This month, the Northeast Times is looking at local libraries as sources of feature films, documentaries, TV shows, music, audio books, children’s books and programming and great book finds for adults. Last week’s article featured DVDs. This week’s story is about the variety of music CDs available at library branches. Next week, read about audio books.
Musical preference can be narrow. Just consider how satellite radio or Philadelphia’s radio stations air very specific types of music, programmed to appeal to specific tastes. One station has classical; another has country-western; still others have rock, R&B, oldies or jazz.
You can find a lot of different sounds online, too. You might pay for what you download, or maybe you won’t.
At your local library branch, there is a wide variety of music, and you can take out as many as 10 CDs for three weeks. Since there’s no charge, your only requirements are to have a library card and have the equipment to play what you borrow.
Also, if you have computer access, you can borrow some music by downloading; in some cases you can do more than borrow, you can keep it.
Most of the Free Library of Philadelphia’s branches have hundreds of music CDs.
You can find pretty much everything from Mozart to Eminem to Elmo, Bizet to the Beastie Boys and Maurice Ravel to Robert Palmer.
Parents can control what their kids borrow, too. The library does not censor the material on the music patrons may take out, said Jennifer Wright, the Free Library’s assistant chief of materials management.
Children under age 12 may not take out adult material. Older kids might want to get hold of CDs that their parents might object to. Parents can visit their branches to let librarians know what their kids may or may not borrow, Wright said.
Not every library branch has exactly the same music CDs as any other branch or the same amount. For example, there are about 800 at the Bushrod branch on Castor Avenue. The most popular kinds of music at that branch are rock, classical and religious. And, there are a couple hundred titles for kids, too, said Catherine Krystopowicz, a librarian at Bushrod.
Librarian Ann Hornbach said she was surprised there are between 700 to 1,000 CDs available at the Torresdale branch.
“Holy Cow! We have that much!” she said after a quick count.
She’s got the patrons’ tastes pegged, too. Senior citizens take out classical music, she said. Middle-aged patrons will borrow concert-type recordings or movie sound tracks. Parents and teachers take out children’s material.
Foreign-language music CDs are getting more of a presence in branches, too.
The Bustleton branch just ordered some Russian popular and folk music to meet requests of its patrons.
“I just ordered a whole bunch,” said Kristin Sawka, a librarian at Bustleton.
Those Russian titles will join about a thousand other CDs at the branch.
“Top-twenty stuff is the biggest, but we’ve got everything,” Sawka said. “Plenty of metal, some of the newer groups, a really good variety. I was very surprised by that when I first came here.”
Patrons are astonished, too, she said. Children ages 8 to 12 are always at Sawka’s desk, she said, asking for music they didn’t expect the branch has on its shelves.
“We own popular hits of various decades,” she said. “It’s not just pop and rock. It’s easy-listening, classical, rap, hip-hop, jazz, klezmer and blues.”
Even the students from neighboring Washington High School and college students find music they didn’t think they would, she said.
They think, “It’s the library; they wouldn’t have anything,” Sawka said, but they’re wrong.
“We have something for everyone,” she said.
Especially for kids.
Children’s material is kept separate, but there is a healthy selection.
“We have quite a bit of Sesame Street, soundtracks from movies and standard songs kids would sing in preschool,” Sawka said.
Children’s material gets a lot of use at the Tacony branch on Torresdale Avenue, said branch manager David Payne.
In the roughly 1,000 CDs at Tacony, there’s one by the Hoppin’ John Orchestra, Payne said. The local jazz group, no longer in existence, not only played in city clubs, but also performed at the library twice.
That’s just one of the branch’s hidden gems. However, it’s the variety that’s impressive.
Payne said his branch has music from Mexico, calypso from Trinidad, music from Jamaica, Paris café music, South African gospel, India sitar music, Native American music, Irish folk music and music from Hawaii.
“It’s a very eclectic range. It caters to everyone,” Payne said. “The great beauty is it enables people to try without charge different kinds of music … to get access to whole new vistas.” ••
Meet the author…
You can meet CJ and Chafik Waddy, creators of U Noo Tito, Boy Hero, Says No to Strangers at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 15, at the Frankford branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, 4634 Frankford Ave.
The father-son author-illustrator team from Frankford will read aloud with children and parents. The event is free. Copies of the book will be available for purchase and autographing. Call 215-685-1473 for information.
Download the blues…
Or anything you can find on the Free Library’s online site, www.freelibrary.org, and keep it, too.
Library patrons can download up to three songs a week from the Sony music catalog and some independent music catalogs, not pay one cent for them and keep them forever, said Jennifer Wright, the library’s assistant chief of material’s management.
That’s right. You can download music for free and it’s legal.
That explains the name of the library’s program – Freegal.
To get access, go to the library’s site, click on the hot pink download’s button, then, click on Freegal. You should get a prompt that asks for your library card number and your PIN. Punch that in and you should be ready to go.