A newfound music library

Lib­rar­i­an Kristin Sawka or­gan­izes the mu­sic, CDs and DVD sec­tion of the Bustleton branch of the Free Lib­rary of Phil­adelphia. Jenny Swi­goda / TIMES PHOTO

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 caf&ea­cute; 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.


You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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