Get To Know Your Membership

In this issue, we get to know Dr. Donna Arnold, Music Reference Librarian at the University of North Texas, in Denton.

Donna Arnold

How would you describe the work that you do at the University of North Texas Music Library?

For years I have been UNT’s music reference librarian; I am the first person ever to hold that title.  My office is near our Music Library’s service desk, and whenever I am on duty, I am available to answer all kinds of reference questions for patrons in the UNT community.  I seldom need to make reference appointments, for our patrons can find me easily.  I also answer questions from people outside UNT who e-mail us, send us postal mail, or phone us.  I maintain an online music subject guide to support various music classes.  I also do music circulation work and train all new staff members. 

One of the things I love most about my job is the variety.  I might get a question about Renaissance motets, followed by one about which popular songs were big hits a few years ago.  In person, I serve a variety of patrons:  doctoral students, master’s students, faculty scholars, undergraduates, members of the community, and other visitors.  Virtually, I serve patrons such as faculty members and students from other universities, independent scholars, and music lovers interested in our collections.  I have several “regulars” from near and far who have been consulting me for research help for years.  I am proud of what I call our “tag-team reference service.”  For questions outside my bailiwick, I can tag many fine colleagues with a wide variety of expertise to help me.

What are some of the most challenging or interesting reference questions from over the years?

Some of the most difficult and fascinating have come from DMA students and faculty members who needed help to obtain certain rare scores for their dissertation recitals or recording projects.  Graduate students trying to prove that their proposed thesis or dissertation topic would represent original research have often consulted me.  A scholar from another country asked me to examine water marks in some of our rare Lully scores to see if they matched the ones in a source he was studying.  A researcher asked complex questions about the venues on Stan Kenton’s touring schedules.  An organologist asked me to help him track patents on certain 19th-century brass instruments.  A community member with a bluegrass band asked for help to find certain little-known bluegrass and traditional songs from the early 20th century.  What I have learned on the job, in university courses, and through my own personal interest have all helped me with such questions.

In the past decade of technological and digital changes, have you seen any changes in the number or types of reference requests?

One of the biggest changes is that our internet presence has made it much easier for people far away to know about us and know about the many special collections we hold.  For example, our website with scans of first and early editions of Lully’s works has brought us attention and many inquiries from scholars in various parts of the world.  Detailed finding aids, such as those for our Stan Kenton collection, make it easier for researchers to hone in on how we can help them.  I am very pleased with the vast arsenal of digital and print resources we have, for with this great combination we can answer questions better than ever. 

What appeals most to you about being a member of MLA?

Getting to know so many wonderful colleagues from all over the country and keeping up with many fine people out in the profession who received their training at UNT are the most rewarding things for me.  Learning from colleagues about cutting-edge developments and learning how they deal with some of the very same problems or situations we deal with are invaluable.  Also, I really enjoy all of the wonderful cities we get to visit for our annual meetings.