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My Job at the Library: Sharing a Love for the Library’s Music Collections

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Cait Miller is a reference specialist in the Music Division. This post was first published in the May–June issue of LCM, the Library of Congress Magazine. “My Job” is a regular feature in the magazine, issues of which are available in their entirety online.

Cait Miller holds lyricist Howard Ashman’s personal Sebastian the Crab, featured in animated form in “The Little Mermaid.” Photo by Shawn Miller.

How would you describe your work at the Library?
I am most often found in the Performing Arts Reading Room welcoming researchers, orienting people to the Music Division’s collections, answering questions about accessing the collections and presenting orientations to individuals and groups. I relish any opportunity, whether in the reading room, via Ask A Librarian or writing for the Library’s “In the Muse” blog, to share our collections and programs with the public. I’ve lost track of the number of times someone has commented to me at the reference desk or after an orientation: “You have the coolest job!” I couldn’t agree more!

How did you prepare for your position?
As a music major in college, I knew that a career in performance was not for me but desperately wanted to find something where I could maintain a strong tie to music. One career kept popping up in conversations: music librarianship. During a summer home from college, I took an internship in the American Folklife Center and was inspired by the Library’s collections and service to the public. I started a dual-degree program at Catholic University one week following my college graduation and received an M.S. in library science as well as an M.A. in musicology. (As a part of my library science program, I actually took an internship in the Music Division, thinking it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!) After graduating, I applied for a music reference specialist position in the Music Division and was incredibly lucky to be selected. About a year into the job, I decided to also pursue a Ph.D. in musicology. I am now officially working on my dissertation: “At the Intersection of Gender, Nationalism and the Dangerous Woman: Lorelei in Nineteenth-Century Song.”

What projects have you especially enjoyed?
While I am passionate about all genres of music, I’ve been particularly delighted to have the opportunity to work with musical theater. One of my favorite projects grew out of a passing comment by my colleague Mark Horowitz alerting me to correspondence in the Oscar Hammerstein Collection. The correspondence was between a nun named Sister Gregory and Oscar Hammerstein while he was working on “The Sound of Music.” As I read the letters, I realized that the correspondence brought new insight into the creative process of Hammerstein, and I requested and was granted permission from Sister Gregory’s Order (the Sinsinawa Order) to digitize the letters. You can read my blog post on Sister Gregory and see the letters online.

What have been some of your most memorable experiences at the Library?
I would have to say my most memorable experience in the Music Division was when Lin-Manuel Miranda visited the Performing Arts Reading Room in October 2017. He was here to conduct his own research in our collections, but my colleague Janet McKinney and I curated a small display of items that we thought he would appreciate (we have been inspired by him since our first listen to the “Hamilton” cast album). He tweeted about his favorite items in the display: an early draft of a lyric for “Maria” from “West Side Story” and lyricist Howard Ashman’s personal Sebastian the Crab stuffed animal (a favorite of mine as well!).

Comments (2)

  1. How envious I am. Altho I am now retired from a career in law librarianship and legislative research, my first real college love was for music. I was not, however, as strong in performance as most of my college peers. Sadly no one even mentioned music librarianship to me as a real possibility. I would feel sorry for myself but for the simple fact that a love for music is a lifetime thing. And it still doesn’t hurt to have had that career in librarianship.

  2. 19 June 2018
    Good morning Ms. Miller: Thank you kindly for sharing part of your journey at the Music Collection of the Library of Congress. The Library, and those of us who use the collection, are quite fortunate to have you available for assistance and direction. I wish you continued success in your music career at the Library of Congress.

    Would you care to switch jobs with me for a day or two?

    Best regards,

    Warren E. Brown, Esq.
    Washington, D. C.

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