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Vinylphiles at the Library



Record Store Day has come and gone in Richmond, though of course the chance to appreciate the sight and sound of vinyl remains year-round. All of Richmond’s great record stores are open for business, but vinyl enthusiasts—from youth with retro tastes to veteran sound snobs—should know that the main branch of the public library houses several thousand vinyl records, all available to check out.
The classical collection is extensive—symphonies, operas, quartets, and quintets. The library also holds pop, folk, country, and jazz LPs. All records are 33 1/3 rpm. They are stored in their original sleeves, many containing detailed program notes, which, according to reference librarian Lynn Vandenesse, are the best part of checking out vinyl. After setting the needle, a listener can lay back, open the gatefold, and comfortably read up on the history of their favorite pieces.
Vinyl can be searched in the online catalog by title, artist, or genre. Just type in what you’re after and be sure to limit the results by picking “record” as the Type. There is a chance some vinyl has not made it into the online catalog. If you don’t see what you’re looking for online feel free to ask a reference librarian. They will be happy to search the old card catalog as well as to retrieve the items for you (records can be checked out for two weeks).
Vinyl itself is now in the midst of a revival. In the age of downloading and streaming, this very physical format—a foot in diameter and occasionally, lovingly scratched—is oddly popular. Beginning in 2007 vinyl sales have made huge leaps, with six million units sold in 2013, a 30% increase from 2012. Fans of the Girls Rock! events will have seen vinyl out and about in the library, spinning in the background at January’s zine making workshop and front-and-center at last month’s DJ workshop.
A great benefit to checking out vinyl at the library—besides its being free—is the ability to explore other works in other media that might be connected to a record. A fan of Philip Glass could check out his opera The Photographer as well as a book on its subject , infamous pioneer of motion pictures Eadweard Muybridge. Start with a vinyl record and your library tote bag will hold a little collage of your interests that day.
So dust off the old gramophone on a rainy Sunday afternoon, follow along to an opera, and fall asleep in the run-out groove. Failing that, dance.