Student Spotlight: Sophie Cohen at the Marvin Duchow Music Library

Student employment in the McGill Library benefits the entire McGill community. At 100+ strong this academic year, McGill Library student workers gain valuable work experience while engaging in academic pursuits.  Student navigators, curatorial interns, special project assistants and student researchers bring an immeasurable amount to the life and culture of the Library. Over the next few weeks, Library Matters will share testimonials from library student workers, many of whom come to us through programs like McGill’s Work Study Program and are supported by students societies and associations like the SSMU Library Improvement Fund (LIF), the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS), the McGill Music Undergraduate Student Association (MUSA) and Post Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS). Thank you to all our student workers – your hard work and dedication mean the world to the Library and McGill!

Sophie Cohen next to a bookshelf in the Marvin Duchow Music Library

Sophie Cohen is completing the second year of a B.Mus. degree in Oboe Performance and works at the Marvin Duchow Music Library.

Library Matters (LM): What made you want to apply to work for the library?

Sophic Cohen (SC): I applied to work at the Marvin Duchow Music Library because I simply love the space. It’s comfortable, super convenient for me (being a music student), and so very useful. I wanted to join a work environment that was already close to my heart. Additionally, I have always had an interest in the operation of libraries which motivated me to apply.

LM: What kind of work have you been doing? Has it been virtual / onsite / hybrid?

SC: At the MDML, I attend to a number of involving tasks. I often move around between the service desk and the Audio/Visual Equipment Hub which both present their own challenges. At the service desk, I am in charge of checking out books, scores, large ensemble parts, and any holds that a patron has requested. It is also my job to help anyone that has a question or is in need. As I am quite nervous around new people, this challenges my interpersonal skills which I welcome. When the AV Hub is closed, I also check in and out all of the different types of equipment that we supply. When I am scheduled for AV Hub work, I respond to equipment requests and help prepare items that patrons have requested. This can be super interesting as nearly every request is different. I continue to learn tips and tricks about each camera or microphone every time that I work with them. As a music student, this is very helpful. Knowing all of this information about equipment that I will inevitably need for recordings is invaluable.

LM: What do you like about working at the Library?

SC: My favourite thing about working in the library are my co-workers. Everyone is so kind and helpful. There are a lot of procedures that need to be followed precisely in order to operate a library (especially a music one) and at the beginning, it can be confusing and slightly overwhelming. Without my co-workers (full-time and casual) answering all my questions and supporting me throughout the process, I would not feel nearly as comfortable and settled-in to my work as I do today. I have become friends with many of them and I am so grateful that this position connected me to them. 

LM: What surprised you the most about working at the Library?

SC: As I mentioned previously, there are many very precise procedures that staff follow in order to run the MDML successfully. Even though this sort of seems like a “duh” statement, I was still very surprised to learn about them all. When you go to the library as a patron, you might browse around a bit, maybe drop a book off, sit down and work on an assignment, and then head home without a second thought. When I was just a patron, I never even thought about the processes that staff went through just to shelve regular items. The Library of Congress system is confusing!! And this isn’t even considering the knowledge needed to take care of and handle expensive, complicated, and sometimes delicate AV equipment. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. So much goes on behind the scenes and it shocked me.

LM: Any “Aha!” moments or takeaways from the experience?

SC: Thus, my main takeaway from working at the MDML is that everything is more than it seems. Jobs and procedures that seem simple to the patron have a lot more going on in the back that you are not aware of unless you work there. Knowing this has empowered me and made me very proud to work at the music library.

LM: Coolest, oddest, most interesting things you have come across/experienced?

SC: Finally, the most interesting part of working at the MDML is getting to see and handle the items. I love picking up an old-looking book while shelving and seeing that it’s a series of essays about Beethoven published in the early 1900s. A 100-year-old book by a lesser-known music theorist is just sitting there on the shelf, waiting to be discovered! Or getting to go into the Special Collections Room and seeing some of the Library’s rarest and most coveted items. Or taking a peek into a score someone has returned and then wanting to take it out myself. For me, there is no better feeling than that of discovery.

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