MLA NEwsletter

Volume 210 - Jacey Kepich, editor

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Liza Vick

Service Spotlight: MLA President

Dear MLA,

As you may have noticed, the board and newsletter editor decided (a few years ago) to have a regular feature devoted to reporting out from the board of directors and officers. Last issue you heard from Casey Mulllin, our Fiscal Officer (Member-at-Large). This issue, I’m pleased to report on my first quarter as MLA President. Firstly, I will say that it’s an immense honor to serve in this role and with such a dedicated and talented board. The president and board work very much as a team.

Thanks to Susannah Cleveland’s excellent leadership, MLA weathered an extraordinarily difficult year (2020) and our organization came through in good health and stability (no small accomplishment). I’ve been fortunate to learn from Susannah as she makes the transition to Past President. MLA benefits from a structure wherein a new President-Elect / Vice President has a full year to learn the ropes, and then a full year with a Past President / Vice President to advise them (this ensures smooth transition and support). So, a four-year term for President consists of one year as President-Elect, two years as President, and one year as Past President. The Vice and Past Presidents also serve as liaison to regional chapters.

We all enjoyed a hugely successful MLA/TLA conference in the Zoom-and Remo-sphere. I know we all eagerly anticipate meeting in-person in Salt Lake City, while we appreciate the tremendous job done by the program team, convention managers, and the technical help team for the fully virtual 2021 meeting. Bravo and job well done under challenging circumstances. I know we will strive toward more such partnerships with our closely-allied associations on a regular basis. In fact, TLA and MLA have just agreed to team up again for another MLA/TLA conference in 2023 (St. Louis).

During the spring, I’ve worked on the many appointments that are in progress and listservs and rosters should be updated by the end of summer. A few highlights from this process (new developments):

– A Committee Recruitment Task Force has been assembled, and will be led by Erin Conor, to produce recommendations in 2022 for greater transparency, organization, and inclusivity in our committee structure and practices. Members include Jessica Abbazio, Carolyn Dow, Mary Huismann, Mallory Sajewski, Kristin Wolski, and Zachary Tumlin.

– A MLA 2022 Annual Meeting Task Force has also been formed to analyze the feasibility of hybrid virtual/in person modality for our Salt Lake City conference. We will share news following their recommendations later this summer. This task force is led by the program chair and convention manager, and comprises the convention managers, MLA business office and MOUG representatives, administrative officers, web managers, and assistant planning and reports officer.

– The board voted recently to create a combined conference travel awards committee (handling the Freeman award and the new Paraprofessional / Public Librarians award) and also recently combined the Carol June Bradley and Walter Gerboth committees into one research awards committee (Epstein remains a separate committee).

Advocacy work is another area of focus this spring:

– The board authored a letter sent to Dartmouth’s provost and president, in support of the music department’s proposed alternative to the closure of Paddock Music Library (this was published in newsletter 209).

– The board authored a statement opposing anti-Asian violence and supporting AAPI colleagues and community (see banner on website).

– The board authored a statement (for the newsletter) about the situation at St. Olaf College (concerning Ellen Ogihara’s resignation), urging MLA members to look inward and reflect upon how we can take action to support anti-racism and be better allies. We will be ready to take action as supportive allies to a new hire (by enabling mentoring and partnerships).

Strategic planning is underway, for 2022-2030. Holling Smith-Borne and the strategic planning task force met with the board’s planning committee, president, and past president to set a path forward for drafting and implementation. We are looking forward to working with DeEtta Jones & Associates in the coming months. Watch for save-the-date announcements soon for town halls during the summer, focused on shared values brainstorming.

I attended the CAML fiftieth anniversary conference and congratulated them on behalf of MLA and our board (their tribute video featured IAML and MUSCAN salutations, as well). Look for IAML North American regional sessions in late July during IAML’s annual meeting. MLA board is working with the CAML board to organize a session featuring a Canadian-Mexican scholar-librarian, and a followup post-COVID workshop, co-led by Mallory Sajewski (we hosted one last summer, so this allows us a “before/after” perspective as we all plan to reopen physical spaces and greet patrons).

