Some might think the library is a thing of the past — but “it’s more than a pile of old dusty books,” says circulation assistant Kaya Fraser.
And Victorians should rejoice, because the Greater Victoria Public Library is an innovative one, with a mandate to find new ways to connect with the community and “inspire the joy of discovery through programs, collections and training opportunities,” according to the organization’s strategic plan.
And the GVPL is doing just that when it launches a new collection dedicated solely to local music, July 29, at the three main district branches — Central, Nellie McClung and Juan de Fuca.
The new collection was the idea of Cheryl Landry, music specialist and public services librarian, who pitched the concept almost three years ago. “It wasn’t until a year ago that the timing, money and logistics came together, so I put in a proposal,” she says.
While there are many local music titles in the current collection, they weren’t easily searchable using the term “local.”
“It’s always been lumped in with the respective genres,” says Landry. “It hasn’t been obvious, so we wanted to expand that, and decided to create a collection where local is the focus.”
To begin, Landry sought out the help of the savvy staff at Ditch Records and CDs. “They gave us some great recommendations and we purchased what we could from them,” says Landry. She then put out a call to the Victoria Conservatory of Music, the department of music at UVic and the larger community using social media. “I didn’t need to go any further,” she says. “I spent the initial budget. We do have a certain amount of the CD budget earmarked to add to the collection each year, but the music has to meet a certain criteria. We had to start somewhere.”
To start things off, GVPL has amassed more than 150 unique titles in the collection, often with multiple copies. The artists need to have a strong connection to Victoria, Vancouver Island or the Gulf Islands and the music had to be of professional quality, and commercially produced within the last five years.
“It’s quite a wide range. We have the typical pop and rock, plus indie, folk, singer-songwriter, jazz, big band, choral. There’s even a violinist who’s been nominated for a Grammy,” says Landry.
Landry herself studied music in university and thought the idea of a local music collection would be a great way to support the local music community while encouraging Victorians to listen to something new.
“I think it’s important to support artists in general. Libraries’ roles are changing. We’re less curators of the past and more supporters of new ideas and creations. We want to create a record of musical life in the area, but also promote the artists and also inspire new collaborations — and hopefully allow the general public than might not frequent coffee houses or local music events to come across new music in a different way.”
To kick off the collection, GVPL is hosting the Local MusicFest from 2-5 p.m., Saturday, July 27 in Centennial Square. The free event features live music by eight artists featured in the local music collection, including Sets in the West, Renata Young, Ethan Caleb, Alan Jossul, Balkan Babes, One Bright Morning, Ocean Noise and Kaya Fraser Band.
Fraser, a roots-rock singer-songwriter, is backed by a three piece band that includes Carl Cavanagh on bass. Cavanagh works alongside Fraser and Landry as a librarian at the GVPL Central branch.
“This is a very clear gesture of support for the local music community,” says Fraser. “It’s a way for people to discover things, because increasingly people want to try before they buy. Even though they’re not buying a CD when they take it out from the library, they may well go out and buy a CD or go to a show and as a musician the number one thing I want is to get into people’s ears.”
“Some of the music was already in our collection, but it’s not easy to find. There’s no way to search for music that is specifically local and it’s a great idea to use local as a search term and be able to browse a separate collection. The concert is just the icing on the cake.”
People in attendance will get the first crack at checking out items from the new collection, which will be available in the branches the following Monday. Bring your library card or have one made on the spot. gvpl.ca.