When the Music Fan Visits the Library

high fidelity soundtrack album artSometimes librarians are like 90s record shop staffers. We create playlists on-the-fly responding to queries like: “Do you have some good music for working-out?” or “I’m creating a slide show of my trip to India and I need some music. Traditional folk and some Bollywood songs please.”

Unlike advising readers, helping people find music in the library doesn’t come with a long professional history or an overflowing toolkit; no library school classes, no specialized databases build by librarians for librarians, no myriad of in-house finding-aids and no ninth edition professional books on the subject.

Music Advisory (MA) Resources

Luckily, we can rely on other fields. Print guides to music are full of curated recommendations. Penguin has published many guides to classical music as has Oxford. Subject searches for “Sound Recordings – Reviews” and “Music Appreciation” will reveal a wealth of music guides across genres.

Great free online MA resources include AllMusic, The Encyclopedia of Music in CanadaCBC MusicNPRGroovesharklast.fm and online versions of music magazines.

Your library may provide access to subscription databases such as: Freegal, Oxford Music Online or Naxos Music Library.

Bibliocommons Lists – If you library is using Bibliocommons or another discovery layer, search for music lists. Currently, Bibliocommons offers 133 lists of Hip Hop music created by library staff and patrons.

Algorithm-based Music Recommendation Sources are available online. Gnoosic is a search engine for music. It will ask you what music you like and then suggest what you might like. Last.fm has a listen-alike “music discovery service.” Type in an artist you like and find another you might enjoy. Use Musicovery to create a playlist based on your mood, a genre or an artist.

Jane Coop's favorite piano piecesPassive Music Advisory

Create a list in Bibliocommons on a musical genre or theme.  You can also recruit experts to create lists – think local musicians, DJs or music educators. My colleague and music librarian Margaret Mould invited 12 local musicians and music educators to select their favourite music from our collection. We offer these lists on our website as well as in print.

Matthew Moyer enthuses about a similar music community outreach project in Library Journal.

Online Form-based Music Advisory

A few public libraries have created form-based online music advisory services, notably the Jacksonville Public Library. This is likely the most well-known online music advisory service in the library world. The creators, Andrew Coulon and Matthew Moyer were named LJ Movers and Shakers in 2012 for their innovation.  Coulon and Moyer developed the service model, the form and they report their customized playlists on their blog – which is a wealth of music lore.

The BiblioPod Music Advisory is available on the beautiful website of the Rochester and Monroe County Central Library Arts Division. The BiblioPod form is similar to the Jacksonville model. Bibliopod’s music advisory team is made up of experienced librarians, local DJs and talent. Judy Schewe, Music Librarian, publishes and annotates their customized playlists on the Bibliopod blog which is also a rich resource.

Bonus Tracks

  1. A Must-Read intro to recommending music in Library Journal by Matthew Moyer of Jacksonville PL.
  2. The Brain Pickings Literary Jukebox created by Maria Popova.

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