From the Orchestra Library


Twenty!!

Posted in Library Life,The Business by kschnack on May 29, 2010
Tags:

Whew, made it. Finished my twentieth season at the DSO last weekend! (Well, that is, the classical season, which always feels like the “end” even though we have about seven more tough weeks to go.) I don’t know why we focus on these round numbers as important milestones, but this one feels like a real passage to me. I’m celebrating all the music and colleagues from the last two decades with an acute sense that things are really changing. And what a way to celebrate, with Mahler 2. It was a magnificent series of performances.

After twenty years in an organization, I think it’s natural to reflect upon the work one has done, how to do better, and what one hopes to continue to build and leave behind later on. Here at the DSO I was fortunate to have the opportunity to develop a library that had not previously been fully set up before I got the job. Everything from the design and layout of work counters, desks and shelving, traffic and work flow, all the way to organizational systems and processes was up to me at the start. Of course, we’ve evolved since then, and my work partners of nineteen years, Mark Wilson, and two years, Melissa Robason, have certainly put their marks on the library as well. But the basic plan is still in place.

Obviously, though, after this much time, the newness has long since worn away in terms of the physical attributes of the library. We fix or replace equipment as needed and as funds are budgeted. These past twenty years in particular have been technically transformational so we are constantly trying to upgrade our hardware, software, printers/copiers, and other tools.

But I am thinking more about the organizational systems, and the huge amount of detail that we process on a daily basis just to prepare music for one concert of one program, let alone 165 concerts of 65 programs. The über librarian part of me is always thinking about what should be kept for posterity, not only for our orchestra but for the field as a whole.

I find that record-keeping is one of the most challenging aspects of this work. And I’m an Organizer. (Remember, I didn’t say Neat. Nope. Not Neat. But a true blue organizer.) There are so many bits and pieces of information that could be useful in the future, and that should be entered into a repertoire database, annotated in a score, or saved in shared files for the next librarian(s). I do a great deal of that already, of course, as do my colleagues. But it’s easy (for me) to feel overwhelmed about this aspect of the work. It would be so reassuring to know that we’d gotten it all recorded, in the right place, easily accessible for future needs, a place for everything and everything in its place.

The roller coaster of our daily working lives doesn’t give us the luxury of chunks of time to meticulously catalogue every iota of data. There is always the next program to prepare. Not to mention that I am genetically incapable of putting everything away every day. So if I can spend a half hour on a day filing e-mail content, or making a note about the offstage setup before sending the parts back, or annotating doublings and divisis in the database, then I figure I’ve at least done something. Something that someday might help us, or others, find one obscure bit of information that will answer a question, save time or locate a work. We can’t come close to doing it all, but we can do Something. I’ve got to believe that such efforts over many years add up and make a difference in the end, and are worth doing.

Because before you know it, it’s twenty years. What a ride! I wonder what the next twenty will bring. I guess it’s time to find out.

Aisle of music between stationary and moveable shelves in DSO Library

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