current roles is starting to timetable final year students to have meetings with a senior member of library staff to discuss requirements for their final recitals. All music is needed twice – once for performers and once for the examiners, which makes it a very busy time for the library who have to source music either by buying copies, or arranging officially sanctioned photocopies if music is in copyright, but out of print. A role that is quite specific to a conservatoire library.

I catalogued a couple of Opera DVDs, reacquainting myself with the keyboard shortcuts for foreign characters which I used to use all the time when I worked for the record label Naxos and prepared contracts for foreign opera singers.

Over coffee we discussed the issue of attitudes to the library and information literacy among music students who see themselves primarily as performers. The library are happy to support me in doing some research in this area which means I finally have a dissertation topic that I’m really happy with.

After lunch I continued with my project of cataloguing journal articles in books of articles about different composers and then adding them to the main book entry.

Train and bike home to be met with reports on the family visit to the dentist and an update on the poorly car (half better now, needs another operation on Thursday). Then Paul and eldest are off to football, while I supervise reading and violin practice with the younger two. Some household tasks, washing and bill paying, including £400 to various schools for various trips and tuition for the children.  Next I send an e-mail out to the mailing list of local teachers who support Fairtrade in their schools telling them about a competition and other events in Warrington for Fairtrade Fortnight.  Normally I write the newsletter and co-ordinate the competition, but I’ve had to take a back seat this year.  Finally I sit down to finish writing my blog about Monday (only a day late). It’s after midnight by the time I get to bed.

Cataloguing – like a real Librarian!

Another rainy day in Warrington, meant a rather soggy bike commute to the station but at least the trains were running today after yesterday’s cancellations (a fatality at Widnes meant I got bussed to Newton-le-Willows to catch a Manchester train, only to find lectures cancelled due to illness).

Today is placement day though, so even Manchester rain couldn’t dampen my spirits as I dodged my way along Oxford Street to the RNCM. The staff are all lovely and made me feel so welcome again. This morning I was with Geoff again applying some of the theories of music cataloguing to some real examples. First we catalogued a Berlioz Cantata in a piano reduction which was fairly straightforward, but even so threw up issues with language and publisher, dates and editors. Secondly we catalogued a volume of selected songs from the musical Spamalot, where even agreeing on a principal composer was tricky! We’ve covered MARC records briefly in lectures, but applying it in practice: remembering which number is which field; appending colons, semi-colons and full stops in the right place is definitely a craft learnt on the job. The craft of creating a complete and searchable record which accurately reflects the piece of music and it’s edition and arrangement is even harder and something which is slightly scary.

After break I was with Julia having a brief introduction to acquisitions. Acquisitions at RNCM are somewhat different to the other University libraries we’ve had speakers from. The budgets are obviously smaller and books are only a small proportion of the spending. The majority of spending goes on music which is largely purchased in response to student request. Julia outlined the ordering procedure and we visited the post room to follow the ‘receiving’ procedure through from collection to creating a skeleton catalogue record. Julia explained why she enjoyed the job so much as there is a variety of contact with publishers and even composers to track down and obtain individual and often esoteric pieces of music, as well as dealing with academic staff and students to clarify requests.

After lunch I started on my first little project: to catalogue individual chapters of anthologies of journal articles and then ‘attach’ them to the parent record. The actual entering was fairly simple, just using the 100 ‘author’ and ‘240’ title fields of the MARC record, but I also had to check I wasn’t creating duplicate records and type accurately in Italian! This was my first real live attempt at cataloguing and it was surprisingly enjoyable. I think it appealed to my perfectionist side. I managed to catalogue a volume of 22 Handel articles, 17 Montiverdi, but only got half way through the volume on Vivaldi before it was time to venture back onto the rainy streets of Manchester and my train home.

The Work Experience Girl

Caught an early train so I wouldn’t be late for my first day at the Royal Northern College of Music for my work placement. For once the trains were on time so ended up killing time walking round as I was 45 minutes early. I also needed to steel myself to re-enter the world of music.

I was met by Sarah who gave me a quick tour of the library and for once books take 2nd place to music: parts, scores and sheet music. The library uses Library of Congress classification, which I’ve not worked with before as they find it makes more sense for a specialised collection such as theirs.

Next I met Sam in HR who gave me a pass to get in and out and showed me round the building. Just don’t ask me to find my way anywhere because its a maze of a building with lots of practice rooms slotted in!

Back in the library Sarah talked me through the different staff roles. As it’s only a small library there are only a few staff, each with defined roles and responsibilities. Sarah also showed me the small museum collection of historical instruments and the archives of the college and the two earlier colleges which merged to form the RNCM.

After lunch I went on the counter with Alan and Mimi. Alan showed me how the Library Management System and security system work. He talked through his responsibilities as a Library Assistant and I helped him process some new books onto the system.

After a couple hours getting to grips with counter duties I spent an hour with Geoff, the librarian responsible for cataloguing. He talked through some of the many issues of cataloguing music: foreign languages, arrangements and editions, keys, anthologies and popular titles, amongst others. It was a fascinating glimpse into the problems of making the music accessible and easily searchable within the home institution, whilst keeping a record which is transferable and compatible with other databases and catalogues.

Another half an hour on counter and it was time to go home. A whirlwind day, with lots to learn and digest, but the team are all so friendly and keen to talk about music librarianship and their jobs and experiences. I have thoroughly enjoyed my day and I am eagerly looking forwards to the rest of my placement.