WSU School of Music Professor Keri McCarthy has been named the 2021 recipient of the WSU Libraries’ Excellence Award.

The award recognizes a non-library WSU faculty or staff member who has shown consistent support for the WSU Libraries. Recipients are chosen based on encouraging students to use the libraries; personal use of the libraries; personal support of or contributions to the libraries’ collections or services; interaction and cooperation with library faculty; and service on library-related committees.

Keri McCarthy

The Excellence Award program began in 1980, honoring C. Gardner Shaw of WSU’s Department of Plant Pathology as the first recipient. Nearly 35 faculty and staff have received the honor.

“WSU Libraries thrive because of the interest and commitment of faculty like Dr. McCarthy,” said WSU Libraries Dean Jay Starratt. “She has the rare ability to excite students about library resources, a necessity for them on the road to lifelong learning.”

Personal history with libraries

Love of and excitement for libraries run deep in McCarthy’s family. Her mother, Suzanne, has worked for almost 20 years in their hometown library in Baldwinsville, N.Y.

“This award reflects some of the love for knowledge that she shared with me when I was a child,” McCarthy said. “I have great respect for WSU’s librarians and staff, and the collections they have cultivated. I have spent so much time over the years in Holland, Terrell and Kemble Stout libraries in particular, both conducting research and sharing research methods with my students. The WSU library system has given me so much, and I am surprised and grateful to be recognized.”

It isn’t surprising that McCarthy found her way into librarianship. She was offered work-study in both cataloguing and music departments at her college library at Ithaca College and learned how knowledge is organized and shared through print and recorded traditions. She helped prepare and organize archival materials in music and developed a passion for preserving rare items and repertoires.

“My comfort with academic libraries was especially valuable during my graduate studies in music history and ethnomusicology,” McCarthy said. “When I arrived at WSU, Holland and Terrell libraries were essential as I developed expertise in new repertoires, regions and methodologies. After so many years perusing the stacks and accessing online databases, WSU’s online and physical libraries are a home of sorts, places to explore new ideas and reaffirm beliefs.”

Developing their own voices

For McCarthy, information literacy is a key part of her students’ academic experience—and a skill for life.

“When students learn about search strategies and discover new types of resources, their worlds can open up in unexpected and revelatory ways,” she said. “Developing information literacy skills during undergraduate studies enriches guided education (in the form of papers, research projects, etc.), but beyond that, information literacy also highlights areas where research is currently lacking and points toward needed inquiries and future research.

“I have seen so many WSU students uncover personal and professional paths by engaging a topic, discovering its boundaries and pursuing novel approaches toward unanswered questions,” McCarthy added. “In this way, information literacy allows students to develop their own voices and become experts in their fields.”

The value of Kemble Stout Library

At Kemble Stout Music Library, located in Kimbrough Hall, students are free to study scores of repertoire they are playing, conducting and studying, McCarthy said. Great music research resources are available there too, such as composers’ complete editions, as well as an excellent listening library. Librarian Sean Taylor, like his predecessor Bill Payne, cultivates a collection of high-quality recordings for students and faculty to listen to.

“The library has become a place where students study, rest and listen next to practice spaces and music classrooms,” she said. “Kemble Stout Music Library is a unique feature of WSU’s School of Music, one that is admired and highly valued by our faculty members and students.”

A missed calling?

Many library employees have had the opportunity to work with McCarthy over the years because of her passion for promoting library resources, said award nominator Gabriella Reznowski, WSU librarian for business, economics, music and foreign languages.

Reznowski first worked with McCarthy several years ago while filling in for another librarian during an instruction session. The goal of her session was to introduce students to specialized resources for music research, including reference books, library databases and scholarly monographs.

“Through an inquiry-based, student-led approach, Dr. McCarthy engaged her students in a collaborative search for resources,” Reznowski said. “While it is often difficult to ensure every student is heard during such a session, Dr. McCarthy put her students at ease as they weighed in on which resources they felt were best for their topics, and why…She created an atmosphere that was conducive to conversation, one that included all participants, with no ‘one’ voice taking precedent over the others.

“I have often thought that Dr. McCarthy had missed her calling as a librarian,” Reznowski added. “I think we librarians could each learn from her approach to information literacy and her ability to promote library resources. However, I know that if she had pursued librarianship, we would not have the amazing oboe and music history professor that today reaches so many students and serves as a role model for the love of her craft.”

—Story by Nella Letizia