Live at Your Library! How to Plug into Your Local Music Scene and Charge Up Your Communities

Article excerpt

It's hard to miss the ever-growing enthusiasm for the "buy local" movement. People want locally grown food, locally made handicrafts, locally created products. Now is the best time for libraries to join that movement and provide space in their collections for local content, particularly local music. These collections are a plus for libraries in terms of economics, partnerships, and plugging libraries into the local creative "scene."

Just look at Seattle Public Library, which in July partnered with the University of Washington's acclaimed KEXP radio station to make its extensive archive of live performances by both local and national acts available for library users. "We see the KEXP offerings as an added bonus to our music collection," Seattle City Librarian Marcellus Turner said after the launch.

The radio station's collection of approximately 3,200 live in-studio performances include a variety of genres such as indie, hip-hop, reggae, roots, country, and Latin, among others. And, Turner noted, the range of artists include many up-and-coming Seattle bands as well.

Public libraries can play a role in distributing, promoting, and archiving quality local content. As a result, the library gains materials, musicians gain another outlet to the community, and the public gains access to new content.

What's more, a local music collection gives the music community a personal stake in that collection and generates cool points for the library. It allows librarians to "shop" locally and can mean a steady stream of new and often free material during tough budgetary times.

Make time and space

At its core, creating a local music collection doesn't have to be a radical departure from standard operating procedure. It can be as simple as including locally produced music within the library's collection and providing library users with some special mechanism for finding that music. For overworked catalogers, a "local" note in the MARC record is all that's needed to generate reports and make item lists available through the OPAC.

Of course, it's best to be as prepared as possible for the unique eventualities that occur when dealing with new collections and self-produced material. Have a collection development statement approved and ready to go before you even start accepting music. Best to be consistent from the get-go to prevent hurt feelings or unnecessary conflicts. Also, accept that you're not going to love every single album submitted for the collection. That's fine. Understand too that production values won't always live up to Abbey Road standards. That's fine too. Be open-minded when reviewing albums for inclusion and consider adding "outdated" formats; cassettes and vinyl are still widely circulated on the local level.

Recordings can be on compact disc, vinyl, cassette, and/or digital format. A local music collection should include historical content--that is, older acts that have played in your city--as well as current acts playing around town. For maximum exposure, the ideal local collection would be displayed together in one central location, separated from popular music.

Because local music isn't dependent on what's hot on the charts, it may be much harder to come by than Top 40 music, which is readily available both digitally and on the radio. That's even more reason to promote the idea of local, as the library can offer truly unique content that reaches beyond market saturation and exposes patrons to a variety of styles and genres.

The Kalamazoo (Mich.) Public Libraryand Rockford (Ill.) Public Library both circulate local music CDs as part of their collections, and Kalamazoo even goes so far as to add the genre designation "local artist" to its CDs.

Build it and they will come

Once you've narrowed down a physical space for the collection and a system for cataloging it, how do you go about building the actual collection? …