A new year begins

It’s been a busy six weeks so far, with lots to prepare in readiness for the new intake of students next week. For my part, I’ve been steadily working my way through cataloguing about 60 CDs to be added to the Pendlebury’s impressive collection, and hoping that I can finish in time! In the meantime, the staff have been hard at work preparing induction information, updating guidelines and buying in all the new books that students are going to need (some of them look really interesting!).

Just a small fraction of the CDs that the Pendlebury Library has.

Just a small fraction of the CDs that the Pendlebury Library has.

Summer, for those of us who don’t get two months off, is often the time when we get the most work done, but I’ve also been very lucky to find time to have fun too. Sadly, all the orchestras and wind bands I play in throughout the rest of the year stop for the holiday, and normally I resign myself to a summer of solo playing. Not so this year, as I’ve been playing with some friends in a wind quintet, and exploring lots of new music (well, new to me, anyway). We’ve tackled composers like Danzi, Klughardt, Ligeti, Nielsen and Agay, and I’ve also been spoilt by the rather good selection of unbound parts available in the Pendlebury. Last time we tried out Comedy for Five Winds by Paul Patterson (873.E3.P1); I’m not sure everyone dissolving into laughter and stopping in the middle of the final movement was the desired effect, but he did call it a “Comedy”…

Anyway, as we are bracing ourselves for the new term, and making sure everything’s ready, I turn my thoughts to those who will be coming here for the first time and how they can best make use of their time in Cambridge. And maybe this will be helpful for those who have already been here a while but haven’t had the time to go exploring. So here are my Top Tips to making the most of your music libraries!

1. We have lots of stuff. No, really.

South Court

A tiny smattering of the books that we can fetch for you.

Visiting the Pendlebury and the UL Music Department, you’ll luxuriate in the sheer number of scores, books and journals on the shelves. But that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. Behind closed doors, and lurking in basements and staff-only bookstacks, are books, CDs, more books, archives, more scores, DVDs and more (and did I mention books?). And then there’s all the stuff that you can access without even having to get out of bed (though you will require a device and some internets). There are some brilliant resources online that the university subscribes to, or are available for free. These are my absolute go-to favourites (but then, I’m not writing music essays):

  • Oxford Music Online – where Wikipedia ends, this begins…and provides a great bibliography for each subject when you’re not sure where to start (accessible in Cambridge or requires your Uni of Cam username/password when offsite).
  • Naxos Music Library – a streaming site for hundreds of thousands of classical music recordings, also a great collection of world music and jazz (get the annual login and password from the Pendlebury staff).
  • IMSLP – sheet music in the public domain (downloadable pdfs).
  • Then there are music ebooks, online journals, databases of music literature and manuscripts – honestly, it can get a little overwhelming. Which brings me to my next tip…

2. Ask a librarian.

So there’s a ton of material available. It can feel a bit daunting, and it can be the easiest thing just to find an appropriate-looking book on a random shelf, take it to the self-service checkout and borrow it, without even daring to make eye contact with the staff. Easy, maybe, but then you’ll be slogging over your essay in despair with nothing very interesting to say. The library staff are really friendly and helpful, and know the collections really well, and are always happy to point you in the right direction. Whether it’s finding books, fetching CDs or helping you get to grips with the online resources, we’re here!

Anderson office

This door isn’t that scary, honest.

Corollary to point 2: I know there’s a big wooden door to the office in the Anderson Room, and it’s always kept shut, but seriously, come on in! If you need help with the card catalogue, or you don’t know where to find a book or how to order it, or you need something fetched, just come into the office (during opening hours) and there’ll be someone on hand to assist.

3. There are almost as many different ways of finding resources as there are resources.

Sorry, that’s not really a tip. It will end up one, trust me, when you realise that looking for certain things is made immeasurably easier when you search for them in the right place! So for example, if you’re looking for scores at the UL, anything published before about 1990 is probably on the card catalogues in the Anderson Room, not the online catalogues, and then there’ll be times you’ll find it easier to use Newton than to use LibrarySearch, while researching a topic you might want to start with LibrarySearch+, and then when searching for online resources there are links from the UL Music Department pages, and from the eresources pages… It’s confusing, and maybe a little frustrating, until you get the hang of it (at which point you could probably seriously consider librarianship as a career option). Until then, see point 2!

4. Plan ahead.

Stressed student

Don’t be this guy. Please!

Nearly all of the online resources will be accessible day or night, and a lot of college libraries have 24/7 access for their students, and it can be easy, particularly as you’re finding your free time gradually filling up with all your musical societies’ activities, to leave work to the last minute. This doesn’t work terribly well as a long-term strategy though. There’ll be competition from your peers for that one book you all need (which will be available on overnight loan from the Pendlebury), or you’ll need something that someone else has borrowed, or needs fetching from the depths of the UL basements. We’ll do what we can, but if your essay’s due that day, and someone else has the book you desperately need, or it’s stuck in binding limbo, well, even we can’t work miracles (but sometimes we can come very close).

5. Tell us what you need!

If you think there are aspects of the service or the physical space that you think can be improved, tell us! We’re not mindreaders, so we can guess at things that could be improved or introduced, but it’s much easier if you let us know. Maybe there’s a resource that you think we should subscribe to, or maybe you want lessons on how to use one of the databases, or maybe you’d like separate spaces for collaborative and private study? We might not be able to provide it, but we can always investigate to see if something can be done.

Finally, good luck for the coming year, and we look forward to seeing you in the library!


About viridianarcher

Library Assistant, Pseudo Toxophilite and Erstwhile Musician.
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1 Response to A new year begins

  1. SVM says:

    I second this excellent post. When I was a Cambridge undergraduate, I simply could not believe how many musos simply never ventured into the UL, and never appreciated the massive collections — the chance encounters (of new, not entirely relevant, but very interesting literature) in the bound journals and amongst the bookshelves were a big facet of the joy of researching in the UL (the other facet was a peace and quiet that could be beaten only by my College library in May week). Come dissertation-time in third-year, a number of my peers, having been too lazy to work out the system for themselves yet too embarrassed to ask a librarian for help, turned to me to fetch them their books in the open shelves.


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