I’m Claire Kidwell, the Head Librarian of the Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts, and I have overall responsibility for the management of the library in the Faculty of Music.
It wasn’t until my final year studying music as an undergraduate at Oxford University, that I realized that a career in librarianship might be for me. Whilst studying I found it was often the process of researching – using different databases, bibliographies and indexes – that I enjoyed, as much as the discoveries I was making. After graduating, I spent a year as a trainee library assistant at Christ Church College, Oxford in amongst the autograph manuscripts of composers such as Blow and Purcell. From there I then moved on to UCL where I studied for a MA in Library and Information Studies, after which I was appointed as a music cataloguer at the British Library. I’ve worked in the Jerwood Library since 2003, taking on my current role in 2005. There probably aren’t all that many people who can say that each of their places of work has been a grade I listed building!
Outside of Trinity Laban I serve on several professional committees, including the Executive Committee of the UK & Ireland branch of IAML – the professional association for music libraries – and am Chair of both the UK & Ireland and International Copyright Committees.
But it’s not all work! One of the joys of working in London is all the music-making one can experience, and in my spare time I enjoy singing with the Holst Singers.
What is a typical day at work like for you?
It can vary so much depending on the time of year and what else is going on in the conservatoire.
In the autumn term we spend a lot of time delivering library user education sessions on our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, which aim to provide the foundations to equip our students to be effective and discerning in their use of print and electronic resources in their studies.
Spring is the time to concentrate on strategic planning for the next academic year, such as preparing our library departmental plan which reflects on the activities on the current year and sets objectives for the next one, alongside preparing a budget in order to ensure the delivery of those objectives and adequate resourcing of the curriculum. It’s also when I plan for big one-off projects and apply for capital funding to realize these (e.g. the lovely new shelving for our library configuration last summer). This year I’ll also be looking at our Collection Management Policy, conducting a journals review and evaluating potential new ebook platforms.
During term-time, some days comprise pretty much back-to-back meetings (whether they be formal committees or individual meetings with colleagues) and returning to my desk at 5pm to attack the 100+ emails that have landed in my inbox since the morning! Once we reach the end of the assessment period in June, one momentarily feels the illusion of some breathing space and time to catch up over the long summer ahead. But as I’m responsible for book acquisitions, this is in fact one of my busiest times, as I request next year’s reading lists from my teaching colleagues, and have a relatively short window of opportunity to get several thousand titles checked against current holdings and orders placed so that the books arrive and can be catalogued, processed and assigned to online reading lists ready for the new academic year in September. This is also the time when I conduct all my team’s annual performance reviews, and (of course allowing myself a break in the sun too 🙂 ) before you know it, the new academic year is upon us!
What’s something you enjoy about your role?
The sheer range of people I interact with, both inside and outside the conservatoire: from teaching eager new students, to discussions with library donors, to meetings with other music librarians from across the globe (sometimes on Skype in the small hours!) to brain-crushing exchanges with internationally-renowned copyright gurus.
Are there any hidden or little-known aspects about your role you’d like to share?
My first task each morning is to check all the material that has been added to our virtual learning environment the previous day to ensure compliance with our various institutional licences, so I’m probably the only person in the institution who sees absolutely all the learning materials created. It’s lucky that the sheer quantity means I have to race through it all, which doesn’t allow me time to get distracted by all the fascinating resources our fabulous teaching colleagues have compiled!
Finally, can you tell us something people may not know about you?
Aged 8 I won a competition in the Southampton Evening Echo to write a football-related mystery story (fairly specific brief there…) and got to have my picture taken with my beloved Saints!