A collections problem that will be difficult to solve

Music CDs.

I sent this along to my esteemed colleague on the Inside:

I chat with my librarian (actually PSA) friends and we debate which mainstream format at TPL is less used, audiobooks or CDs. By proportion of items held, I think it’s CDs. Obviously the dematerialization of recorded music has played a large role here. But for many years now I have been surprised at how bad the selection is. (Three or four times a year, I spend 35 minutes at a time going through every popular CD in a branch. So this is an informed assessment.)

And I’m saying this as somebody well older than 35, the age where the musical tastes of everybody who isn’t a rock snob simply freeze in place. This is another way of saying I know for an absolute fact that if I were working in acquisitions and had to select new CDs, I wouldn’t know what to do and would suck at the job.


I think something’s wrong with the system when I was the one who actually had to suggest TPL buy the first Kate Bush album issued in 12 years. Isn’t that a gimme, even to an over-35 collections specialist?

One way I find out about new music is through an analogue of the old label system – the legacy mainstream (“lamestream”) media. When the New York Times Magazine runs a piece on Die Antwoord, (a) it signals that the Establishment approves of the band and (b) I immediately check the catalogue. I find nothing. Then I think: Aren’t TPL collections people exactly the demographic that reads that magazine? Won’t they read that piece and immediately add it to the orders list?

Another obvious source is Exclaim magazine’s year-end best-of lists, which helpfully run the gamut from dance to several genres of metal. And actually, TPL is shockingly bad at collecting popular genres that aren’t rock or pop. Dance and metal are extraordinarily thinly served, and quite badly chosen, in fact.

Outsourcing selection to Soundscapes worked fabulously for the Take Some Noise project, didn’t it?

So. Yes, I’m complaining, but you expect that when you see me walking through the door. But as you will acknowledge, I understand the cultural or maturational reasons why it’s hard to do this well. But can you explain why TPL does it so badly?

Basically the answer was “Thanks for sharing,” but they did agree that the Exclaim lists were a good source, so I submitted their URLs.