Friends of the Phonograph

Public Libraries as Record Lenders

Courtesy Charles Schulz July 25, 1954


Public Libraries as Record Lenders


By Doug Boilesen, 2020

In 2020 public libraries are still known for their printed books and periodicals that can be checked out. Most libraries also have computers to use and other media that can be borrowed such as audiobooks, e-books, CDs, and DVDs.

Having grown up in the 1950's and 1960's I remember records as the only audio medium that could be checked-out. My home library was Bennett Martin Public Library in Lincoln, Nebraska and it would continue to have records in its collection into the 1990s. Audio cassettes and video cassettes appeared and disappeared from most libraries, along with records, as libraries found that they needed to be part of the digital world to stay relevant to the devices consumers used and had in their homes.


Listening to children's album at Bennett Martin Public Library 1981

Courtesy Ted Kirk / JournalStar File Photo


However, a renewed interest in vinyl records in the 2010's reversed that fate of records in a few libraries.

As a Friend of the Phonograph I'm highlighting one of those libraries, the Nutley Public Library in Nutley, New Jersey, because they returned vinyl record albums to their borrowing shelves and because they used a creative promotion for that reintroduction.

Here's what the Nutley Public Library published on their webpage in 2017 regarding the 25 year lapse and reintroduction of records.


Courtesy of The Nutley Public Library




Additionally, Nutley Library offered Tuesday evening events to spotlight their new vinyl record collection.

The Nutley Public Library, Nutley, New Jersey


De-Stress, be mindful and enjoy the tactile experience of playing vinyl music with some coffee, tea and pastries. It's a good example set by Friends of the Nutley Public Library or Friends of Anything.

There are other examples of public libraries, like Nutley, offering LPs as one of their lending services, including some of the premier record collections of the world found in libraries.

The Vinyl Factory (VF) has identified the following as "the incredible record libraries where you can listen to vast archives for free."

The British Library Sound Archive, London, United Kingdom

The Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound of The New York Public Library, New York City, USA

Music Library + Understage, Seoul, South Korea

Music Section, Stuttgart City Library, Stuttgart, Germany

The Music Room, Potato Head Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China


"It has not been for nothing that the word has remained man's principal toy and tool: without the meanings and values it sustains, all man's other tools would be worthless." —Lewis Mumford


"A word is dead

When it is said,

Some say.

I say it just

Begins to live

That day."

Emily Dickinson "A Word is Dead"


Libraries and Reading

This section is a postscript to restate the importance of libraries, books and reading. Despite my enjoyment for finding "connections" with the phonograph and my sense of wonder for recorded sound, I have concerns about the risks in giving our children recorded media, including television, movies, and the internet, as their primary sources of storytelling.

There is no substitute for a child learning to read.

There is no substitute for a child being exposed to books and being read stories by older siblings, parents, grandparents, etc.

Reading should be part of daily life, and many others agree.

"One of the greatest gifts adults can give – to their offspring and to their society – is to read to children." Carl Sagan

“Reading is to the mind, what exercise is to the body." Joseph Addison

"One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time." Carl Sagan

“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install a lovely bookshelf on the wall.” Roald Dahl

"A book is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way, a counselor, a multitude of counselors." Charles Baudelaire

"We read to know we are not alone." C.S. Lewis

“There is no Frigate like a Book To take us Lands away.” Emily Dickinson

“The person who deserves most pity is a lonesome one on a rainy day who doesn’t know how to read.” Benjamin Franklin

“My alma mater was books, a good library…. I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.” Malcolm X

“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” Harper Lee

“Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren’t very new after all.” Abraham Lincoln

"Read a lot. Expect something big, something exalting or deepening from a book. No book is worth reading that isn't worth re-reading." Susan Sontag

"I love the way that each book — any book — is its own journey. You open it, and off you go…" Sharon Creech


Mamie Griffin, who worked as a cook, lived at 915 U St. in 1914 with her husband, Edward, a waiter at the Lincoln Hotel in Lincoln, Nebraska. Their little house and other humble residences stood on a dirt street among railroad tracks and industrial uses north of downtown Lincoln. Far from humble are the dress and demeanor of this woman, posing confidently with her romance novel, "The Wife of Monte Cristo." Photograph by JOHN JOHNSON, 1914. Courtesy Douglas Keister


"I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book." Groucho Marx

"Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all." Henry David Thoreau


The Era of Progress in Children's Literature, Puck, 1887 (PM-2100)


"Our Fairy Story" Wood-cut engraving from "The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News," 1875


"End of the Day," Harper's Weekly, December 1903


A story broadcast on the radio and heard by children who have been reading Freud and psychology books, Judge, April 1928