In closing, I wish you all a happy 90th anniversary of MLA — we will celebrate belatedly in Salt Lake City and in the virtual sphere! If you have questions about fuller background to any points in this article or questions for the board, do feel free to get in touch with us:

Watch this space for columns featuring rotating board members.


Liza Vick, President
Music Library Association


Tech Hub

Editor’s note: Due to the gap in newsletter publications between 2020 and 2021, this session summary begins with coverage from the 2020 annual meeting in Norfolk, Virginia.

The Emerging Technologies Committee (ETSC) hosted its first successful Tech Hub at MLA’s 2020 annual meeting. The Tech Hub was the first consultant-style event offered by the ETSC to help members of MLA share knowledge about software and digital tools or explore project ideas with expert colleagues. The event included five core tables: WordPress (Katie Buehner), Music Encoding (Anna Kijas), AV Access Systems (Jonathan Manton), Institutional repositories and music school content (Anne Shelley), Scalar (Bonnie Finn), and one additional pop-up table. The robust turnout for this event—about 50 people—indicates that the ETSC is tapping into a clear member need.

Tech Hub was developed in response to a Fall 2019 membership survey (ETSC2019SurveyResults). The committee was pleased by the number of responses (75), which seemed to reinforce several ETSC observations. Approximately 70% of our respondents (48) are familiar with music or audio tools and 52% (39) report having experience with online tutorials. Additionally, all 4 respondents working in archival roles, plus 18 in technical services or cataloging report interests in emerging issues related to cataloging and discovery. In contrast, only 5 of the 30 respondents working in reference, instruction or outreach reported the same interests. Digital literacy and information literacy concepts were identified by 21 and 20 of the 30 respondents in reference, instruction or outreach support, but only 3 in technical services or cataloging report an interest in emerging topics related to these areas.

Responses from the 2019 survey revealed that ETSC can continue to serve MLA going forward. The top emerging topic identified across all groups is digital humanities (50 of 75 respondents expressed interest with this topic). Quite a number of people were also interested in learning more about Sibelius and Finale (27 and 24 respectively). Omeka also stood out as the tool of greatest interest across all groups (34 of 75 respondents). Audacity and Camtasia followed close behind for folks working in collections, reference, instruction or outreach, or in the self-identified other category. Overall, technical services and cataloging group identified fewer tools they would like to learn to enhance their skill set. It may be that many of the “emerging” tools for librarianship do not currently play a role in cataloging and technical services workflows.

As the committee looks forward to serving the needs of MLA, the ETSC is hoping to repeat the 2019 survey. The ETSC wants to respond to the changed professional landscape in order to respond more effectively to our changed work environment.

The ETSC hosted its second TechHub at the 2021 Annual Meeting. The session topped out at 41 simultaneous participants, though attendance may have been slightly higher with unique individuals dropping in and out. Originally envisioned as a drop-in session with a variety of simultaneous technology-related discussion groups, the committee redesigned the session for online delivery using the Remo platform. Topics were selected based on preferences shared in the 2019 ETSC survey, and included:

Omeka overview (Anna Kijas)
Omeka is an open source web publishing platform used to create online exhibits by cultural institutions, including libraries and museums.

NVIVO overview (Christopher Schiff)
NVIVO is a software program used to analyze qualitative and mixed methods research data.

Introduction to Sibelius/Finale (Tiffany Gillaspy)
Sibelius and Finale are music notation software programs used to create, edit, and print musical scores.

Intermediate MuseScore (Marc Sabatella)
MuseScore is an open source music notation software program used to create, edit, and print musical scores.

Data sonification (Woody Colahan)
Data sonification refers to data presented as sound (a different approach from visualizations such as tables and graphs).

Score reading equipment overview (Beth Thompson)
Thompson reviewed sixteen different score reading apps, including their equipment. Pros and cons for each app were examined, and images of what the scores look like on the app were shared. The audience was interested in special features, operating systems, costs, usability, and technology/accessories.

Submitted by Michelle Urberg and Amy Jackson.

ergonomic desk

MLA Session Summary

“Meeting the Need for Metadata Accessibility and Usability: Ergonomics and Adaptive Technology for Producers and Consumers.” Presented online, March 4, 2021. 

