Library Legacies: Jean Harden

Library Legacies is a story series featuring the faculty and staff that have been longtime members of the UNT Libraries.

How long have you worked at the libraries?

Jean had already started working in cataloging when she was told about a new opportunity as a Music Cataloging Librarian at UNT Libraries. After interviewing in the summer, she moved from Rochester, New York to Denton, Texas in September 1994. She was able to find an apartment from a connection of a person retiring from the music library. Moving in the heat of the summer wasn’t ideal, so Jean made sure to contact Denton Co Utilities to ensure that water and electricity would be turned on when she arrived. Email wasn’t quite popular yet, and they were hesitant to provide service without her coming into their office. After many phone calls and explanations of “I live in New York and cannot come in” they finally acquiesced if she promised to come in the day after she arrived, and with that she prepared for her move to Texas.

What jobs have you had at the libraries?

Jean started in the Music Library as a Music Cataloging Librarian and continued in that position until 2013 when she became the Coordinator of Music Technical Services.

Do you have a favorite collection?

Jean loves medieval music. To complete her doctorate from Cornell she studied for one year in Paris to complete her dissertation entitled “Sharps, flats, and scribes: Musica ficta in the Machaut manuscripts”. Machaut is a poet and composer who wrote in the 14th century.

What are three things you do in your job?

Besides coordinating music cataloging, Jean is a member of RDA (Resource Description and Access). This international committee works to set a standard for descriptive cataloging and provides instructions and guidelines on formulating bibliographic data. Working internationally has provided Jean with great opportunities to contribute to her craft, and learning opportunities as well. In one case, the Finnish representative had vetoed proposed changes to a naming system regarding the pluralizing of titles. Upon further research, Jean found that making a work plural in Finnish doesn’t quite work the same as in English, it makes a whole new word. This would mean that similar titles would be placed nowhere near each other if the naming standards would to change. Jean entitled this debacle “The Finnish Exception”.

Additionally, Jean is teaching a course on music cataloging. This hands on class allows students to practice cataloging with real items, and gifted students may even be able to process video. Jean’s textbook, recently featured in the Faculty Author Exhibit, is the cornerstone of this inverted classroom where students read outside of class and get practical experience during the lesson.

What’s changed since you started here?

Digitization has really gotten popular in every vein of library operations, books checkouts are recorded digitally and no longer with stamped cards and the cataloging databases Jean uses see constant improvements and changes.

But even digitization of processes and materials has not reduced the enormous size of the music library. In a culling effort, over 60,000 titles were moved to remote storage, and Jean could hardly tell the difference when they were removed. The collection continues to grow and it’s currently over 300,000 titles.

What is something you are looking forward to in the upcoming year?

Jean will be retiring in May of 2019 and although she may be leaving UNT Libraries her work in cataloging will continue. She will be working on the second edition of her book, Music Description and Access: Solving the Puzzle of Cataloging. RDA will be releasing updated standards soon so Jean plans to update her textbook “Music Description and Access: Solving the Puzzle of Cataloging.”

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