Mark Goodwin is a project assistant for HeadsUpGuys and student librarian in the Music, Art and Architecture Library at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He undertook a practicum with Music Librarian David Hunter of the Fine Arts Library at UT this spring. He has graciously provided the following reflections on his time in Austin.
For my two-week practicum, I was extremely fortunate to be given the opportunity to work under Music Librarian and Musicologist Dr. David Hunter at the Fine Arts Library at the University of Texas in Austin. My time there resulted in profound growth on both a professional and personal level.
Dr. Hunter was an outstanding mentor. He has a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge relating to the profession and was more than willing to share this wealth of experience with me. He was also exceptionally kind and constantly made sure I was getting the most out of my time, even going above an beyond my role in the library to inform me of events occurring throughout the city. In terms of my role, Dr. Hunter had me take on an assistant-type position in which I shadowed him and helped with his daily duties. This was key to making the experience an invaluable one for me, and I am extremely grateful to Dr. Hunter for giving me this role.
During the course of my practicum, I took part in an assortment of tasks that were beneficial in a practical sense. These involved reviewing and assessing the need for various items, including music scores that were gifted to the library, new releases from prominent publishers of music, and new music releases from contemporary composers. Based on the evaluations I made, action was taken by Dr. Hunter to place orders where necessary.
I continued the project of Information School student Rebecca Pad that entailed the development of signage for the library stacks to provide an indication on the subject matter of the items in each row. This required me to analyze the structure and language of the Library of Congress’ classification system as well as the physical contents of each row of stacks to determine how to best represent the items. Completing these tasks was a rewarding learning experience that left me with a variety of new skills.
The observational experiences I took part in were also extremely beneficial. Aside from being given a full tour of the Fine Arts Library, Dr. Hunter also took me on tours of the following locations: the Butler School of Music’s Performance Library, which houses music scores for the university’s various ensembles; the Perry-Castañeda Library, the main library where orders arrive and music cataloguing is completed; the Collections Deposit Library, which provides space for storage and archives of items including a number that belong to the Fine Arts Library; and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, where audio preservation is one of the main tasks conducted. In each of these locations, I was given the opportunity to engage in informative and in-depth discussion with the librarians, staff members, or graduate assistants working there. In addition, Dr. Hunter brought me to a meeting with a number of the university’s librarians regarding budget cutbacks to serials along with strategies for adapting to the cutbacks, and to another meeting with graduate students, staff, and faculty about an online Austin music history portal that is in development.
Without a doubt, these experiences were enormously useful, and being exposed to a range of different professional perspectives will be instrumental to my own development. Gaining an understanding of the specific intricacies of all the different professional roles I encountered along with the broader aspect of exploring how the university library system works were formidable learning opportunities. I am tremendously grateful to Dr. Hunter for taking time out of his extremely busy schedule to expose me to all of this for my own benefit. Being able to shadow a Music Librarian for two full weeks allowed me to immerse myself deeply in the library environment, and it provided a very useful alternative perspective to my library work experience at UBC.
Aside from the more practical knowledge, I very much appreciated the sense of community in the library and, more broadly, in the city. The kindness I was welcomed with by everyone I encountered during my time in Austin was truly remarkable. The culture of acceptance, respect, friendliness, and dedication that is apparent throughout the city and reflected within the library reminded me of the type of environment and relationships I want to build not only in my work life but also my personal life. Outside of my practicum hours, I was invited to take place in a zine cataloging party with local School of Information graduate students, and was given recommendations on numerous cultural institutions and landmarks to check out while in the city. As I explored the university and broader community of the city, I came to recognize just how valued arts and culture are within Austin. This was a refreshing experience and it made me realize the kind of community that I want for my own family to be a part of.
To sum up, this practicum was a wonderful experience for me in many ways.
Professionally, I feel like it was extremely beneficial to my career path. I believe that my graduate school courses, my current jobs, and this practicum work have provided excellent complements to each other in preparing me for a successful career. As mentioned above, the experience also inspired me to grow as an individual. Overall, it has left me feeling extremely motivated to continue to work hard toward my long-term goals. It was a truly life-affirming experience that I am enormously thankful for and will never forget.