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The BG News
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November 30, 2023

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Archivist makes world-class tower of music

William Schurk has always thought of records as his first true love.

After graduating from the University in 1966, then attending Case Western Reserve to study library science, he was recruited to head up the University’s audio center – a collection of sound recordings.

“I wanted it to be world class and of course it has become world class because of my efforts, my interests and the support from the [Jerome] library and the University,” Schurk said.

“My interest in popular music and recordings was known at BGSU and I used that to my full advantage when I first started the collection,” he said.

What is now known as the Sound Recordings Archives, located on the third floor of Jerome Library, currently houses more than 700,000 popular recordings and other popular documentations. It has grown into the country’s largest academic library of recorded popular music, according to the archives’ literature.

Originally from Cleveland, Schurk has been an avid record collector for 55 years.

In developing the Popular Culture Library, the Music Library and the Sound Recordings Archives (all located within Jerome Library), Schurk worked very closely with Ray Browne. Browne is responsible for bringing the Popular Culture program to the University and allowed Schurk the freedom to collect popular recordings.

“The primary purpose of the Sound Recordings Archives in to collect, preserve, and make accessible the wealth of popular music materials to all scholars, including interested community members, BGSU students and faculty, and visiting researchers,” according to the Sound Recordings Archives pamphlet. “Although the materials do not circulate, they are available to any researcher for onsite consultation.”

As the chief archivist and cataloger, Schurk’s duties at the archives have pretty much stayed the same since 1967. He acquires materials for the collection using University funds, several foundation accounts and a large number of gifts. He has also made some of his most exciting discoveries at flea markets, garage sales and thrift stores.

“I know where all of the junk shops are in Northwest Ohio and Cleveland,” Schurk said. “There are a couple of neat record shops in Toledo that I frequent, and of course Finders and Madhatter Music in Bowling Green.”

He keeps track of all the records he accumulates and carries a few lists with him when hunting for new records in an attempt to limit buying duplicate copies of the same recording.

Aside from gathering the bulk of the materials for the archives, Schurk is also the sole cataloger.

“[The Sound Recordings Archives] are respected and highly recognized for the quality and quantity of cataloging that we do,” Schurk said. “We have another huge room downstairs besides this floor filled with material that needs cataloging.”

Schurk also spends much of his day doing reference work, answering questions by phone and e-mail from his record-laden desk. Inquiries will include ‘I’m looking for someone who performed such and such song,’ ‘I need a list of songs about something,’ ‘I need songs by a certain person,’ or ‘How many versions of a certain song do you have and how are they performed?’ he said.

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