Hermine Vermeij (UCLA) moderated a panel discussion that was opened by Joshua Henry (Westminster Choir College), who began by discussing how accessibility and usability grew out of the field of ergonomics. He explained that metadata producers – due to the nature of their work – are at risk for repetitive stress injuries. Tips for reducing repetitive motion include changing posture throughout the day, taking breaks, limiting clutter, reducing monitor glare, and keeping frequently-used items nearby to avoid reaching. A good chair will have five casters, an adjustable seat (both height and depth), and a backrest that will allow reclining. Your chair should help support your back and allow your forearms and wrists to be in a horizontal and neutral position. Monitor and keyboard placement should allow shoulders to be relaxed, and arms should neither be neither cramped nor reaching. In response to questions, Josh mentioned that standing desks can be beneficial but aren’t necessarily better than sitting desks (see sitting to standing workstation comparisons at UCLA and Cornell), and that using a regular keyboard and mouse with laptops is better ergonomically.

Ann Churukian (Vassar College) shared a speech recognition software called Dragon NaturallySpeaking version 13 (produced by Nuance). Its basic functionality includes opening and closing applications and tabs, navigating, clicking, focusing a cursor anywhere on a page, inputting words and numbers, pressing keyboard keys or combinations, and editing and manipulating text. It works well with OCLC Connexion Client and the new RDA Toolkit, can spell words with letters or NATO phonetic alphabet, and has an extensive customizable vocabulary. Ann’s demonstration in OCLC Connexion client was pretty amazing to watch!

Ann also read a statement from Tracey Snyder (Cornell University). Tracey has customized her Dragon to use Gary Strawn’s Music Toolkit, OCLC keymaps, and special voice command shortcuts. For foreign words, she suggests speaking an English word that looks like a non-English word and editing it afterward.

Learning Dragon doesn’t take long, but Ann noted a few drawbacks. Using it remotely is difficult, most non-English words must be spelled, and it doesn’t work well in Google applications except Gmail. It seems to freeze and crash more often than other software, and speaking out loud may not be appreciated by co-workers in an open office setting. Not to mention, it can tax one’s vocal cords.

Kurt Hanselman (San Diego State University) and Kristi Bergland (University of Minnesota) spoke about designing documentation and tools with the end user in mind. Kurt discussed universal design, an approach that addresses the needs of all potential users, and reminded us that metadata producers need to be kept in mind, especially those using assistive technologies. He discussed accessibility for OCLC, Connexion Browser, MarcEdit, and Integrated Library Systems, specifically Alma. Kristi spoke about accessible design of documentation, which encompasses accessibility in alternative text, contrast, headings, links, lists, and tables. Accessible documentation increases not only accessibility, but also equity, diversity, inclusion, recruitment, and retention. A good first step is to create a template or style sheet outlining specifics, then hold a “documentation hackathon” where contributors may refine and discuss end results.

Kathy Glennan (University of Maryland) discussed the new RDA Toolkit in view of accessibility. One of the main goals with the RDA Restructure & Redesign Project was to bring it into compliance with current accessibility standards. The RDA 3R Project worked with a site designer, arranged for a consulting firm to evaluate the ‘stable’ site in April 2019, and remediated the issues. One outstanding issue is finding ways to assist screen readers with foreign-language text elements.

Michelle Hahn (Indiana University) gave her presentation on screen readers using her own JAWS (Job Access With Speech) screen reader. She pre-recorded demos of screen readers using Blacklight, Innovative, ExLibris, and WorldCat, with a separate demonstration about punctuation, which is extremely important to screen readers. She encouraged us to watch those demonstrations, which are linked from the session slides. JAWS can be set to voice different amounts of punctuation. Michelle demonstrated how the JAWS reader voiced several cataloging fields, both with and without punctuation: title and responsibility area, publication, series, cast and contents. The screen reader pauses when it encounters certain types of punctuation; when there is no punctuation—and therefore no pauses–the meaning of the words is lost.

An audience member asked whether the new policy to allow removal of ISBD punctuation would affect screen readers, and Michelle acknowledged it is a huge equity problem that may create an internal digital divide in the library world, based on who can afford to pay for systems programming. She mentioned that an article will be coming out in American Libraries Magazine about this topic.

