Remaking the Music Library
By Kathy Henry Dowell, University Libraries
Photographer Michael Dantzler leans into the massive chalkboard, grips a piece of green chalk and sweeps it upward into a sweet, curving line. He takes a step back, nods and continues, inspired by this foray into chalk art.
Dantzler is the Music Library’s first muralist of the 2016-17 academic year, making him part of a recent partnership between the library and Columbia’s Trenholm Artists Guild. TAG artists take turns displaying their work on the library’s main level, and selected muralists decorate the chalkboard that lines the open stairwell to the second floor.
This infusion of art is part of a larger Music Library project: a reconfiguration of the library’s overall focus and physical space. During the past five years, Music Library Head Ana Dubnjakovic and her employees have formed stronger ties to the community, created more study space and group seating, converted a standard meeting room into instructional space, increased access
to digital and audio resources, and curated digital exhibits.
“Our focus is on knowledge production, not just on materials storage,” said Dubnjakovic, who in addition to her library duties teaches two graduate-level bibliography courses in the School of Music.
“We are bringing our collections online and making them available to researchers. We’ve digitized our Tin Pan Alley sheet music, and the Jules Maseneè collection of opera scores went live in July,” she said. “A project being wrapped up now is the thematic catalog of Felix Bauer (1914 - 2006), a one-time Erskine College professor who, in the 1930s, studied with the great Austrian composer Alban Berg and composed steadily for 70 years. We’re also curating digital exhibits, such as the Center for Southern African American Music exhibit.”
Students will find employment resources and video cameras available for checkout to record musical performances or practice job interview techniques. The library’s SPARK collection contains books on careers in music and the arts, music technology and recording, arts administration, conquering performance anxiety, and trends in the arts.
Perhaps the most apparent change in the library is to the space itself. Book stacks and individual study carrels have been removed and replaced with large tables, sofas, and deep chairs configured for conversation and group study.
“Musicians are very collaborative,” Dubnjakovic said. “They rehearse together, improvise together, perform together and attend rehearsals and concerts together. Following national trends for academic libraries as a whole, we’ve done flexible space planning, placing greater focus on user space rather than collection space. The new spaces redefine the library as a gathering place and offer another way for our music students to collaborate.”
This article first appeared in University Libraries Fall 2016 minizine. Read the entire issue here.