It was only after I had accepted the post of Librarian at Selwyn College that I realised I had landed a job right next door to the Music Faculty. I was delighted to discover that this had advantages, such as being about to eavesdrop on rehearsals while walking up the drive between our buildings, as well as being able to find a parking space for West Road concerts. I have a keen amateur interest in music (choir and classical guitar) and am married to a pianist/retired music teacher.
For Cambridge students, among the many assets of University membership is the opportunity to use a range of libraries: the University Library, their Faculty or Department and College libraries, as well as accessing a wealth of online resources. I’d like to take the opportunity in this post to write briefly about what we, as a College library positioned next door to the Music Faculty, offer that makes us special.
Colleges are communities; Cambridge students define themselves by their College membership. The Colleges admit, supervise, house and care for undergraduate students, building lifelong relationships which become central to their academic and personal development. They are meeting places where students and academics from all subject disciplines can exchange ideas, fostering the cross-fertilisation of learning and research which is at the heart of the University’s continued success.
Like other Colleges, Selwyn has a strong tradition in music making, for example our excellent Chapel Choir sings three services a week with special services each term, there is a thriving student-run Music Society, which organises recitals, and a termly orchestral concert; and Selwyn Jazz and student bands play at our Snowball and other events.
So how does the College Library fit into the picture?
Our priority is to supply the reading required for undergraduates in their first two years. This means that for music students we offer an extra copy of most books featured on faculty reading lists and, as we are open in the evenings and weekends when the Pendlebury and the UL are closed, we are ready and willing for that late-night emergency consultation. Our shorter borrowing period also means that there is a good chance the popular books will be available. In addition we hold reference works, scores and DVDs. For aural studies we provide access to Naxos Music Online. But critically, supporting our community ethos, music students have access to books in all the other Tripos subjects, and by the same token students who are not reading for a degree in music, but have an interest in the subject at any level, can make use of our music collection.
Like other libraries at Cambridge, we like to build up a good understanding with our students. We can often help out by acquiring a much needed book at short notice, or pointing them in the right direction if it is held elsewhere.
The College Archives naturally hold many documents which reflect the breadth of our music making and the part that it has played in the history of Selwyn since our foundation. These include records and correspondence, newspaper cuttings, programmes and posters for both the Choir and the College Music Society, the latter dating back to 1887, all of which contribute insights into changing attitudes and trends in music. We also hold a small collection of music written for performance in the Chapel, such as works by James Sparks, Daniel Hoare, H.A.G. Houghton and Frederick Rimmer.
The provision each College Library is able to make varies according to its circumstances, and I am aware that there are colleagues elsewhere whose responsibilities includes custody of particularly interesting items or collections. I hope one or two might be persuaded to tell us something about their treasures by contributing to this blog, and look forward to further posts.
With thanks to Robert Athol (Temporary Archivist) and Ian Tindale (SEL 2008-11).
(College Librarian, Selwyn College)