Summary provided by Janice Bunker (Brigham Young University).

Nashville in Harmony

MLA Session Summary

“Using the Performing Arts for Social Justice in the LGBTQI+ Community.” Presented online, March 2, 2021. 

On Tuesday, March 2, 2021, Dr. Beth Kattelman and Holling Smith-Borne gave an engaging and uplifting MLA session highlighting two notable arts organizations – Evolution Theatre Company (Columbus, OH), and Nashville in Harmony, a GALA chorus (Nashville, TN).

For the session’s first segment, Dr. Kattelman, a professor at The Ohio State University and curator of its Theatre Research Institute, focused on Evolution Theatre Company. Evolution, a professional equity theatre company founded in 2008, has achieved notable success in impacting both the theatre world and the LGBTQ+ community in Columbus. According to Kattelman, Evolution advocates within the theatre community by presenting non-sensationalized “LGBTQ+ experiences on stage, [so] that when audiences have a chance to watch queer characters and see that their struggles are just common struggles of humanity, it will build empathy and mutual understanding between gay and straight communities.” Beyond a simple performance venue, Evolution has become a pillar of the local LGBTQ+ community. From providing a safe space for those rejected by their families to raising awareness and support for the community via fundraising, Evolution’s work is vital.

Dr. Kattelman emphasized that libraries and archives play an important role in preserving the legacy of organizations like Evolution. It goes beyond preserving a collection of scripts, items, or recordings. Rather, one must not overlook the company’s “repertoire of embodied memory.” Evolution provides a meaningful experience to its members, audiences, and community – an experience that uplifts and affirms. In deciding what is preserved, how it is organized and described, and how it is made available to users, librarians and archivists must not lose sight of a fuller context of how organizations like Evolution achieve their aims. Patrons and researchers should not only have access to information about Evolution’s productions, but also be able to gain a sense of the overall mission and what it was like to be there.

For the session’s second segment, Holling Smith-Borne, director of the Anne Potter Wilson Music Library at Vanderbilt University, talked about Nashville in Harmony, a GALA chorus. Founded in 1983, GALA (The Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses) is the parent organization to over 200 choruses across the country and around the world. There is robust diversity from one GALA chorus to the next, both in terms of membership and repertoire performed, but they are united by the work they do and community they provide. Through advocacy, fundraising, networking, and pursuit of social change, GALA choruses have become key elements of the communities they represent, raising awareness and generating support. They have also become much more to their membership than most typical community choruses. As Smith-Borne explained, “Because of the shared struggles and discriminations that LGBTQIA+ people face, there is a sense of togetherness or family that does not exist in other choruses. The process of being together each week singing and sharing stories of discrimination and acceptance is often more important than the end product or final performance.”

For example, Nashville in Harmony (NIH) expresses these sentiments when they start rehearsals, often beginning by quoting Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” NIH was founded in 2003 and now has 140 members. The chorus describes itself as “Tennessee’s first and only musical arts organization specifically created for people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, gender expressions, and their allies.” Through performances, strategic partnerships, fundraising, outreach, and advocacy, NIH is perpetually responsive to its community’s needs. In addition, NIH has been active in commissioning new works from a variety of prominent composers. Smith-Borne concluded his talk by sharing a performance clip from a 2019 NIH concert, TJ Cole’s commissioned work, Those Moments. The performance included recorded interview segments with NIH members on the topic of gender, and underscored the spirit and importance of NIH’s work to MLA session attendees.

Summary provided by Charley Roush (University of Texas Rio Grande Valley).

Michael Colby

Interview with Michael Colby

Editor’s note: This part 1 of 2 for an interview with Michael Colby, transcribed by Marci Cohen and edited by Therese Dickman. Photo courtesy of Marci Cohen.

Cohen: It is Friday, February 28th. The year is 2020. I am Marci Cohen. I am interviewing Michael Colby for the Music Library Association oral history project. We are in Norfolk, Virginia at the Hilton Main at the 2020 annual meeting.

