Pre-pandemic, undergraduate student Hannah Shields and graduate student Kat Godfrey worked as interns in Presser Music Library, under the direction of music librarian Tim Sestrick. During remote campus operations, Kat and Hannah continued as online interns during the fall 2020 semester. In spring 2021, undergraduate student Josh Joy joined the online team. The Music in the Margins blog was the brainchild of Kat, and during the pandemic, Hannah and Josh have been instrumental in keeping it going. Presser staff member Kelly Shea recently interviewed all three students to get their thoughts on what it's like working as a Presser intern.
1. What interested you about interning with Presser Music Library?
Hannah: I was always interested in exploring careers in music that didn’t fall into performing or traditional classroom education. When I was a sophomore, I approached Tim because I wanted to know more about music librarianship, and as a result, I ended up as an intern!
Josh: My goal is to get a master's degree in library science and eventually become a music librarian, while still writing and recording like I do now. Interning with Presser interested me for that reason!
Kat: Before coming back to West Chester I started working at the Chester County Library. Since I was a kid I’ve always loved libraries and I wanted to work at one in pretty much any capacity. I had asked Tim if there was any way I could work or volunteer with the music library when I was an undergrad so I was really excited to finally have the opportunity! I plan to study library science, focusing on archives and preservation, starting in the fall of 2022.
2. What kind of work do/did you do as a Presser intern?
Hannah: As an intern, I do all sorts of things. When I first started, it was mostly a lot of learning – about what librarians do, the kinds of services/resources the library offers, and how to find them. It was really exciting, because I never realized how active libraries really are. Then, I got a more hands-on experience by doing things like compiling resources for projects in various courses, researching and writing about some of Presser’s materials, actively adding/removing things from the catalog, (briefly) working/shadowing Tim at the research desk, along with a lot of other things. Nowadays, what I do is mostly project-based. For example, last semester I worked with Tim, Kat, and Dr. Onderdonk to adapt an assignment for the Music History III course to better suit online learning. More recently, I’ve been researching musicians and composers from under-represented groups to write for the Music in the Margins blog, and planning an upcoming podcast on the same topic.
Josh: Since I just started, so far I just research/add to the blog and trade ideas for related programs with Tim and Hannah.
Kat: I have done a little bit of everything as a Presser intern! Tim knows my interests and has worked hard to give me tasks which line up with them, helping me think about future careers a little bit. Pre-Covid I helped search through all the books in Presser which were older than a certain date to find how many copies are at other academic libraries, if it is available online, and what condition our copy specifically was in. Through this process I found a mysterious book on the shelf which launched another project! This book had a barcode, but no record in the system. After researching for a bit we decided someone had created their own book by binding a libretto of Tristan and Isolde along with several different programs where pieces were performed, and an explanation of the plot. It was very exciting! I also worked with Ron and Jenna in Special Collections for a little right before the shutdown. Since then we have all done more online work. Our blog started as a fun way to explain to people some music words that occur in the library which might not always be easy to understand. After a while it blossomed into the Music in the Margins page which has been so exciting!
3. What has it been like being an online intern for the library?
Hannah: I think the thing that changed the most for me was physically being in the library. Because I’m doing school 100% virtually, I haven’t been anywhere near Presser. Before this, I never really realized how valuable being in the library and seeing all of the people I help and work with is. And I think that a lot of people, myself included, miss having a quiet space to work! But it’s also really fortunate that a lot of the work I do could be adapted so easily to an online setting.
Josh: Of course it would be good to be in the actual library, but my work for now can be done anywhere and is still very interesting, so the flexibility is appreciated.
Kat: It has been a struggle to be online for everything. The hands-on work is impossible right now. Moving from working through my own little store from Special Collections, which gave me a look into a possible future career, to primarily the blog work wasn’t my favorite. But I understand it has been difficult for every single person.
4. What has been your experience writing for Music in the Margins?
Hannah: Writing for Music in the Margins has been a great experience so far. In the music education track at WCU, the only course requirements for music history cover the western history of music. While I have enjoyed these courses, I feel as though my knowledge of music history was limited to the heavily documented musical traditions of white, European or American men. Writing for Music in the Margins has given me the opportunity to research and educate myself about other perspectives in music history, even if it is just one musician at a time. It also gives me the opportunity to share what I find with anyone else who is interested.
Josh: Music in the Margins is a great platform. Diversity in music is something I feel very strongly about, so it gives me a chance to broaden my own knowledge of it as well as highlighting what I personally believe to be good and important music.
Kat: I helped to create Music in the Margins partly because I felt the frustration of having to sit at home while there was so much unrest in the country. One of my favorite courses at WCU was Women in Music with Dr. Lee. It opened my eyes to how wrong the musical cannon is. We are taught about almost only white, male composers and we are told that is because that is all that existed for a long time. But with Music in the Margins we are proving that wrong! By increasing our awareness of just how much is out there by every type of person, we are doing our part to start bringing that attention to the question of why these composers are not taught. The blog has been amazing and I’ve had an even better time reading what others have written. The Presser Library has also really taken up the mantel with creating so many resources to make it easier for students who may want to perform music by these composers!