Editor’s note: We invited Lawrence alumni who have gone into library work to share with us what they do and how they got there. Here’s another in a series.
Even as a small child, I loved the idea of investigating things—Harriet the Spy and the Hardy Boys were my heroes. By junior high, the idea of collecting information was extremely appealing. Crush on the new boy in school? Research! Where did he come from, what did his parents do, what kind of car did they drive? Silly, yes, but it carried over to school. I loved researching school projects (the writing, not so much). In high school, my youth orchestra director tasked me with being the group’s librarian, since he thought I was responsible and organized. I also started a love affair with technology—computers—especially.
By the time I got to Lawrence as a viola performance major, I was ready for the wonders that awaited me in the Seeley G. Mudd. When I wanted to learn the origins of a word, I went to one of the reference librarians (now director) Pete Gilbert. He showed me how to use the Oxford English Dictionary (just in print at that point). Shortly after that, my sophomore music history class had a session with the music librarian, the great Eunice Schroeder, and was assigned a follow-up scavenger hunt using the DOS based library catalog to find music materials. It was so much fun! The power to know how to search correctly and find what I needed—my investigative and information collecting tendencies were thrilled. If I remember correctly, one of the other students who did well on that assignment was Colleen Rortvedt, now director of the Appleton Public Library.
Sophomore year also saw me taking on the job as librarian for the LUSO. I loved the duties, ordering, marking, and organizing the music for each season. But I didn’t care for the deadlines and eraser bits that permeated my wardrobe. Since I knew I wasn’t likely to make a full-time living as a performer, and I wasn’t interested in teaching, I started wondering what else I could do with a music background and a love for information. I knew I didn’t want a job where I sat at a desk all day (no, librarians don’t do that!). I talked to Eunice, who suggested that working in an academic library would be a good fit. I was already taking German and French in addition to my music history and theory classes, lessons and such), so I kept at it until it was time to think about graduate school. I’m not sure I knew that I would need a second masters in music to be a good candidate for many academic library positions, but I knew I wasn’t ready to stop my viola education. So long story short, I went to grad school for viola performance and paid my way by being the orchestra librarian—still couldn’t get away from the eraser bits! After a year off to work in an office, in which I learned I really didn’t want to do that, I enrolled in UW Madison’s SLIS. Given the different paths my classmates had taken, I felt a bit conspicuous as one who had wanted to be a librarian early on. But I was fortunate to get various GA positions, first in the University Records Office (part of the Archives), then at College Library, and finally with the Digital Content Group, where my love of technology and data structures grew. Throughout I held an hourly position at the music library, working at the reference desk, processing archival collections, and other tasks. I took several independent studies with the music librarians to supplement my classwork.
After graduating I stayed with the Digital Content group for a year and half, before taking a job as a music librarian at Duke University. I was responsible for reference, instruction, collection development, web site maintenance and staff supervision. After two years my boss retired, so I became the interim head for two years. I then left to take the job I have now as the Music and Performing Arts Librarian at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. We are one of the largest libraries in the country and I love my job. I (along with the head of our branch library) do many of the same things I did at Duke, but in addition, librarians here are on the tenure track. This means that I also research and write articles. I focus on information seeking behavior in music and the tools used in music research, as well as the collections and services that connect these. My love of research and information gathering has come full circle.
by Kirstin (Jansen) Dougan, Class of ’95