A peek inside St. Olaf’s unique music library

With innumerable beautiful academic buildings and unique study spots on campus, the Halverson Music Library is one of the hidden treasures that St. Olaf offers students.

This library, tucked away on the first floor of the Christiansen Hall of Music (CHM), is dedicated specifically to music and music research. The library contains materials found nowhere else on campus and includes over “15,000 books, 22,500 scores and 18,000 physical recordings along with an extensive collection of electronic materials (e-books, journal articles, and streaming media),” according to Research and Instruction Librarian Ellen Ogihara.

Three staff members work at the library, including Ogihara, Mary Huismann, the music catalog librarian and Kali Schwartz, the access services associate. A team of around 20 students work seven days and nights a week to make the library safe and welcoming for everyone.

The music library boasts “lots of fantastic, high-quality resources to do extensive, deep intensive research on music topics of all kinds,” Ogihara said. The library curates many materials that are usually only found in research institutions with a graduate degree program. Drawing on the extraordinary access this collection provides, Ogihara added that St. Olaf students have the opportunity to watch Metropolitan Opera performances for free from their dorm rooms.

“Resource-wise, Ellen Ogihara, the main research librarian, is an amazing resource herself as she can help you either use the databases or even locate some harder-to-find sources for you,” said Grace Martin ’22, a music and Russian major. “It’s fun to flit through the stacks as well, both the section with scores, non-classical music and literature. I also like the view of the hillside.”

The library offers equipment such as external drives, noise-cancelling headphones and metronomes for check-out, along with computers with music software and connection to audio playback equipment such as LP and CD-ROM players.

Furthermore, the library is a welcoming place for students to study and gather. Open to any and all students, the music library is not exclusive to music students and the library staff itself includes a number of non-music majors.

“Historically, our library has been both a study space and a social space.” Ogihara said. It has many different study spaces to fit any student’s needs, such as long tables, window seats with computers and nice views, comfy sofas and a group study room that is unfortunately closed this year due to COVID-19.

“In the past, when movement wasn’t so restricted and more was happening in the music department every day, I loved doing homework in the music library, as it was a highly convenient spot to work in between rehearsals and class,” Martin said. “It also has a lovely cozy environment and many of my friends and acquaintances from the music department would be around to chat with.”

“There are so many things I adore about the music library, like the fantastic collection, our sweet and fun patrons and the fantastic team of staff and students that I am lucky enough to work with,” Ogihara said. “The community around the music library feels intimate and special.”

Considering that most music libraries are integrated into the main library at a university, Ogihara explained that St. Olaf offers a special opportunity with the stand-alone music library and unique collection.

In all, Ogihara welcomes all students to drop in and check out the special opportunities and resources that the music library has to offer, saying, “Due to COVID, we have to ask students to stay six feet apart, but we still encourage everyone to come on in and say hi!”