Semester Project: The Music Room, Phase 1

Semester Project: The Music Room, Phase 1

This week’s edition of Saturday librarian was slightly delayed, but worth it. Promise!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about our semester project. I did not get the head start that I wanted, so I wandered into the library Saturday morning woefully under-caffeinated but determined. My original plans were grand– too grand, as it turned out, for the small amount of space. First, you need to know what the room looked like:

Music Room before

I know. I KNOW. Clearly a basement, and that’s fine, but that was awful. It was wonderful they had carved out a corner, but you have to be a very dedicated musician to practice in such quarters, and most do not when the weather is nice.

The first thing to do was get the music instruments to a safe location for the duration. No pictures here, but suffice to say they hung out in a nice, sheltered corner of the library for a few hours. You can really only see a fraction of the music instruments, and you can barely make out the two pianos. Yes, there are TWO! Glorious– if you can rearrange things enough to pull out the bench.

First order of business? Those shelves in the middle had to go. They were chock a block full of periodicals.

a view into the room, boxes visible and work begun.
Music room side view
A better view of the room before beginning. Notice the periodicals hugging the ceiling, and the piano now visible behind the table.

If you’re going to unload four shelves’ worth of periodicals, there have to be boxes in which to store them. Believe it or not, we had stored two weeks worth of boxes from the various orders coming into the cafe. Surely that would be enough?

We had enough boxes for the softcover periodicals. The hardback periodicals traveled in packs for safety.
We had enough boxes for the softcover periodicals. The hardback periodicals traveled in packs for safety.

The short answer was no. There not nearly enough boxes for our work Saturday. My (naive) hope had been that we could start to pull books from the side shelves and get the music and art collection into the room. It became clear quickly that Saturday’s work would largely comprise making the room functional for a group of musicians to practice together.

The library is a wonderful building, but many libraries before ours have run into the question of how to store so many physical serial volumes. There are no compressed stacks in the building, no way to roll shelves up against each other to save space. As such, the periodicals are now in the basement of the library, boxed or resting on the table, waiting for faculty review.


I had mentally prepared myself to be working on this all day. Fortunately, quite simply, our students ROCK. We had more helpers than we could use when all was said and done. Phase 1 was complete by noon, a scant two and a half hours after we began. For the next half hour after, I had people coming into the room ready and willing to help, only to find nothing to do.

I wouldn’t say nothing, though. I asked all of the students who came to go in, sit down and play. To see whether we needed more chairs, whether the sound was better, whether the room felt better. The musicians I could get to try the refreshed space were ecstatic– they could breathe.

A better music space
A better music space

I go back and forth on whether to add a rug in the center of the floor– it would help warm the space (which is unfinished concrete) but would it negatively impact the sound? I told all those who entered to try it out, to add as needed. I was told not to worry; it never seemed to matter, furniture finds a way.

My hope is that as we gradually weed through the periodicals (and/or open up storage space), we’ll be able to get the art and music collections in. In the very back of the room, you can sneak a peek at some of our older volumes. They’ll be getting a new home too– just as soon as I replenish my box supply.

Semester Project: the Music Room

In a series of meeting with the administration, we have come up with plans of the short, medium, and long term variety. Certain projects, like the shelf read and cataloging project, cross the boundaries between short and medium term. As with any large scale project, there is a need to “break things up” so as to avoid burnout and boredom. Our goal is a fully functional library, not debilitating ennui after all.

The way things are shaping up, there will be one of these larger, short term projects every semester. These projects will have the advantage of being visible, showing a result quickly, and providing the type of positive improvement that will drive interest in the continuing library project.

This semester’s project is to develop a music room in the library. Fortunately, there is such a room already picked out and in use for this purpose. There is still a large amount of work to be done, however. The room is located in the basement of the library, next to the art studio. Previously, it is what I affectionately referred to as the “giant pile of books room”– there were books ceiling to floor in a variety of shelves, spanning nearly every category that LC offers in its schema. Prior to my tenure, work had been done to clean the room up somewhat; periodicals were group in alphabetical order, books were moved to a single part of the room, and the rare books and institutional archives emerged in the back of the room.

Still, students are cramming themselves and their instruments into a space that is wide enough for a person to walk through, but not much wider. The room has the feeling of a left over closet, where people are tucked out of the way.

Music is an important part of campus life; there is a near constant presence of music and singing that I have not seen since I wandered through Venice years ago.

That being the case, the musicians need a better space, and we can provide it for them.

The Plan:

  • Clear the periodicals from the space.

The current plan is to box the periodicals so that they will be available for the collection weed that will occur after the full collection shelf read

  • Store the rare book collection

The rare book collection needs a better location for its own sake, but it will also free up a decent amount of shelf and floor space.

  • Move the shelves

Personally, I can never have enough bookshelves, and I suspect the same is true for my fellow alumni as well as the school. Still, we don’t need the bookshelves in this particular room. There are at least 4 which will take up temporary residence in a nearby storage closet, opening up floor space

  • Furniture!

We can do better than a handful of folding chairs. Once the space is clear, we intend to.

  • Moving the art and music collection

The school’s art and music collection is currently on the same floor of the library as the music room, but on the opposite side of the building. Because the music room will be adjacent to the art studio, it only makes sense to move the physical collection of both art and music books to the place where they will be most useful. Never fear, these books will remain a part of the circulating collection.

Next Saturday, I’ll start on the beginning of boxing things up and relocating, with the major push coming on the 24th with a little help from some of the students. After that, we’ll be able to furnish the room and lay it out, hopefully before the end of the semester.