Tag Archives: music advisory

Music Advisory goes Local and Social at the Greater Victoria Public Library

Cheryl Landry is a Public Services Librarian and music specialist at GVPL.  She loves being able to combine her former life as a performing classical musician and her current life as a librarian by developing the Local Music Collection and organizing public concerts to highlight these amazing artists.  Outside of the library, she moonlights as a photographer, shooting portraits, including for her blogging-mate, singer-songwriter, Kaya Fraser. View her work at cheryllandryphotography.com.

Kaya Fraser is, by day, a mild-mannered Library Assistant at GVPL, working in Adult Services and the Interlibrary Loans Department. By night, she takes off the horn-rimmed glasses, lets her hair down and assumes her not-so-secret identity as a songwriter and guitarist, performing solo or with a backing band at venues locally and, when she can get the time off, across Canada. She has two albums out and is at work on a third. Check her out at kayafraser.com.

Cheryl’s section:
GVPL Local Music Collection:

Sometimes when selecting for public library collections, we can become very focused on the business of acquiring the newest titles and biggest bestsellers.  This is one way in which libraries maintain relevance within our communities; by providing material that is currently, or will soon be, in demand.  There is no difference in the area of music selection, where we must always make sure we have the newest chart toppers, iTunes sensations, and overnight successes.  However, if libraries are here to serve and reflect our communities, might we be missing out on a prime advisory and outreach opportunity by not also including and promoting materials that are created in our own communities, by our own community members?


In 2013, GVPL made a commitment to include Victoria’s very active and wide-ranging music scene in a dedicated Local Music Collection. Starting with a modest budget and an ongoing annual commitment within the overall music budget, we put out a call directly to the music community of Victoria, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands asking for submissions. These submissions were vetted for quality and professionalism, and any that met the criteria were included in the opening core collection. There is something very rewarding about connecting directly with these artists; being able to tell them “hey, I loved your music and would love to put it in the collection”, and knowing that the library can provide an avenue of exposure and encourage future audiences and gigs.


Having a locally-based collection brings with it a myriad of opportunities for outreach, advisory, and programming.  In July 2013, we launched the Local Music Collection with GVPL Local MusicFest on the outdoor city hall stage in the heart of downtown Victoria.  The three-hour show featured short sets by eight of the talented performers in the local collection and also included a portable library where audience members could check out local CD’s and even sign up for a library card.  Our second Local MusicFest event, in March 2014, was a more intimate, indoor concert featuring three performers in the acoustically-pleasing Belfry Theatre (www.belfry.bc.ca) with whom GVPL has a partnership.  While most live music events cost money and usually cater to adults over drinking age, each of these events, which were very well-attended, provided a free, family-friendly chance for people to hear great music and discover something new.

ImageAside from large concerts, library staff can also use the Local Music Collection to provide music advisory, both to patrons who want a “hear-alike”, and to those individuals or community groups who may need good quality live music for an event.  Members of the music community may also be available for song-writing workshops, group instrumental lessons, or in-branch demos for events such as Culture Days, greatly expanding the range of options and contacts available for arts-related programming.

Local music in libraries still appears to be a fairly innovative concept, with only a few adopters showing in a quick internet search. That is not to suggest that other libraries do not include local musicians in their collections; however, when conceived in a dedicated, holistic way, a collection of local music, or indeed, any type of local collection, can become a comprehensive source of advisory, connection, and outreach within your community.

Some Personal Favourites:
Towers and Trees – towersandtreesmusic.com
West My Friend – westmyfriend.com
Chris Ho – chrishomusic.com

Kaya’s section:
Music Mondays on Facebook:

Since the fall of 2013, one of the regular features on GVPL’s official Facebook page has been a weekly posting called “Music Monday.” Posted at the start of every week, this feature aims to highlight a music-related item in GVPL’s catalogue, or a music-related program or resource. The tone is light and accessible, and the fact that it’s a regular posting creates a sense of familiarity and continuity for the library’s Facebook followers—something for the music fans to look forward to each week.

Often the posts have been straightforward reviews, written by staff members, of CDs, music books, documentaries, etc., with a link to the catalogue at the end, so that followers can click through and place a hold. Drawing on the ever-popular “staff picks” concept, these posts always meet with appreciation.


Sometimes the postings have made reference to our digital music collections, Freegal and Hoopla, providing links for followers to click on and gain instant access to the content being reviewed/highlighted. These recommendations have the advantage of being free of wait times and hold lists; also, the technical requirements of digital access are usually not a problem for those already using an online tool such as Facebook. As a platform for promoting our digital music collections, this seemed like a natural.


We have consciously tried to keep the postings varied in terms of material types, genres, and approach. A recent Music Monday was not a collection spotlight at all, but rather a review of a free online music-advisory tool called Gnoosic (www.gnoosic.com).

Occasionally, we will build a post on a “this day in music history” premise, or a famous musical birthday, or on a current event. In each case, we usually try to link the post back to something in the collection, perhaps something a little off-the-beaten-track (such as a book of artwork by Miles Davis, which we posted on Davis’s birthday). Recently, we used news of an upcoming local music festival to remind our followers of the Local Music Collection, and highlight CDs by two of the festival’s headliners.


Music Monday continues to be a way of reaching out to members of our community online—to those who have library cards, but also to those who don’t yet—showing them some of what we have access to, helping them discover some things they might like, and inviting conversations about all things musical.






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.