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Developing your library’s vinyl—yes, vinyl—collection

May 5, 2018

Image courtesy Jessica Showalter

The Penn State Altoona Eiche Library has been adding vinyl lps to their collection to keep up with the recent resurgence of interest in records. Library Director Bonnie Imler shares what she’s learned about developing a vinyl collection for other libraries considering one.

The American Libraries magazine recently summarized a report from the Recording Industry Association of America that gives details about this resurgence of vinyl. According to the original report, digital downloads are nosediving, whereas “[v]inyl continues to be a bright spot among physical formats, with revenues up 10% to $395 million.”

To respond to this growing interest, the Eiche Library has added dozens of records to their collection over the past two years, as well as two turntables available for patrons to borrow. Imler worked with library staff to determine logistics for cataloging, storing, and lending the records.

Collecting the records

The library utilized several strategies when deciding which records to add to the collection. Early on, the library solicited suggestions from patrons using a suggestion box. Placing the suggestion box at the circulation desk helped to generate excitement. Imler also consulted several lists of “Top 100 Records,” ranging from jazz to classic rock, to grunge music, to contemporary artists. As the collection continued to grow, Imler went to a surprising, but useful, source: Urban Outfitters’ list of best-selling vinyl for the year.

“Looking at their website gives me an idea of what the traditional college-age group is interested in and what new artists are trending,” Imler said.

Displaying the records

record display

Image courtesy Jessica Showalter

One of the challenges of adding records to the collection was determining the best way to display them.

The records are cataloged with call numbers, but if they were shelved spine-out as books are, they would be difficult to browse. Imler worked with the campus carpenter, Tom Vogel, to design a more user-friendly solution. Vogel built wooden display cases that resemble the bins once used to house records in music stores.

“A big advantage of these cases is that students can leaf through and see the amazing cover art,” Imler said.

Playing the records

Many patrons have shown curiosity about the record collection, but not all of them own turntables for playing them. To address that need, the Eiche Library acquired two turntables that patrons can check out for 14-day loans. When deciding which turntables to purchase, Imler’s main criteria were that the turntables be portable and include USB ports that enable conversion to digital files. Staff noted that some patrons have never used a turntable before, so they offer a quick tutorial if needed.

“The records and turntables have been popular with patrons, so we plan to continue developing our vinyl collection in the future,” Imler added.

Jessica Showalter is an Information Resources and Services Support Specialist at Penn State Altoona’s Eiche Library. Say hello on Twitter @libraryjms

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 5, 2018 11:14 pm

    What an awesome addition to your collection! That makes me very happy to hear of the resurgence of vinyls!

    • Jessica Showalter permalink
      May 7, 2018 5:19 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Michele! I checked out one of the turntables when we first got them so I could play some records during a dinner party–it was cooler than just streaming music with my bluetooth speaker :)


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