As library people, sharing information is our whole purpose. Figuring out strategies for putting together information to share is the key to success for us. So this librarian at Indiana University who has worked so hard to bring information, in the form of music, to patrons is pretty exciting to read about!
“Each day, Michelle Hahn walks downstairs to the basement of the William and Gayle Cook Music Library. The sound recordings cataloger and assistant librarian finds her way through blue and gray bins and stacks of boxes containing reel tapes, vinyl records, CDs and cassette tapes. She passes shelves of records labeled with the names of famous composers like Mozart, Handel, Schubert and Wagner. Then she reaches her office.
The large window in her basement office lets in the sun, which shines through blue and translucent empty plastic reels that used to hold tape filled with music.
It’s in this sunny space at her computer that Hahn makes it possible for almost anyone to access one of the largest academic music libraries in the world.
As a sound recordings cataloger, Hahn inputs information about the library’s collections into IU’s online library catalog, IUCAT. Without that information, the collections wouldn’t be searchable and accessible.
“I make sure people can find what they’re looking for and be sure what they’ve found is what they want,” she said.
Hahn’s behind-the-scenes role at the library gives patrons a roadmap to the 700,000 recordings in the library’s collections, made up mostly of classical music and jazz.
When a new vinyl record needs to be added to IU’s collections and a description doesn’t already exist in another collection, Hahn creates one. When she writes up her descriptions, she includes all of the relevant information that would be needed for someone to find the item, such as a title, names of composers, important dates and locations, the kind of music and the types of musical instruments used.
“Cataloging is intended to help a user search for relevant content, determine whether the content will meet their needs and locate the content,” she said.
Thanks to Hahn, you can easily locate and listen to the oldest Jacobs School of Music recordings from the 1940s and ’50s. The work of music cataloging allows you to hear the jazz of David Baker, founder of IU’s Jazz Studies Program, and listen in on the student performances of renowned violinist and IU professor Joshua Bell from anywhere.
“So much can get lost,” Hahn said. “Cataloging is behind the scenes, but it’s extremely valuable. It’s crucial in the digital information age.” Hahn has helped alumni find and listen to performances by deceased family members. Students have been able to pick their instrument out of a concert they’ve performed in because they’ve been able to locate it with the information Hahn provides. She’s also helped listeners access encore performances that weren’t previously listed in the database’s records.”