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Slide 1 
My talk is about my life as a rock and roll librarian. 
No, I’m not actively gigging with a band, although 
I do ...
Slide 2 
My first effort to bring rock into my library world 
was in my descriptive cataloging course in library 
school b...
Slide 3 
Other projects in library school included the 
creation of a thesaurus for popular music that did 
find its way t...
Slide 4 
Lastly, for my music cataloging course, I 
researched literary warrant in popular music 
recordings. I compared t...
Slide 5 
On to CUNY and the second masters in American 
Studies at the Graduate Center in the Liberal 
Studies Dept. Whene...
Other performers that became subjects of papers 
included Dusty Springfield, the New York Dolls, 
and Iggy Pop. 
Slide 6 
...
So after this is all over, I’m an assistant professor. 
Yeah, now I have to publish. Encyclopedia articles 
on rock perfor...
heavily influenced by James Brown as well as the 
American Black Power movement but Fela in turn 
influenced many Western ...
the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago goes 
down in history as guerilla street 
theater/performance at its best. 
Slid...
Slide 10 
[Trout Mask Replica cover] 
Lastly, this summer I wrote a very long 
encyclopedia article for the forthcoming 10...
One other rock-related publication was an 
annotated bibliography of academic writing on 
women in rock. It included journ...
Slide 11 
The three most popular performers for academics 
to write about are Elvis, Bob Dylan, and Bruce 
Springsteen. No...
great expanding my focus for my book project. The 
two takeaways: scholars either look at rock outside 
of the U.S. and En...
Slide 13 
Wrapping up, what have I learned from this 
project? I organized my thesis by discipline like 
another librarian...
So, as I mentioned earlier, scholarship on rock is 
all over the humanities and social-sciences map. 
The lion’s share of ...
complex performers such as Frank Zappa or 
Genesis, but most musicologists now bring in the 
social aspect of rock: the au...
Slide 14 
Usually … 
I’ll leave you to ponder these questions.
Slide 15 
Thank you!
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On Being a Rock and Roll Librarian

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A talk on how how I managed to bring my passion for rock music into my career as a librarian presented for the Library Association of CUNY's Grace-Ellen McCrann Memorial Lectures on Dec. 11, 2014.

My presentation details over 25 years of activities in my professional history from cataloging a radio station t-shirt to graduate school papers to my various encyclopedia articles to more recent work on rock scholarship.

Published in: Education
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On Being a Rock and Roll Librarian

