March 19, 2018

We’ve Got the Beat: Music Advisory in Public Libraries | PLA 2012

By Michael Rogers

All libraries offer music CDs, but very few finesse their music collections with the same vigor as spent on books. At the Public Library Association gathering in Philadelphia, Librarian Pete Lewandiski and Collection Development Librarian Penni Speets of the Kent District Library, MI, provided a primer on music advisory explaining why libraries should offer it as a standard service, historic and current trends, what individual staffers can do personally, and what the future holds.

Asserting that recommending music “isn’t all that different” than suggesting books, the duo advised tapping staff expertise as they likely possess a wide variety of musical tastes across ethnic backgrounds and age ranges.

Core sheets

Libraries need to be conscious of how their music collections are organized. Make sure staff knows what genres are provided and why titles are categorized under specific headings. While staff should have a working knowledge of the foundational artists in each genre, categorizing music “is not an exact science,” so there will be overlap. It’s also helpful to “get to know artists outside your comfort zone,” Speets said and to create core sheets listing titles in each genre to help both staff and patrons make selections.

Freegal rules

Like with books, purchases must be made to serve the greatest number of library users. Speet told of a patron who requested the entire Patridge Family catalog be added to the collection, which proved impractical. Speets said that although Kent’s budget has been trimmed, she still has the luxury of being able to purchases many of the titles on Billboard’s Top 100, and strongly recommends stocking as many of those recordings as possible to stay current and attract a young audience to the library.

For downloadable music, she prefers Freegal. Patrons are limited to three free downloads a month, which they then own. The free music downloads have proven so popular that Speets joked that she suspects some patrons “have signed up their dogs for library cards so they can get more downloads.”




  1. Lisa Bunker says:

    How timely! We just started a music advisory blog: Thanks for the article, I’ll pass it on.