Get to know the board: Vivian Teresa Tompkins, Midwest Liaison

Vivian Teresa Tompkins (she/her) is in her first term as the MLStEP Midwest Liaison, after serving as the New York State–Ontario Liaison last year. She is currently a first-year student in the Musicology PhD program at Northwestern University.

Vivian Teresa Tompkins in a graduation gown on the steps of a library, facing away from the camera.
This is me on the day I graduated from my MLIS program! Definitely an exciting time.

What are your areas of interest in music librarianship? I’m interested in digital resources and the digital humanities, and particularly in issues of inclusiveness and accessibility in these areas. My musicological research focuses on women’s music-making in 17th and 18th-century England, as well as broader topics of music and gender.

Why did you choose librarianship as a career path? I first realized I wanted to pursue a career in librarianship during a project I worked on as an undergraduate, in which I got to help make a collection of late 19th- and early 20th-century sheet music available as a digital resource. That experience helped me to see how I could combine my musicological research with projects focused on information organization and access.

What was your favorite part of library school? My favorite part of library school was getting to know classmates and professors interested in a wide variety of areas, from reference to metadata to special collections and much more. My friends and teachers helped me to learn about topics which I knew very little about before, but which have since helped me to gain a broader perspective in my own areas of specialization.

What has been your best experience as a member of MLA and/or MLStEP? One of my favorite MLStEP memories is from the American Musicological Society’s annual meeting in 2019, when a group of MLStEP members and others interested in music librarianship got together for dinner in Boston. I was attending the AMS conference alone, so it was really great to be able to connect with library friends and have that sense of community.

What advice would you give to a beginning library student? My advice would be to stay open to new interests and new areas of work and study, even if they don’t seem immediately related to the type of librarianship you want to pursue. I spent a good amount of time working on projects not directly related to music librarianship, but the skills and understanding I gained through those projects have proved very useful.

Do you have anything else to add? I think I’d like to share another bit of advice for any beginning library students: it’s OK if your path to librarianship looks different from what you might think is “expected.” Five years ago I was not planning to to pursue a PhD, but I decided it was important to the type of work that I want to do in my career as a librarian. There are so many different paths you can follow in librarianship (even just within music librarianship), and communities like MLA and MLStEP are there to provide support and encouragement as you figure out your own path.

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