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Multnomah County Library Music Project

Multnomah County Library Music Project

While this column will focus on various makers in our fair and growing city, this month we’re going to talk about our libraries. Multnomah County’s library system is one of the highest ranked in the country. It’s well funded, supported and used. This allows the library to reach into the community in new ways. There are many events and classes (including a Makerspace series, mind you), and the dream of a 24-hour library is alive with access to online platforms offering e-books, audio-books and the streaming service, Hoopla, which offers access to music, movies, tv and comic books, for free. 

Some are avid visitors, but perhaps not everyone realizes how prolific MultCo. Library has been in recent years. Did you know they did a documentary series on local breweries called Brew Stories? They’ve also made several focused videos, called Our Stories, about Portland from an African American lens. And four years ago, they launched The Library Writer’s Project, calling for submissions from local writers to have their books added into the library’s e-book collection.

This year, the call for submissions was from local musicians, launching the Library Music Project. A few years ago, library officials noted projects in other cities like Madison, Wisconsin and Nashville, Tennessee, where libraries were curating online collections of local music through the Rabble/MusicCat platform.

From Multnomah County’s website: “The Library Music Project is another avenue for Multnomah County Library to support and promote local artists while expanding its collection with content that is engaging, new and relevant for a wide variety of tastes and interests. The collection includes styles and genres from hip hop to bluegrass to full throated rock.”

Javier Gutierrez, Director of Collections and Technical Services tells me that most of the legwork was done by a small group of community members, including electronic content librarian Kadie Ferris, and Kelly Jones of Portland Notes, who connected to the music community and recruited a small band of our cities best  “music experts” to review the 400 or so submissions. A little over 100 are currently in the database.

Anyone can stream the diverse collection, but library card holders can build playlists and download entire albums.

“My goal is to listen to all of the albums,” says Gutierrez. When I ask about his favorites, he pulls up his collection and cites independant folk and country from Malachi Graham, and funky R&B with an industrial edge from Free! Mason Jar.

“I think what is unique about the library project is that generally what we had to do was rely on third party vendors to build content,” he says. “Now what we’re able to do through this platform is ask local artists to submit to us. We are able to take charge and really build a community-focused collection.”

The next call for submissions will open in September, as well as a September 22 concert kick-off at White Eagle Saloon, a free all-ages event showcasing a few of the Library Music Project artists.

Portland’s public library offers summer reading and summer listening. They also profile brew-masters and throw concerts. As Director of Libraries Vailey Oehlke says on their website, “Libraries today are reflections of their community.”