Thursday, April 23, 2009

Save Smith's Josten Library!!

Smith College is considering closing the Werner Josten Performing Arts Library as a cost saving measure. Unfortunately, it seems that the money they would save closing the library would actually be negated by the cost of moving the materials and accomodating music listening needs and theater and dance viewing needs in the main library on campus.

For those who are on Facebook there is a page you can join to get more info or sign a petition to keep the library open. Just go here: Save Smith's Josten Library.

I worked at Josten from 1998-2000 as a graduate assistant. Josten supports the music, theater, and dance programs. Josten has an amazing collection and is recognized as one of the best performing arts libraries at a liberal arts college in the country. The college is planning on moving the collection into the main library. The main library is already overcrowded and part of the collection is in a storage facility. Josten's collection of 114,000 books, 60,000 sound recordings, and 2500 video recordings are going to go where?? And how is the main library going to accomodate listening stations and listening rooms (which Josten can currently accomodate) in this already overcrowded library? Josten also has a rare book room. Josten is used a lot by other members (students and faculty) of the Five College system. Plus it is used by a large part of the Smith College community, not just those majoring or minoring in music, theater, or dance. Lots of students participate in the arts at Smith and take classes in the arts or participate in ensembles and productions, without actually being a member of those departments.

I personally can't even imagine seeing the Josten collection squeezed into the Neilson Library. All those books, CDs, LPs, scores, and videos!! And down in the basement of Josten is a nice collection of orchestral and choral scores and parts that few know about. I remember taking the tunnel under the music building that went through the Josten basement into the theatre/dance area and walking by those locked cases of scores and parts. It's a huge part of the collection, and unlike most academic music libraries, the Josten library takes care of those scores and checks them out to the ensembles that use them. So will the music department take those over or will Neilson have to do it??

Josten is one of my favorite libraries. I have worked in three music or arts libraries and visited several others, and Josten is on the top of my list for a wide variety of reasons. As a graduate of Smith, I have a personal attachment to it. Actually, one of the pictures that is often used in promoting the libraries is one of Josten. It's the same picture that is on the Facebook page. It's taken from the mezzanine level looking down into the reference stacks. I know that picture well, since it looks like it was taken from the same location as the study carrel I had checked out to me for four semesters. As a librarian and a subject-specific librarian, I am very disappointed that a college would put so little value in the needs of specialized subject areas. Listening areas for individual and group study needs of music students are absolutely necessary. Someone suggested putting the sound collection behind the front desk in Neilson. 60,000 recordings?? Give me a break!! And video viewing areas are very important for dance students and theater students. Smith's video collection is mostly dance and theater oriented. You need places for these students to use those materials. And reference work for music, dance and (to some extent) theater is very important and very specialized. Music librarians have the specialized background to assist patrons with their music needs. It can't be done by just anyone!!

There is also a very historic component to the Josten Library. Josten is the only library I've worked in that actively keeps four classification systems going. Only two of them are being added to, but there have never been plans to convert the other two classification schemes, instead all items are left as they are. So the print book collection is in Dewey (older) and Library of Congress. The music score collection is in Cutter (older) and Library of Congress. The Cutter Classification is very unique!! The sound recording collection is in another scheme. I believe the video collection is in LC, but I'm not 100% certain on that one. So the Cutter Classification is truely historic and unique to Josten. Charles Cutter (one of the "big" names we learn in library school) worked at the Northampton public library and developed this classification system. The Public Library (just down the road from the Josten Library) still uses this system (I can't remember to what extent, I wasn't in there a whole lot) but I remember that a good part of the music collection in that library was still in Cutter. There may be a few other libraries in the Boston area that have some Cutter classification, but it is no longer widely used. Josten has kept it up because of the uniqueness. This is unique to the Library world, and should be preserved. I worry that moving the collection to the main library would mean re-classifying that part of Josten's collection into LC to make things "easier" for the main library. It is practical, but would be a great loss.

This whole mess is very disappointing and seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to budget issues rather than a well thought-out response to economic problems. Please consider signing the petition on the Facebook page. For those not on Facebook you can still express your concern by writing directly to Smith College President Carol Christ at

Thanks for reading this and I hope you will consider supporting this effort.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Reflection on Holy Week

In early March I wrote some reflections on the Season of Lent and promised to write more in regard to Holy Week later. So, now that we're nearing the end of Holy Week I figured it was time to write that reflection.

