The Free Library’s Instrument Lending Collection turns 3 today and, like any sociable Libra, it stands out in its ability to attract and entertain. What’s changed? There’s been some growth spurts: music librarians have expanded the collection to nearly 100 instruments in a variety of families to the MIC (musical instrument collection) – mainly strings, percussion, and electronics. We’ve also updated some collection policies to make it easier to use:
- You can now renew an instrument online, just like anything else.
- We’ve lowered overdue fines to 25 cents a day.
We’re still updating the way instruments are cataloged so you can find them more easily. Instruments are still treated like other special collection resources in the Music Department.
Beyond the books and scores in the Music Department, there’s another resource for learning an instrument: instructional videos on Lynda.com from our Digital Learning Portal. These are hours-long classes broken down into bite-sized sessions, and they’re much better than what you can find on the general internet. They feature lessons for many of the instruments we have. You can stream them at home or on any Library computer.
In the year that’s passed, the MIC has collaborated with a variety of different performers, librarians, other libraries, and even superstar musicians. The instrument collection was seen on the town with two members of Wilco, Jeff Tweedy and Nels Cline. The MIC soaked up some summer vibes on the Parkway as part of the Oval+ activation, as we helped launch an installation of instruments. If you were walking down the Parkway, you could stop, play, and even learn a song!
Music librarians visited our newly-organized librarians in Pittsburgh to talk shop about their instrument collection, and we helped the Lafayette Public Library in Louisiana begin their instrument lending. In-house, we’ve:
- Contributed to the #MyFreeLibrary Campaign with some of you!
- Supported the staff-led Exploring Music and Food through the Senses program
- Powered a performance on the Free Library’s All Staff Day
Even with all this activity, the instrument collection still needs support.
The Music Department still finds itself taking money out of its book budget to buy instruments, which isn’t sustainable. That said, the easiest way to help the collection is to donate an instrument in good working condition (something you don’t put in your mouth and that could fit on a SEPTA bus) so the whole city can use it. And thanks for thinking of us!
The Next Step: Free Drum Workshops
Our Philadelphia music community has used Free Library instruments in many ways, including to learn songs, play concerts, and busk. Patrons also use our instruments to teach!
There will be a second series of free drum workshops and percussion classes featuring Karen Smith this fall in the Music Department at Parkway Central Library on Saturday, October 5, Saturday, November 2, and Saturday, December 7. All events start at 2:00 p.m. RSVP for this series on Eventbrite today!
The MIC launched on September 26, 2016 with an idea from Digital Resource Specialist, Brandon W., who wanted to lend acoustic guitars. The Music Department fleshed out the idea to include other stringed instruments. As far as we can tell, the Instrument Collection was one of the first in the U.S. when it started and libraries such as Brooklyn Public have now reached out to us for help building their own collections.
If you’d like to start your own instrument lending library, or want to get more acquainted with the MIC’s origins we’d recommend reading the first two blog posts on the MIC. It’s only fitting that such a solid music city should share what makes it great to the rest of the world!