Rockin’ the library
It takes serious effort to organize the chaotic world of rock ‘n’ roll. And Ned Denby was up for the challenge.
The 21-year-old LSU graduate student spent her summer as an intern at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archives, where she got to put her library science education into practice. The Cleveland facility, located next to the famous museum, collects and organizes anything pertaining to rock ‘n’ roll for the enjoyment and information of the masses.
“I went there to do digitizing of interviews,” says Denby. “They have tapes of old programs, interviews, lectures and talks that they put on at the actual Rock Hall. They have a crazy work load.”
Once an artifact is digitized, it must be catalogued, a task Denby often managed. She also helped with processing, which she describes as “basically going through collections and organizing them and making them make sense.”
It seems straightforward, but small details are easily overlooked.
“Paper clips and staples can rust and cause damage,” Denby says. “That’s what processing is: taking all that stuff out.”
Another “neat” task of Denby’s was creating finding aids, or comprehensive overviews of a collection.
“They help researchers find out what’s in a collection,” she explains. “After the processing, you have to write up what’s in it and where it is, like the organization that you put to it. It’s kind of a big deal because there are a lot of standards for stuff so it can be universalized across all of the archives.”
The inherent coolness of being immersed in rock ‘n’ roll history lends itself to fascinating conversation, but multiple non-disclosure agreements have hindered Denby’s bragging rights. She says her former bosses want people to visit and see the artifacts for themselves.
She was at liberty to discuss a few of the things she enjoyed most, though.
“I worked on a collection of reel-to-reels of radio spots from the ’60s through the ’90s. For that, it was going through and putting them in alphabetical order and making sure they weren’t moldy or damaged,” she says, noting that she particularly enjoyed listening to decades-old alternative spots.
A vault tour was another major highlight of the summer. Denby got to experience all the secret items and collections not yet on display in the museum. She also got to help out a bit with an oral history project involving major players from rock ‘n’ roll history around the country.
It was a summer filled with practical learning. While Denby would love to one day pursue a career with the museum, people rarely leave and job openings are scarce. But she fell in love with Cleveland, and says she would go back if she gets a job there.
For now, Denby is finishing up her master’s in library science at LSU. She is a student worker at the State Library of Louisiana, where she’s using the skills she learned from her internship.
“I want to work in an archive setting. It’s hard to get practical experience without doing the job,” Denby says. “The internship gave me a lot of context for what I’m learning.”