Staff profile: Beth Kelly

How do you choose the right words to make music findable?

Who she is: Beth Kelly, music cataloger

What she does: Cataloging is all about making something findable. In terms of music materials, I use my subject expertise to construct access points and subject headings – creating a language that’s uniformly recognized. In music, that’s important because genre terms like “concerto” and symphony” are used over and over again, and they have to stay consistent.

I mainly work on scores and books about music and some recently acquired sound recordings housed in rare, namely the hip-hop and punk collections.

Why it’s important: Making bibliographic records is basically describing the information and writing down what I see and hear, so that it goes into the catalog. It pulls together all the information into something that people can actually find.

Education: I earned two degrees from Indiana University School of Music: a bachelor’s degree in flute performance and master’s degree in Early Music with a concentration in baroque flute. The second degree was very research oriented.

Background: I wanted to be a performer – I wish I had realized there could be a career in library science! Now I play and teach on the side. I am a member of Women’s Works, a group that performs music written by women composers and Finger Lakes Flutes, and I also play in chamber groups and pickup orchestras in and around Ithaca in addition to performing on programs with the music department at Cornell.

Years at Cornell: I worked at the Music Library for a year in 1991 to 1992, took time off to have a family, and returned in 2000 to my former position in acquisitions. Then, in 2007, the music cataloger position became available and I was so thrilled to be selected for this.

What she’s most proud of: Probably working on the new Hip Hop Collection. With early hip-hop, records often weren’t produced formally and have no label, so you have to pop it on the turntable and listen to it and figure it out yourself. I googled what I thought were the lyrics — my words were a little off, but I found the title of a song, and then I found the album. I finally could link it with the numbers that were scratched in the small area around the disc’s label, called the matrix.

Best part of her job: I love looking at something completely new and making the very first record for it. I like being the first one to get it out there. Our hip-hop and punk collections are so much fun because no one has them yet, and some of these recordings are even just single events or parties with a DJ or a rapper or mixer. They can never be recreated.

In her spare time: As a flutist, I try to perform as much as possible. In addition to performing I teach a small studio of students on flute, recorder and piano. I love to take long walks with my dog and I enjoy bike riding. You can see me hitching my bike outside of Olin in the mornings.

I listen to a lot of different kinds of music, but I’m not one of those people who always has earbuds in!  I like to sample the music I’m cataloging – it helps broaden my perspective, and I’m always looking for new sounds.

Dream job: I wish I could perform more, but in a lot of ways, I already have my dream job!


In this LibeScope series, interviews with library staff reveal their skills, talents, interests and backgrounds.