So what is Holy Week? This is the last week before Easter, a very holy time that begins with Palm Sunday and ends with the Easter Vigil on Saturday night. So much happens during this last week!

First Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday was this past Sunday and we started Mass outside the church where the bishop blessed our palms and a Gospel reading was read before the procession into the church. The procession reminds us all of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Once we're inside, the Mass starts and proceeds as normal. When we get to the Gospel reading, it is an extended reading of the crucifixion. I've always found this reading interesting and sometimes hard to participate in. This is one of a few times in the Church where the reading is written out for several readers and the congregation gets a part as well. I'm always uncomfortable with the role we get in the congregation as "the crowd." So our part usually consists of saying "Crucify him." It's an uncomfortable role, but I realized this year that it is also a good reminder that God is good. Christ died for us, he died for our sins. So although the people then shouted "crucify him" over and over again, and we today often turn our back on God assuming we know better, God still loves us and forgives us. It may be uncomfortable, but it really is a good reminder of our own sinfulness.

In previous years at the Cathedral we have had a Tenebre Service on Wednesday night of Holy Week. This year they moved it to Sunday night. As a result, we did not attend this year since I have to get up so early on Mondays. I was disappointed that it wasn't on Wednesday night because I always thought it was a great way to introduce the Triduum, which begins on Thursday. Anyway, I did write about the awesomeness of the Tenebre Service two years ago. So if you want to know more, check it out here.

Today is Holy Thursday and with today begins the Triduum. The Triduum is basically three days of prayer that preceed a special feast, in this case Easter, thus we call this three day period the Pascal Triduum. On Holy Thursday the Church holds a Mass to remember the Last Supper. Unfortunately, I am too sick today to attend this Mass, but my husband went tonight. Holy Thursday has so much meaning to it, it's truly an amazing day. During Mass the priest will reinact the washing of the feet. Traditionally twelve men will have there feet washed to represent the twelve apostles. In every Mass we remember the institution of the Eucharist during the Last Supper, but obviously it has much more meaning during this celebration of the Mass. Also, this is the last time we will celebrate the Eucharistic mystery until Easter. The priest will concecrate enough hosts during this Mass to also have available for tomorrow's Good Friday service. Then as the Mass comes to an end, the Eucharist is retired to a side chapel where He remains until midnight. That's also how the Mass ends, if my memory is serving me right. It's a very solemn ending, very moving.

At midnight Christ present in the Eucharist is removed from the Church. It is the only time during the year that Christ is not present in the church. I always find that the church seems kind of empty during that time. It makes the anticipation of Easter even greater. I'm not really sure where they put Christ during that time.

On Good Friday we remember the crucifixion of Christ. Also, it's a day of fast in the church: two small meals, one regular size meal, and no snacks. On Good Friday we have a service (not a Mass) to remember the crucifixion. Why do we not call it a Mass? Well, the Mass revolves around the Eucharist, and since the priest will not be concecrating any hosts, we call it a service. This service usually begins with a procession into the Church with a huge cross (at least in my church). During the service we will also all come to the front of the church to venerate the cross. I can't remember what else happens during the service. I know it's also a very solemn service. But at the same time it's a joyful time. That may sound strange, but that's why we call it Good Friday. Without Good Friday we wouldn't have Easter. Jesus died for our sins and this is the day that we remember that great sacrifice. What a wonderful reminder of the goodness of God!

Holy Saturday, the third day of the Pascal Triduum, is the one and only day in the Church where there is no Mass or service anywhere in the world. The Eucharist is still absent (since Christ had died) and it is not yet Easter (the celebration of the Resurrection). However, once the sun goes down on Holy Saturday, the Church begins the Easter season.

Lent ends and the Easter Season is ushered in with the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday night. After six weeks of Lent, six weeks of sacrifice and extra prayer, we joyfully welcome the six weeks of the Easter Season.

I enjoy Lent. Many people find it a struggle, and at times it certainly can be. But the sacrifices we make are only a small reminder of the sacrifice Jesus made for us. That reminder over the past six weeks makes Easter even sweeter.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

New Catholic Carnival

The most recent Catholic Carnival is up, check it out:

Catholic Carnival #218: Notre Dame and so Much More

And if you want to know more about the Catholic Carnival (how to get the weekly list, how to participate, etc.) check out this link: What is the Catholic Carnival?