  1. 1. Slide 1 My talk is about my life as a rock and roll librarian. No, I’m not actively gigging with a band, although I do play electric bass. Rather, this talk is about how I managed to bring my passion for rock music into my career as a librarian.
  2. 2. Slide 2 My first effort to bring rock into my library world was in my descriptive cataloging course in library school back 25 years ago. We were encouraged to catalog realia which is cataloger-speak for objects and material from everyday life. I cataloged a rather funky WFMU tshirt [note this is not the actual tshirt or catalog record] .
  3. 3. Slide 3 Other projects in library school included the creation of a thesaurus for popular music that did find its way to the Music Library Association (thanks Dan C.!) and a couple of libraries including the Roll and Roll Hall of Fame and the Experience Project.
  4. 4. Slide 4 Lastly, for my music cataloging course, I researched literary warrant in popular music recordings. I compared the actual text on a series of LPs from the Hammerstein archives at NYPL against how they were cataloged. My conclusion was LC subject headings were quite inadequate.
  5. 5. Slide 5 On to CUNY and the second masters in American Studies at the Graduate Center in the Liberal Studies Dept. Whenever possible, I wrote papers and/or did presentations on rock. My first course was a core course on Ethnicity and I had lots of fun doing my paper and a presentation on Parliament- Funkadelic and explored the dynamic between the more rock-oriented Funkadelic and its disco sibling Parliament.
  6. 6. Other performers that became subjects of papers included Dusty Springfield, the New York Dolls, and Iggy Pop. Slide 6 My thesis was on the monographic scholarly literature on rock.
  7. 7. So after this is all over, I’m an assistant professor. Yeah, now I have to publish. Encyclopedia articles on rock performers seemed like a good way to incorporate my expertise into scholarship. Often I was motivated because I wanted to highlight the importance of a certain performer in rock history. Slide 7 There was a call for articles for Africa and the Americas. I was fascinated by the circularity of Fela Kuti’s influence. Fela’s Afropop music was
  8. 8. heavily influenced by James Brown as well as the American Black Power movement but Fela in turn influenced many Western performers including … James Brown! Slide 8 My article on the MC5 and John Sinclair, another suggestion that was accepted, was for an encyclopedia on the American Counterculture. Although they were to some extent poseurs, the MC5 were debatably of all bands the most involved in radical politics—their battle cry performance at
  9. 9. the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago goes down in history as guerilla street theater/performance at its best. Slide 9 An article for Oxford on James Brown was challenging: I had to focus on Brown’s role in African American history and write less about his musical innovations and influence.
  10. 10. Slide 10 [Trout Mask Replica cover] Lastly, this summer I wrote a very long encyclopedia article for the forthcoming 100 Best Bands on Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band. I wanted to write on the Ramones, but that entry got snapped up and I thought it would be cool to write on Beefheart, a performer I knew more by reputation than by actual musical output. So try explaining an incredibly influential but difficult avant-garde, eccentric band like Beefheart … to lower-level undergraduates ... Challenging!
  11. 11. One other rock-related publication was an annotated bibliography of academic writing on women in rock. It included journal literature. And I managed to get a literature review out of my thesis that was presented at the Popular Culture Association and eventually published in Collection Building. That brings me to my never ending book project. My master thesis has turned into a behemoth of close to 500 annotations of academic monographs on rock.
  12. 12. Slide 11 The three most popular performers for academics to write about are Elvis, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen. Not surprisingly, these scholars often are based either in American Studies or employ more traditional literary methods. Genre is another key area in rock scholarship. There are rich bodies of work on both punk and metal. Earlier writing on metal often focused on deviance but now Metal Studies has come into own. It’s a hot area of study. I didn’t look at rock around the world when I did my master’s thesis, so it was
  13. 13. great expanding my focus for my book project. The two takeaways: scholars either look at rock outside of the U.S. and England in terms of globalization and national identity or … as a form of resistance. Slide 12 Here’s an annotation on a book about Tehran’s “unofficial” rock scene. The author is based in ethnomusicology.
  14. 14. Slide 13 Wrapping up, what have I learned from this project? I organized my thesis by discipline like another librarian scholar who published a book length bibliography on rock scholarship. But this structure just wouldn’t be that interesting to any potential readers, so I went with a thematic and topical organization that also allowed for books that were heavily focused on use of particular methodology that had no prevailing topical focus.
  15. 15. So, as I mentioned earlier, scholarship on rock is all over the humanities and social-sciences map. The lion’s share of work comes from  Musicology  Cultural studies  Sociology and ethnography-related academic work including ethnomusicology But you name it, almost every humanities or social sciences discipline or methodology is somewhere in the literature. Here’s what’s interesting! The main thing that has changed over the years that I’ve been working on this project is that academic writing on rock has become much more interdisciplinary, especially for the musicologists. A couple of early outliers in the musicology community published important books but it wasn’t until much more recently, say the last ten years or less, that the vast major of musicologists writing on rock have embraced moving beyond the kind of formal analysis which they are trained in. That doesn’t mean that some don’t gravitate towards fairly analytic studies of
  16. 16. complex performers such as Frank Zappa or Genesis, but most musicologists now bring in the social aspect of rock: the audiences, the reception of the music, the idea of subcultures. In turn, non-musicologists sometimes take the plunge and formally analyze songs, recordings, and performances as well. There is definitely a more cohesive discourse on rock where the scholars are influenced by scholars outside of their specific discipline. The main conceptual tension revolves around the concept of authenticity in rock. Is rock truly counter-hegemonic or is it faux subversive? How do gender and class tie into this tension? Lastly, is this dialectic even valid?Most fans and musicians are much more aware than we think.
  17. 17. Slide 14 Usually … I’ll leave you to ponder these questions.
  18. 18. Slide 15 Thank you!

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