CHPL Puts A New Spin On Its Vintage Vinyl Collection For Avid Music Fans

Written by Fritz Pape, Library Customer Advisor, Downtown Main Library 

Over the last 75 years, starting when the Films & Recordings Department first opened, CHPL has amassed a truly immense collection of vinyl records. Hiding in the Popular Library’s closed stacks is a collection of thousands of albums that, over the past year, we've been working to maintain, organize, and tidy up. Day to day, this means going through every single record on the shelves, checking each disc for any cracks or scratches that might make the album unplayable, and organizing them while keeping an eye out for misplaced items. 

Collecting and Curating  

As we pore through the stacks, we’re also working on the next phase of the project —curating and expanding a robust selection of browsable records for customers to flip through. We’re always keeping our eyes out for albums downstairs that we think might interest folks, and we certainly have a range of genres to pick from: opera box sets, early jazz tunes, heady early electronic music, childrens sing-a-longs, aerobic workout guides, classic rock albums, bundles of bird calls, spoken word documentaries, and plenty more that are all waiting to get checked out and enjoyed at home. 

Of course, it’s difficult to anticipate what you want to listen to when materials must be requested in advance due to COVID-19 precautions, so we’ve been bringing up a number of items each month to live among the newer records that CHPL has been purchasing for the past few years. This also gives us the opportunity to re-catalog the older albums so they can be organized alphabetically. Interestingly enough, the entire collection in the stacks is currently organized by purchase date, which makes things tough to find! 

Hidden Treasures 

Of course, with a circulating collection this old, plenty of treasures and curios are bound to pop up. Amongst all the cool music we’ve stumbled on, we’ve also found a few pieces of library history, like a few records designed as soundtracks for old film reels that were also lent out. One such recording included the description sheet, “the delights of Grand Opera at the Cincinnati Summer Opera Pavilion in the Zoological Gardens.”  

Another item of interest is an old 10-inch record with a recording of Scott Huston’s “Abstract, an orchestral piece commissioned for the opening of the Downtown Main Library building in 1955, that included a reproduction of the original concert program. 

As work continues in the stacks, you can visit the Downtown Main Library (as well as a small rotating collection at the Harrison Branch Library, with more branches to come in the future) to peruse the growing searchable selection of records. Or visit our website to request holds on items you might find in our catalog (either by searching for a specific title, or, by using the advanced search and pulling up a list of all circulating vinyl records.)