On the main floor of Cowles library, about 250 vinyl records cover the shelves and are now part of the library’s circulating materials. Along with LPs for self-checkout, portable record players can be checked out from the information desk. In addition, the library added a listening station fit with a turntable and headphones.
“The record collection provides a new experience and access to materials that students, faculty, and staff normally wouldn’t stumble upon,” said Joanna Stankiewicz, access services manager at Cowles Library. “It was something that was started by the Music Department, and the library embraced it.”
The records collection moving to Cowles Library was a project that was talked about for years. When Stankiewicz arrived at the University about a year ago and was told about the project, she recognized the opportunity that the collection was. Work began in the summer of 2021 to begin the process of organizing and cataloging the collection.
“We found a Drake Alumni Choir record … I think it’s from the 1960s,” said Stankiewicz. “I would have never thought that was something we would find. There are some really fun records like the Mission Impossible soundtrack … a Nina Simone record; there’s Ella Fitzgerald.”
About 4,000 records were kept behind doors at the Dickson Media Resource center, according to James Romain, Music Department chair and professor of saxophone.
“Before there were computers and streaming, all of the media had to be physical,” said Romain. “So, for decades, the department was developing a collection of recordings, prior to the advent of the CD … for maybe about 50 or 60 years.”
The Dickson Media Resource Center was a place where students could listen to vinyl records, CDs, and so forth, housed in the Harmon Fine Arts Center.
With the reality of streaming services, the number of students visiting the Media Resource center has been dwindling through time. Especially now, as the department lacks staffing resources to catalog the materials and run the listening station.
“There is a widespread resurgence in interest in LPs,” said Romain. “I think it was Joanna who decided that this would be a nice opportunity to be able to share it with people who specifically have that interest.”
And listening to a vinyl record provides an experience more closely intended by the artist, Romain said.
“[The artists] chose the order that pieces would be in,” said Romain. “A symphony might last for 45 minutes—it’s a whole, large work that is very much related; the movements have internal relationships to one another.”
That’s not the only benefit of listening to vinyl records.
Aside from being able to digest whole stories within the albums and study the liner notes, it’s a tool that allows one to nurture the soul in trying times.
“Music can be beneficial for mental health,”said Stankiewicz. “If we can provide some quiet and relaxation, and a more holistic approach to serving campus needs, I think that’s great.”
The library is planning to expand the collection to 300 records in the next few weeks. Not to mention, the thousands more that are still waiting to be moved from the media resource center—it’s an ongoing project that’s only going to continue growing.
“We’re also looking to find out what students are interested in, and what they want to listen to,” said Stankiewicz. “Just like we do with our books, our traditional materials, we want to expand that collection and take care of it based on their interests, whether it’s educational or just for leisure.”
The record collection and listening station are located on the west side of the first floor of Cowles Library. The library created step-by-step instructions for using the turntable, since for many people, using a record player is a new experience.
— Written by Sarah Jamil, junior, School of Journalism and Mass Communication