[Michael], we are going to review your whole career.  So, I am curious about how you got into music librarianship.  I also saw that you went to library school pretty much fresh out of undergrad. Did you know all along that you wanted to be a music librarian?

Colby: Hell, no! I wanted to be a musician. I was a clarinetist, and while I was still an undergraduate, I realized that that probably wasn’t going to be a way to support myself. I probably realized that when I had a failed audition for the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. I had gone to a community college for three years. Slow and steady was my way of doing things. They said I made the waiting list, but I think that was their way of telling you that you didn’t get in. I wound up at the University of Portland. I attended there for a year, and I didn’t like my major advisor, who was also the clarinet instructor. So, then I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. I thought, “Oh, I’ll drop out and just work full-time.  After doing that for three months, I panicked and then I went to Portland State University. Then I realized, “Oh, if I go back to the University of Portland, I can finish up in another year, whereas if I stay at Portland State, it will take two more years.”  My major advisor didn’t get tenure, so he wouldn’t be there. [So] I went back to the University of Portland to finish up, not knowing what I was going to do. I decided that I needed to finish the bachelor of music in performance degree, majoring in clarinet, to figure out what to do next with my life.

My major advisor became Dr. Roger Doyle, who was the choir director, orchestra conductor, and the music history professor; he became my mentor there. [One day] he said, “Michael, you do well on the scholarly aspects of music. Have you ever thought of doing something like music librarianship?”  [I responded,] “What is that? Is that a thing?” “Oh, yes, definitely. You should read this book by Ruth Watanabe about music librarianship.” So I did that. And I thought, “Well, this is interesting. It sounds like something that maybe would work for me, because I always liked libraries.”

I have liked to read ever since I was young. I remember in the third grade, my mother coming back from the parent-teacher conferences and being very amused because the third-grade teacher said that “Michael read too much.” And I loved the library. I would rather be in the library than go out for recess. Many of the girls got to be library aides in grade school. I think in the fourth grade you could apply to be a library aide, and I applied. I was denied. I think it was a gender issue, but we’ll never know for sure. But libraries were in my background, and so it made sense for me to apply.

When I finished my degree from the University of Portland, I trotted off to the Multnomah County Library and applied for a job as a library clerk. I figured [that] I needed to earn some money, but I also wanted to get an idea of what it’s like to work in a library to see if it suited my personality. So I got a job, and it seemed to fit me. I got some experience, and I seemed to do pretty well. Then I earned my library degree, and things flowed on from there. So that’s how I got started. When I look back at turning points in my life, I realize that if it weren’t for Roger Doyle, my life could have gone in a completely different direction–maybe not such a good direction.

Cohen: How did you decide to focus on cataloging?

Colby: I think my entire career, I’ve been a chameleon, in that when I find myself in a situation, I adapt to it. When I started working in libraries, I really had no idea what cataloging and the catalog were, nor how catalogs were created. But I was a really good filer when I worked for the public library in Portland. Then, when I went to library school at Berkeley, I got a job as a work-study student in the music library. They quickly put me back in the cataloging department and had me first doing a really boring job. It had to do with retrospective conversion and keying in codes from cataloging cards into a five-and-a-quarter-inch floppy disc that was then going to be sent somewhere overseas for retrospective conversion. I don’t think anything ever came of that job. After a week or so of that, I started doing some conversion from printed [Library of Congress] LC records for scores into the RLIN [Research Libraries Group’s Research Libraries Information Network] database, and giving them MARC tags. As I learned cataloging in my classes [that year], I was soon trained on how to do original cataloging.

When I started applying for jobs, I applied for any library job in the country that had music in the job description. The only ones that I had interviews for, [however], were cataloging jobs. So that’s how I wound up doing music cataloging.

Cohen: You got your MLS from Berkeley. Was that chosen because it was the most convenient [for you]?

