I had the occasion this week to talk with some lovely librarians. We were chatting about the things that one normally talks about, and it made me recall with great fondness one of the most brutal teachers I ever had.
At the beginning of Dr. Reynolds’ methodology class, I was convinced that I wasn’t ready for graduate school. On the first day, she passed out a sheet filled with foreign phrases. It turned out that once you found the correct resource, the project was fairly simple. What terrified me was that a fellow student named Peeter Tammearu was a fearsome polyglot who corrected a misspelled Latin declension immediately. Convinced that I was way behind everyone else, I plodded on with determination. Dr. Reynolds’ class turned out to be one of the best classes I ever took.
In the beginning, she said something like, “You know where the milk is in the grocery store without having to look it up. I want you to be that familiar with the music library.” So, we started by having a test on all of the Library of Congress numbers for the music library. It had questions like, “What work am I likely to find at the call number M425 .B76?” Or, “Make up a realistic Call number and Cutter number for The Ring Cycle.”
When we were going to have a test on the ML134’s, she said – no joke – “OK, we going to have a test on the ML134’s in about 3 weeks. I’m going to have them set up in stations around the room and you’ll walk from book to book and answer questions. Now, some of them are in German, so if you don’t read German, I suggest that you learn some before the test. Here is a sheet with about 50 words that you’ll have to know in order to pass.”
When I tell this to librarians, they are always amazed. They always say, “I never had to do anything like that when I did my library science degree!”
It was also in her class – during a section on iconography – that I made the important discovery of the nude shots of Stravinsky which you can see here.
In the end, it was one of the best and hardest classes I ever took. I’ve never felt disoriented in the music library, and I often don’t need to look things up in order to find them. So, a profound thank you, Dr. Reynolds. It was a good and useful gift that you gave us.