Harvard College Library

Collaborative Effort: New Book In Student Series

May 25, 2001 -- The immense range of resources available to students, faculty and staff in the Harvard community often present the opportunity for collaboration among the three groups, making possible the creation of many unique and highly specialized projects. It is an opportunity that is frequently taken advantage of, and one recent collaboration involved the participants in Music 208, a seminar on Music in Jewish Religious and Cultural Life, their teacher, and Harvard College Library staff from the Judaica Division and the Loeb Music Library. Their efforts have been turned into a book, Studies in Jewish Musical Traditions: Insights from the Harvard Collection of Judaica Sound Recordings, that was published by the Harvard Judaica Division in the Spring of 2001.

Shelemay, some of her students, and staff members of the Judaica Division and the Loeb Music Library at the reception.

When Kay Kaufman Shelemay, Harvard Professor of Music since 1993, offered a seminar in Jewish music for the first time in the Fall of 1999, she had already thought about the possibility of publishing the best of the papers to be produced by her students. A discussion with Head of the Area Studies Department Dr. Charles Berlin had lead to the opportunity of publishing the papers as part of the Harvard Judaica Collection Student Research Paper Series. Shelemay's hopes were surpassed when all of her eight students, five in the graduate program and three undergraduates, turned in "extremely high quality papers."

"Initially, we had been concerned that it might be a challenge to find appropriate projects for all seminar members," Shelemay, who edited the volume, explains, "especially those without expertise in Jewish studies or Hebrew language." But the extraordinary range of materials in the Judaica collection provided ample materials, she says, pointing out that there was a great deal of collaboration between members of the Judaica Division staff, staff of the Eda Kuhn Music Library, herself, and the students throughout the seminar.

In fact, Shelemay says, the coordination and collaboration was a bit more elaborate than required by most other courses, since each student needed access to special materials, many of which were in storage and required processing from one medium to another, such as from a record to a cassette tape.

Shelemay worked with the students to focus projects and identify scholarly materials, while Violet Gilboa, Littauer Hebraica Technical and Research Services Librarian, coordinated their interests with materials in the collection. The Music Library provided access to materials already in their collections and aided with the transfer of others to a conveniently usable format.

The course itself was not interdisciplinary in its organization, Shelemay explains, but the students had a wide variety of backgrounds ranging from Judaica studies to music research, which enabled them to help each other and collaborate across boundaries of age and discipline.

At a recent reception to celebrate the accomplishments of all involved and the publication of the book, Associate Librarian of Harvard College for Collections, Jeff Horrell, recognized the hard work everyone has put into the volume.

"This collection of essays represents a fine example of collaboration of a Harvard faculty member, her students, and the extensive resources of the College Library, in this case the Judaica collection of Area Studies Department of Widener Library," he said. "It is rewarding for all involved to see the results of the completed research and the steps taken to publish this impressive volume."

Indeed, says Berlin, this book is an example of library-faculty-student interaction in a very meaningful way, illustrating the key role of librarians in in-depth collection development in a field of study, helping to create a resource for research that would otherwise not be possible. The project itself would also have been more difficult to undertake if the Judaica Division didn't have such a solid basis for research to start out with. Its collection of commercial Jewish music sound recordings, the largest in any research library, is cataloged extensively in HOLLIS, allowing all materials to be accessible.

"This book demonstrates the effectiveness of library outreach," Berlin says. "In this case, the Judaica Division's providing bibliographic guidance to students in the effective utilization of the Jewish music collection, and maintaining a publication series to publish outstanding student research papers that in turn encourages other students to use the collection."

In addition to the Division's providing resources and guidance, Judaica Technical Services Librarian Elizabeth Vernon coordinated the entire publication process.

And Shelemay, who hopes to offer the seminar again at the earliest opportunity, couldn't be happier with the end result.

"I am delighted that the Harvard College Library has published these eight student essays," she says. "This volume is a most rewarding outcome of our exploration of sound recordings from the Harvard Judaica collection. It is the first publication for all the students involved and in this sense is an important milestone in their academic careers."

List of students and titles of their papers:

This story appears courtesy of the Harvard College Library Communications Office
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