Colby: It was not the most convenient one. The closest school would have been the University of Washington. I was living in Oregon at the time, and there is no ALA-accredited library school in Oregon. There was some arrangement whereby I could get in-state tuition in a Western school, which would have included Washington, Colorado, maybe Arizona, and California. The program at Berkeley could be finished in twelve months, whereas the University of Washington would take two years, time was money, and time was of the essence, because I didn’t have a lot of financial support. I’m from a blue-collar background, and my parents helped me a bit getting through my bachelor’s. But after that, it was like, “Kid, you’re on your own from here.” So it made sense to get the degree as soon as I could, get out in the world, and start taking care of myself. Berkeley had a good music library and a good reputation as a library school.

Cohen: You got your first position out of library school at Bowling Green State University, so that took you across the country. Is there anything you want to talk about regarding your first job, and how that experience went for you?

Colby: It was the third job interview I had and the first job offer that I got. The first job interview was at Loyola University in New Orleans. I definitely would have taken that job. Mark McKnight got that job, though; I didn’t hold it against him.

Bowling Green was a good job. It was in Ohio–a part of the country that I had never been in before. It just wasn’t a good fit for me at the time. I feel bad that I was only there a year before returning to the West Coast, but for a lot of personal reasons, I felt like that’s what I needed to do at the time. I worked next at the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL), which was a large library. But it was a left turn in my career, because I feel that public libraries are looked down on by some people, and I felt that I did a lot of good work as a cataloger in a public library. Having worked one entire year in an academic library, I felt that the working conditions were a little better [there], and I wanted to get back into an academic setting. But it was difficult to get out of a public library and into an academic library. I worked at the SFPL for seven years and did a lot of good work there. It had its challenges [though]. [Colby later noted: “One of the reasons for leaving the public library was job stability. Cutbacks and layoffs were not uncommon in the public library world at that time, especially that library.  That wasn’t the case then in academic libraries, as far as I was aware.”]

Cohen: Was the decision to get your master’s in music history the goal of getting you back into academic libraries?

Colby: You’re pretty sharp, Marci. This was exactly it.

Cohen: And you got that from San Francisco State University in 1990.

Colby: Right. While working full-time at San Francisco Public Library, I was able to go part-time to San Francisco State University and pursue my master’s in music history there. While attending the school there, the [October 17, 1989] Loma Prieta earthquake happened. I was in my advanced music theory class at San Francisco State–which is way out by the ocean–when the earthquake hit.  So that was interesting to be there in the middle of a class when the earthquake hit.

Cohen: Scary. From there you made the jump and you got back into academia at the University of California Davis. Did you anticipate that you would spend the rest of your career there?

Colby: I did not. It’s interesting that I actually landed there because I alluded to the prejudice against public librarians in academic libraries. It was probably a matter of luck that I was offered the job there because I interviewed there. I didn’t hear anything for quite a while, which is never a good sign. Then I got a phone call. Would I come back for a second interview? I went back. I got this feeling from the interview committee that they didn’t really have any more questions to ask me. They just wanted to look at me again. I got the offer. After I came back and worked there a while, I finally heard the story that they had offered the job to another candidate who had turned it down. I think they were left in a lurch. Then I heard that some people on the interview committee felt that I shouldn’t be offered the job because I was a public librarian and consequently I wouldn’t be able to live up to the rigors of working in an academic library. Well, I think I showed them eventually.

Cohen: Did it take long to settle back into that different realm after being in the public library for a while?

Colby: No. There definitely were differences—especially as a cataloger—but there were a lot of similarities too. I think the people who exhibit such academic versus public librarian prejudices focus more on the differences than the similarities. The SFPL, being a big public library, got a lot of the same kinds of materials that an academic library [does]. So, I had many of the skill sets that I needed to be successful in an academic library.

Cohen: I would also think, in something as large as the San Francisco Public Library, that you’re dealing with researchers and professional performers, not just hobbyists. That is your patron base, and there’s a higher level. There’s a range of musical interests among the patrons that you ultimately serve.

Colby: Part of the challenge for me in taking the job at UC-Davis was that, when I was in San Francisco, I was just a cataloger.  The Davis job included instruction, reference, and collection development in music, which I hadn’t done before. Getting the MA in music history helped prepare me for that part of the job. For the music faculty, that was part of their concern in hiring me. “You haven’t done this before. What prepares you for this?” I acknowledged that “No, I have not done this before.” I had done a teeny bit at Bowling Green. It wasn’t part of my job description there, but I asked, and I worked with the late Linda Fidler, the music librarian there at the time. She let me do some instruction in classes, so I had some teaching experience. Although a stretch, it was something I thought I could do.

