KDL puts a spin on traditional music library with its Grooves vinyl collection

In recent years, with a huge nod from an entire holiday dedicated to the flat, black, circular disc, vinyl records are not only popular again, but they’re back with a vengeance. Record Store Day has boosted sales with special releases, timely reissues and promotional products, including special-colored discs. Additionally, through in-store performances and a host of special activities, it has helped support local independent record stores and artists alike. Current artists are releasing their music on records, and customers are buying tangible music again, despite large streaming numbers. 

Collecting vinyl can be a rewarding, yet costly hobby, but for local library cardholders, it doesn’t have to come at a hefty price tag. Kent District Library (KDL) offers patrons an opportunity to give vinyl a spin with its own collection of records. The KDL Grooves vinyl collection launched in 2019 and has grown to include over 1400 individual titles to check out at eight branches. KDL Collection Development librarian Stacy Schuster is in charge of purchasing for the entirety of the branch library system. She purchases adult nonfiction, adult music, CDs and items for their growing vinyl records collection. 

“Our KDL Grooves record collection was officially launched at our Plainfield Branch in February 2019,” she says. “We had a ‘Needle Drop’ event including a silent disco, demos on how to handle and care for records and a DJ set by Andrea ‘SuperDre’ Wallace. It was a lot of fun! Six other branches added their collections shortly after.”

Schuster says her love for music gave her a desire to share that warm analog listening sound with patrons. She presented the idea to bring back vinyl records to the library’s collection and the notion was approved.

“When I originally had this idea, I knew that I wanted to partner with a local record store and not purchase stuff through Amazon or any other big business,” Schuster says. “It was important to me to not only support local business but also to have community input. It’s been so fun and gratifying that I’ve managed to do just that.”

Patrons are able to check out circulating Crosley turntables (contained in a carry case, with a USB port and an aux cord to hook up Bluetooth) for three weeks at a time, as well as six records at a time for three weeks. Materials are currently available for checkout at the Cascade, East Grand Rapids, Grandville, Kentwood, Plainfield, Rockford, Wyoming and Ada branches. Schuster says “the collection is very popular, but not on everyone’s radar since it’s limited to certain branches.” Recently, however, the collection will become part of the shared network, making it more accessible. “I’m very happy to share that soon all library patrons will be able to place holds on records and pick them up at their home library, giving greater access to a steadily growing collection,” Schuster says. 

Some current titles include classics from iconic artists including The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Miles Davis,The Who and current musicians like Cardi B., Childish Gambino, Tame Impala, Adele, Greta Van Fleet and more across all decades and genres. Patrons can browse the entire collection online

Local musicians are encouraged to contact Schuster via email at [email protected] to be added to the local genre category of the collection. “I pick all the titles,” she says. “I have had help from Vertigo and also a close friend with an extensive record collection. Currently, patrons can’t make requests but that may change in the future.”

Other changes/additions include a local streaming service that is in the works too. “It’s a little too soon to give you any details, but I assure you it's going to be a really cool service that the library will offer,” Schuster says. “The desire to continue supporting local musicians in our community and beyond is very much on my to-do list.”

While building the Grooves vinyl collection, Schuster has been contacted by several librarians across the state and throughout the Midwest. “Recently, I met with librarians at Grand Rapids Public Library to discuss how to get their collection up and running,” she says. “Librarians are known for sharing information with one another and I was more than happy to pass on what I’ve learned through this process.”

Ultimately, the Grooves collection proves yet again just how much of a resource the local library can be — educational, informational, entertaining and, in some cases, emotional. 

“People’s connection to music is very powerful,” Schuster says. “Having access to vinyl records is one more way for the Library to offer something our patrons might not necessarily have the resources to get on their own. As vinyl records have outsold CDs consistently over the past two to three years, it’s been fun to bring back an old format that has become new again to many users. I also think records give us a chance to slow down and appreciate music in its truest and most basic form.”

Photos courtesy Bird+Bird Studios

Literacy Matters is a series focused on the importance of knowledge, community resources seeking to remove barriers to access, and the value of our library systems to society. Literacy Matters is supported by Kent District Library. 

Sarah briefly lived in Grand Rapids years ago, before moving back to Lansing, but that West Michigan love never really left her heart. Through her coverage on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, and anything mitten-made, she’s committed to convincing any and everyone -- just how great the Great Lakes state is. Sarah received her degrees in Journalism and Professional Communications. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at [email protected]