My Small (But Big) Discoveries about A. Quincy Jones

Students make immense daily contributions to the work we do and the services we provide in Library Special Collections (LSC).  Employment in LSC provides students an opportunity to work directly with a globally-recognized collection of cultural heritage resources, including rare books, manuscripts, maps, photographs, and artworks, to name but a few.  Working in LSC is not merely a job for students, but an opportunity to learn on a continual basis—and to have fun and work in a supportive team atmosphere.

LSC staff thought it would be nice to share these unique student experiences periodically, in the hopes of illustrating how “special” Library Special Collections is to them, and to celebrate the contributions that each and every one of them makes to our Department, the Library, and the larger UCLA academic community.  We begin with the following post by our own Grace Song, a fourth-year student majoring in Art History.

Thanks LSC students—we couldn’t do it without you!

Grace Song and Simon Elliott review items from the A. Quincy Jones Papers

There I was, in the copy room, surrounded by boxes of materials and faced with that poster on the wall that has a graphic of a guy pointing at you, saying, “Admit it. You love making copies.” Every time I see it, I feel like I might be getting brainwashed. But it’s true; I do love making copies. (Should I second-guess this statement?) I was completing a duplication request on who, at the time, was “just some architect” named A. Quincy Jones. I shamefully regret that I ignorantly called him “Quincy A. Jones” for several months thereafter. There was much material covering his plans and projects, all compiled neatly into minimalist-looking books—very reminiscent of modernist architecture.

I quietly attended to my business and got into a nice rhythm of pressing the appropriate buttons to get the right settings, flipping the book over (gently!), aligning it on the machine, pressing the ‘Start’ button, turning the page, and repeating the monotonous but thrilling process (I guess I really do love making copies). Then along came Simon Elliott, Library Special Collections’s very own Visual Materials Specialist & Licensing Coordinator. Simon knows basically everything about everything, in my humble opinion, and has been at LSC for many years. He saw what I was making copies of and began to tell me a story of how the materials on A. Quincy Jones came to LSC.

Some time after the architect’s passing, Simon helped Jones’s wife compile all the materials from his various projects and ideas into the books that I was photocopying at that very moment. She apparently wanted all of her husband’s works, ideas, and drawings to be put to use as resources for anyone to use. While working together, she very generously told Simon many stories about every little thing in the Jones collection, and I can imagine that she was someone who was very passionate and supportive of her husband’s career.

Several months later I visited the Getty Center and walked through their “Overdrive: L.A. Constructs the Future, 1940-1990” exhibition. Having taken a class on American Houses with Professor Dell Upton at UCLA, I had a newfound appreciation for architecture, especially that of California. In the galleries was a corner dedicated to college campuses, and I scurried over to see if there was anything about UCLA’s campus. And there it was, a pencil drawing in that distinct architect style, with the words, “Charles E. Young Research Library” written beneath in all capital letters. My heart squealed with delight (or something of that sort) and I turned my attention to the label, which read, “A. Quincy Jones” as its architect! At this point my heart was all squeals, one after another, and then I stopped to look at the picture in a contemplative way (you know, in that art museum contemplative way where people stand in front of monochrome paintings for 10 minutes to think deeply about the meaning of life).

Then I remembered Simon’s story quite clearly and realized that that seemingly very ordinary day where I was making photocopies was the day I learned about A. Quincy Jones in the very building that he, with architect Frederick E. Emmons, originally designed. I had no idea was my only thought. It suddenly felt like I knew the library better as I faced the original drawing of it. It also seemed fitting that his wife was such a strong proponent of making his plans available to the public with the fact that he designed a library, which is a place where materials go to be accessed by not only scholars but regular people like me who just want to learn.

It was brought to my attention that it’s a great thing to be so close to the materials at LSC because they are wonderful resources to not only enrich one’s brain but also one’s life. Being able to work in such a place as this is humbling to me, because I am realizing more and more that the amount of knowledge out there in this world is so much vaster than I could ever conceive. So, now, A. Quincy Jones is not “just some architect,” but one who designed the very library I work in, study in, and pass by almost every single day. And I consider that to be a privilege.

By Grace Song, Public Services student

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