Cohen: What were some of your favorite parts of working at UC Davis?

Colby: Being able to wear multiple hats and be a different person. To be a cataloger and do that part, and [also] be an instruction person and do this completely different thing that I hadn’t done for most of my previous eight years of my career. To interact with faculty, something that I had not been doing the seven years that I was at San Francisco because we had no faculty at the San Francisco Public Library. And just having a lot of different opportunities to do things in the academic environment that the public library didn’t [offer]. For instance, when I was at Davis, the head of systems came to me and said, “Do you want to do a web page for music in the library?” I was the first subject person who was asked to do a web page, which was interesting. I know I wouldn’t have been asked to do that in the public library [then] So to be given some of those opportunities was nice.

Cohen: Yeah, it seems like it’s rare to have a position where you’re doing both technical services and public-facing duties. Did you see your work on one side informing your work on the other?

Colby: Oh, definitely. It was interesting to have the two different responsibilities—to first order a score and then to be the person to shepherd it through and see that it gets cataloged quickly and accurately.

Cohen: How big is UC Davis? Is the music program small enough that you were working both sides of that?

Colby: It’s a large school, but the music program is not large. They focus on musicology and ethnomusicology and not so much performance, which accounts for the smaller size of the program. It made sense to have somebody who could do both cataloging and music and not two different people [to] do the same thing.

Cohen: Your involvement in MLA:  It looks like you first started getting involved in the organization when you were at San Francisco Public Library. Do you want to talk about your inroads there and what you started doing?

Colby: I first got involved in MLA because of a friendship I made when I was in library school at Berkeley. This person was Richard Koprowski, and he was part of that New York crowd. He’s ten years older than me, but he knew people like Jane Gottlieb and John Shepard, and he’d worked for Suki Sommer.  He was a musicology major, PhD candidate at Columbia, and he’d worked for the New York Public Library, but he didn’t have his library degree. He had come to Berkeley to get [that]. Although he had these different work experiences, he befriended me there at Berkeley. We were in the same classes and worked in the music library. He said, “You have to get involved in MLA! You need to do this. You’ll meet the right people, and all of that.” He’s the one who got me intrigued and interested in MLA and really encouraged me to go to the annual meeting, which was in Austin, Texas that year. I couldn’t afford to do it, but he got me to go to the chapter meetings that were in the area then. That’s really what got me interested in going to MLA at that time. Then when I got my first job at Bowling Green, the [1985 MLA] meeting was in Louisville, Kentucky, which was close enough to drive [to] in just a few hours. So I went to my first meeting there. [Richard Koprowski], who had a job with RLG, the Research Libraries Group, was at the MLA meeting then. He introduced me to people and really helped to get me involved in MLA at that point. So he was really one of the people who helped me get started in MLA.

Cohen: Do you want to talk about some of the different activities that you’ve done with an MLA chapter or, obviously, leading up to being president? What are some of the things you’ve done over the years in the organization?

Colby: I got involved in the [regional] chapter fairly early on, and it’s one of the ways that younger or newer people in the profession can get involved–through the chapter. There’s a lower bar to involvement. I had only been a librarian for a few years when I was asked if I would run for vice-chair/chair-elect of the chapter. I ran against a more senior member, and I thought, “Okay, great. I’ll be on the ballot, and this other person will be elected. I’ll be fine.” Well, she didn’t show up to the meeting where they voted, so I think that contributed to me being elected. It was like, “Here I am, vice-chair of this chapter,” and I’d [only] been a librarian for like three years or something. So that got me involved. You get to know a lot of people. I definitely got involved on a local level in that way.

