When Anders Griffen was a student working at the circulation desk in the library at SUNY Purchase, he used to wonder about the reference librarians. Students would come asking complicated reference questions, and he would send them to the reference desk thinking their quest quite hopeless. Yet he was surprised to find the students satisfied as they left the building. "I thought, 'What are they doing at the reference desk? That's amazing.'"
The experience planted a seed for Anders, who has found himself in libraries ever since graduating from library school at UCLA. He has worked as an archivist at several different libraries, and joins the Institute of Jazz Studies as project archivist for the "Women in Jazz" project. Earlier this year IJS was awarded a $165,000 grant to process four IJS collections of female jazz performers, those of: Ella Fitzgerald, Abbey Lincoln, Annie Ross, and Victoria Spivey.
Anders approaches his work with enthusiasm, eager to return to archives after a three-year stint as a catalog librarian at the Manhattan School of Music, two years of which were spent as Head Catalog Librarian. His archival experience includes working in the performing arts collections at New York Public Library and UCLA.
"This is a perfect return to archival work," said Anders, because of the intersection of archival work, his passion for jazz, and his background as a musician. A drummer, he provides the drums for a variety of artists, from folk to jazz, pop and beyond.
Since 1996, the date of his first tour, Anders has been an active professional musician and composer. He has recorded and performed with jazz saxophonist Frank Lowe and can be heard on Lowe's album, "Vision Blue." He has also performed with many female artists, including Diane Cluck, Kimya Dawson, and Regina Spektor, among many others.
After graduating with a BFA in music composition, Anders moved to Los Angeles to continue his musical career. Searching for employment to supplement his music work, Anders remembered his experience in the SUNY Purchase library. He applied to UCLA library school and nowhere else, with the idea that if it did not work out he would have to consider other options.
Well, things have worked out well for Anders, who manages the busy life of an archivist and musician with grace. Although his is a two-year position, he is excited to be part of IJS's effort to make materials available to scholars, especially in the digital age. "I feel like I'm at a certain beginning for IJS…the first wave of this change," he said.
As Anders has been processing the Abbey Lincoln collection, he has found inspiration in her notes about art, politics, and all manner of things. She often wrote about "the art of being human," Anders paraphrased, something that scholars will soon be able to read and appreciate as well.
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Photograph taken by Robert Nahory.