This is the second in a series of interviews with the 2022 MLStEP board. We will be sharing new interviews with our officers and liaisons in the weeks leading up to the Music Library Association Conference in early March.
Janet Hilts (she/her) is starting her second term as the MLStEP Pacific Northwest Liaison. She is in the final semester of her MLIS at the University of British Columbia and works at Simon Fraser University Library, Learning & Instructional Services division.
What are your areas of interest in music librarianship? Collection management and development, information literacy and reference, special collections and archives (especially non-textual materials), advocacy and outreach. I’m also interested in digital tools to support digital humanities. In terms of music, my specialty might be my breadth of interests and knowledge, rather than a specialization per se. I chose to study ethnomusicology (including popular music studies) in grad school and my undergrad program covered a wide range of musics, too. For western art music, I guess I’m most interested in contemporary music—music by living composers.
Why did you choose librarianship as a career path? (or, is this what you thought you’d be doing?!) I didn’t think about librarianship as a career until I’d already been working for many years. I’d been living in South Korea, and was unhappy with the work I could do there and the lack of advancement opportunities as a foreign resident, so looked for a new career path I could pursue when I returned to North America. Librarianship checked a lot of boxes for me (aptitudes, skills, interests) and seemed to connect up with my previous experiences and education. Also, when I was younger, I did a practicum at Library and Archives Canada and loved it.
What was your favorite part of library school? My favourite part of library school was learning new things (a lot of things, since I was new to so much), expanding my knowledge, and making connections with my existing knowledge and experiences. I found all that fun. Learning about critical approaches to library work was a highlight, especially decolonization and indigenization work being done in the field. This included learning more about Indigenous knowledge systems generally and how to support Indigenous organizations or peoples’ efforts in ongoing developments in Indigenous culture and languages, e.g. repatriation of recordings, issues with digitization and access, and so on. Also fun were opportunities where I could do deep dives into topics, especially when connected to music. For example, I loved taking the classes on special collections and history of the book—a highlight was examining 10th and 11th century music manuscripts from St. Gallen Abbey and answering questions such as “How can we use design and material features of manuscripts to understand an information culture of the past?” I also really liked the opportunities for hands-on learning with academic librarians, which I was lucky to get, and collaborating with other student leaders in library association student chapters (e.g. planning and managing online events).
What has been your best experience as a member of MLA and/or MLStEP? I feel like I’m still somewhat new to MLA. I think being encouraged and motivated by the instructors of MLA’s online Music Librarianship course bundle that was offered last year was important to me (in particular the inspiration from the instructor for collection development course and for the intro course). Feeling part of a team in MLStEP has also been a good experience.
What advice would you give to a beginning library student? Don’t be discouraged if you don’t land a part-time library or archives job at your university (despite trying your best to get one). Look for alternative ways to get hands-on experience and reach out for help or advice from those around you (e.g. in library associations you are a part of). Also, don’t shy away from taking courses that are outside your comfort zone. If you have the time and energy, find ways to work with your classmates beyond group assignments, e.g. throwing in your hat to take on a leadership role in an iSchool student club or association student chapter, etc.
Do you have anything else to add? When I was a little kid, I had trouble standing still while playing the violin. Preparing to perform at a competition, I worried my shoes would make noise on the stage so decided to play shoeless. The adjudicator docked points for my missing shoes and wrote a comment about this on my evaluation. I should have switched from classical to playing fiddle and stepdance.
Use the buttons below to connect with Janet. Stay tuned for the next interview!