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In 1921, the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto (which had been established in 1918) took over the operation of what was then the Toronto Conservatory of Music’s library. This year marks our 100th anniversary, and we are grateful to the editors of Open Shelf and InsideOCULA for the opportunity to document our history, current state and special collections in a series of articles over the coming months. This month, we wrap up the series by looking back at the ways we celebrated this year.
By: Janneka Guise
The year 2021 was a difficult year to celebrate a milestone like the University of Toronto Music Library’s 100th Anniversary. In a pre-pandemic world, staff would have created physical exhibitions in the library space, organized a lecture series about the library’s history and special collections, and/or planned a big party with food, drink, and musical performers. From January 1st, 2021 to April 23, 2021 however, the Music Library was open only 4 hours per day, Monday to Friday. Services consisted only of curbside pickup and printing, with staffing of one or two people per day to handle curbside requests and re-shelving. The library offered no study or computer spaces. As with all University of Toronto Libraries (UTL), the stacks were off-limits for browsing. From April 23 to June 13 the UTL entered full lockdown a second time as COVID cases continued to rise in Toronto (the first full lockdown was at the beginning of the pandemic: March 2020-August 2020). On June 14th, 2021 the UTL and the music library re-opened for curbside pickup and printing, with the same hours and staffing as April 2021.
As COVID vaccines became widely available and the university community was eligible to receive both doses of the vaccine, the UTL began planning for a full re-opening for September 2021. The music library opened fully on September 7th, welcoming music faculty, staff, and students back to browse the stacks and use study and computer spaces. Hours, staffing, and services are very similar to pre-pandemic times. One major difference is that the Edward Johnson Building where the music library resides is now locked and fob access only for current music faculty, staff, and students. As long as the building access remains restricted, alumni, members of the public, donors, and U of T students from other faculties cannot visit the music library in person.
The COVID restrictions and lockdowns meant that, for the first eight months of 2021, library staff found creative ways of celebrating the 100th anniversary in the virtual environment. Happily, this strategy helped the library continue to engage its users (both those with and without FOB access) during the pandemic.
100 posts for 100 years on Instagram
Throughout the anniversary year, all current library staff (and a few retired staff!) have combed the music library’s holdings for interesting items to highlight for every year of the library’s existence. The Instagram project was a great way to engage library staff during periods of remote work. You can view all 100 posts on the library’s Instagram page.
Notes from the Music Library blog
As the year progressed, and decades of items featured on the Instagram page, Music Archivist Rebecca Shaw organized the posts into articles for the music library’s blog. Each article starts with a short paragraph, names the library staff responsible for curating that decade’s content, and then lists the featured items with descriptions and photos.
If you peruse the rest of the blog you will see additional stories and virtual exhibitions that library staff have contributed during the pandemic.
Open House — finally!
Once the music library re-opened on September 7th, 2021, staff realized there might be an opportunity for an in-person Open House event to celebrate the anniversary. As the semester progressed and no COVID cases were reported on campus, we formed an Open House planning team.
The team chose the date of Friday December 3rd in order to accommodate scheduling the UTL’s Chief Librarian and the Dean of the Faculty of Music to give welcoming remarks. We engaged members of the Bedford Trio to play live music throughout the event. One of the library’s distinguished donors gave a short lecture on a large collection of early to mid 20th century vocal music recordings he donated in 2020. The planning team prepared a bulletin board timeline exhibit and a physical exhibition of library materials authored/composed/performed by Faculty of Music Alumni. Throughout the latter half of November, the planning team solicited submissions of photos and remembrances to feature on a screen during the event. Due to COVID capacity limits we restricted in-person attendance to 25 visitors and livestreamed (and recorded) the event for the general public. The music library is fortunate to have a Student Library Assistant (SLA) enrolled in the Master of Music Technology program who set up and operated the camera, microphones, and software required for the livestream. Because of limited visitor capacity and ongoing COVID concerns, the planning team decided not to offer refreshments but instead ordered tastefully decorated and wrapped cookies that visitors took away with them. We also gave away branded tote bags and pencils, and presented these to speakers as thank-you gifts.
The music library is grateful to the editors of Open Shelf for providing space for this year’s “Becoming the University of Toronto Music Library” series. It has been a pleasure to reflect on and raise awareness of our history, special collections, and current practices.
Janneka (Jan) Guise is the Director of the Music Library at the University of Toronto. Prior to joining the U of T in 2017 she was Head of the Eckhardt-Gramatté Music Library at the University of Manitoba for 10 years. She has also worked in academic libraries in Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta, and Kansas. Jan has served on the Board of the Canadian Association of Music Libraries, Archives, and Documentation Centres (CAML) in several capacities and was President from 2011-2013. She is a co-Lead Editor for the open access journal CAML Review.