I also got involved through the cataloging side, through the Subject Access Subcommittee, of which was then called the Bibliographic Control Committee, the BCC. But there was also some frustration there because I really wanted to be on the Descriptive Cataloging Committee because I had a concern about generic terms and uniform titles, and I had made a list of generic terms that weren’t addressed. I talked to the chair of that subcommittee, and wanted to be on it. [But] I wasn’t appointed, and I was really disappointed. I had this feeling that I was an outsider because I was from the West Coast, I wasn’t a protégé of Ralph Papakhian or Richard Smiraglia, and I didn’t have connection to Eastman, and because of that, well, I didn’t have a chance. It was discouraging. I realize now that it wasn’t stacked against me. There were a lot of people who had been in the organization longer who were vying for positions on this committee.  There are only so many positions and everybody gets a chance.

Just because the first time you put your name up for a particular position in MLA and you don’t get it doesn’t mean that MLA doesn’t like you or doesn’t need your activities. Years later when I was a committee chair or president, and I heard somebody say, “Oh, I didn’t get what I wanted. That means the committee or the association doesn’t like or doesn’t want me.” It hurt because you know how they feel. Your heart bleeds for them. You feel their pain. But you know that’s not true. I won’t name names, but I remember one woman who was on the slate for member-at-large of the board of directors twice and wasn’t elected either time. She  said,“Well, obviously, people don’t like me. I’m not going to be involved in the organization anymore.” That’s not true. It’s just the way the cards play. And [such a response] is sad.

Cohen: Focusing on MLA, you’ve got a long list [of committees on which you served]: the Working Group on Electronic Music, Working Group on Terminology, Nominations Committee, Online Reference Services Committee, and the Music Thesaurus Project Advisory Task Force. Then you were elected to the board as a member-at-large. Do you want to talk about that?

Colby: That stunned me, really. When you see a slate [of candidates] for the board, it breaks my heart when I see really good people who have done incredible work, and you look at the other -[candidate] names and you [realize], “These people have name recognition. They’re going to be elected, and this [other] person [probably] is not.” It’s just because of name recognition. So this slate came out, and I saw the names on it:  Dan Zager, Debbie Campana, three other people, and me. I thought, “It’s gonna be Dan, Debbie, and one of these other people. I should be grateful that I was considered amongst them and I was on the slate”. I got elected, [though], and I was just floored. It was lucky that I had given a presentation at the annual meeting before that [election].. [So] I had some recognition at that point.

I was interested and flattered to be on the board, but terrified. When I attended [one] or two-hour meetings at my institution, at the end, [I would think,] “I’m so glad to get out of this room!” And board meetings were two or two and a half days of full meetings. I [wondered], “How am I going to survive this?” But we had agendas, we stuck to them, and we accomplished things. It was invigorating and tiring work, but we got things done. So after two years, I was exhausted, but [I thought], “Well, I would do that again.” When other opportunities came up to serve on the board, I took them. I did it again. [Some might say] I was a glutton for punishment.

Cohen: You became the recording secretary from 2001 to 2006.

Colby: I did, yeah.

Cohen: And then you ran for president.

Colby: I did.

Cohen: And you won. We should acknowledge that as well.

Colby: I did. Amazing.

Editor’s note: Part 2 will be published in Issue 211. Stay tuned!


Did You Know…

…”The Stars and Stripes Forever” — the rousing finale to Independence Day celebrations across the US — was designated as the national march of the United States on Dec. 11, 1987?

Yet, as America celebrates its 245th birthday this month, it’s interesting to note that the genesis of John Philips Sousa’s famous march was inspired in part by a death. According to a band program from Willow Grove [a park where Sousa and his band played from 1901 to 1926], when asked who influenced him to write the march, Sousa replied, “Godand I say this in all reverence! I was in Europe and I got a cablegram that my manager was dead. I was in Italy and I wished to get home as soon as possible. I rushed to Genoa, then to Paris and to England and sailed for America. On board the steamer as I walked miles up and down the deck, back and forth, a mental band was playing ‘Stars and Stripes Forever.’ Day after day as I walked it persisted in crashing into my very soul. I wrote it on Christmas Day, 1896.”


United States Marine Band: John Philip Sousa

The Complete Marches of John Philip Sousa vol. 3 no. 53: The Stars and Stripes Forever full score, As Performed by the United States Marine Band. Used with permission from Paul E. Bierley, The Works of John Philip Sousa (Westerville, Ohio: Integrity Press, 1984), 43.