Friday, May 9, 2008

To iPods and Beyond

Joseph Wilk, Carnegie Library, Pittsburgh

How do teens find music they listen to? How do they interact with music? How is music part of their social life? Where do they learn about new music? What services should the public library have to serve teen music interests?

The Carnegie Public Library asked 6 teens these questions and discovered that most teens listen to music on MP3 players. CD sales are on a 7 year decline and MP3 sales are up 54%. Why do librarians need to know this? To provide teens with music the way they listen to it, MP3 collections are going to be vital to library collections (if they aren't already now).

MP3 collections are money, time, and space saving. They are digital files and fit on a hard drive. You can download music while it's popular rather than getting this month's popular song 3 months from now. With an MP3 collection, there are no scratched CDs or crushed jewel cases to replace.

Providing access to MP3 files does have challenges. System compatibility (Mac / PC), Digital Rights Management, and copyright all pose challenges to libraries developing MP3 collections.

There is a solution with iTunes. The South Huntington Public Library in New York set up an iTunes download and lending program. The iTunes license extends the ability to lend music in a way that libraries can use. Through iTunes, users can come to the library and see music that the library has downloaded and select songs to download to their personal iPods. Songs can "circulate" for a designated period of time. Users come back with their iPods and songs are "checked in" by plugging their iPods in and deleting the song from their iPod.

Teens are also using social digital music sites to discover and share music. Social music sites can track songs that are listened to most, allow users to recommend music to friends, and browse friends music libraries. There are various social digital music websites including LastFM, ILike, Finetune, MOG, and MySpace Music.

YA librarians can use music and social digital music sites to build communities and connections with their teen populations. There are a lot of options beyond CDs that librarians should be paying attention to.

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