1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Rochester, NY not far from the Eastman Theater/Eastman School of Music. One of my first musical experiences outside of church was a visit to the Eastman for a rehearsal of the Rochester Philharmonic. My fifth grade class got to sit on the stage with the musicians while they rehearsed and then talk with conductor Mark Elder afterwards. I was put in the second violin section, right in front of the wind machine being used in Don Quixote, which left quite an impression on my senses. I miss Rochester for family, the times when it isn’t buried in snow, walking along the Lake Ontario shoreline or the countless nature trails in the area, and the bagels. Happily, Iowa has lovely hiking trails. Can’t say the same for the bagels.
2. What might others be surprised to learn about you?
I think people would be surprised to find that I really didn’t know much about coding or website development/design until I joined the Web Committee in 2013. When the website moved from Ektron to YourMembership, I volunteered to try and build a conference website on the new platform and about a month later, was taking tutorials on Lynda.com on how to code websites, build collapsible menus, and make pages work on mobile displays. I find coding to be an immersive activity that presents all sorts of challenges and puzzles to solve. When it’s going well, it can be like playing a game where you solve a piece to level up. When it’s going poorly, it’s like playing a game where you’re respawning to the same spot every two minutes. Either way, it was usually more fun than not.
3. What’s a topic or subject you’d like to learn more about?
A topic or “thing” that has eluded me is gardening. I love to bake and cook, but I have a tendency to kill plants just by acknowledging their existence. My dad is an accomplished gardener, but that gene did NOT pass. But I’m willing to put in some time to learn more, because I love a good garden, both veg and flower. One of my favorite things to do when traveling is visit botanical gardens and the like, and it would be nice to bring a smaller, humbler version of that to my yard.
4. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I think one of the best bits of advice I’ve received is how to not get riled about honest mistakes. Most foul ups in life are, in fact, honest mistakes and not the result of laziness or foul play. I hate getting caught up in blame games (in which I can easily become a player), because usually people are trying their best, working hard, short on resources (including time), and expectations are always high. I don’t always remember this bit of advice or act as I should in response to when things go kablooey, but this rule of thumb can help me get my head in a better space. I should pair this with something the amazing DeEtta Jones said at several training sessions when I worked at University of Houston, which was that there is a huge difference between responding to a problem and reacting to it. The first means taking that extra bit of time to analyze, interpret, and understand as opposed to just immediately acting on a rush of feeling and little perspective.
5. What’s your favorite thing about MLA?
My favorite thing about MLA – cliche time – is working with members. I’m not much of a “joiner” and so when I first started coming to MLA, I was uncomfortable with having to be part of a professional organization as part of my career. Those first few years in MLA were pretty awkward, but once I found ways to get involved it got better. Instead of making painful small talk with strangers, I was able to have substantive conversations over a shared project or interest. Now I rely on MLA colleagues for inspiration, advice, and to challenge my thinking on a regular basis. But the key piece for me has been, and continues to be, the shared work with members, both inside MLA’s structures and without.
Katie Buehner is Head of the Rita Benton Music Library at the University of Iowa.