BGSU’s ‘broken record’: Library boasts largest music collection in U.S.

Take one step into Bill Schurk’s office and it’s clear why the University’s sound recording archivist is responsible for making the school’s music library the largest in the country, with more than 700,000 recordings.

Everything in his office confirms his passion for music: Hundreds of records clutter his floor, an animated “Dancin’, Shoutin'” James Brown doll, a “Doowop” license plate hanging from his door and vintage band posters line his walls.

For the 40 years Schurk has worked in the recording archives, he has lived and breathed popular music.

Schurk is chiefly credited for expanding the University’s music collection to the size it is today, and did so by receiving numerous donations and gifts.

“To think that I’ve had something to do with every record, every book – it’s neat,” Schurk said. “Before I came here, there was nothing.”

Schurk started his library career all the way back in junior high, where he was a page for the Cleveland Public Library.

After high school, he went to General Motors Institute, a co-op university where he prepared to be an engineer.

His career as an engineer was never fulfilled, however, and his unsatisfactory grades prompted him leave GMI and think about a different career path.

Schurk enrolled at the University in 1963 where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in English. He then went on to Western Reserve Library School and completed a one-year graduate program.

Schurk then turned back to BGSU just as the director of the Jerome Library was looking to hire for new positions.

After spending the entire interview talking about jazz records, Schurk was offered a job in the music library and has remained there ever since.

“I’ve never really had to go job hunting,” Schurk said.

In the library, Schurk spends his days selecting and archiving records, books and catalogues to be added to the collection, as well as working the service window.

Rebekah Burchfield, a second-year Ph.D student and Schurk’s assistant, said Schurk is great to work with because of his “goofy” sense of humor and personable nature.

Burchfield was also impressed with Schurk’s extensive knowledge about popular music, which rivals others’ throughout the country. “The term national treasure is not an exaggeration,” said Burchfield.

Jay Grayson, a sophomore who works in the library shelving records and CDs, also loves the time he spends with Schurk. “He’s a fanatic in every good sense of the word,” Grayson said.

Schurk’s passion is also evident in his home life.

Kristin Tuttle, 36, and one of Schurk’s three children, said there was always music in the house growing up and it was sometimes hard to get her dad to turn it off.

Tuttle still recalls sitting on hotel beds during vacations while her dad flipped through the phone book to find the closest Goodwill in town to hunt for used records.

Even now, Schurk loves going to the Goodwill and Salvation Army to try to find materials to add to his collection.

Tuttle also said her father is a good role model for her and her siblings. “He’s so energetic and passionate about his job,” Tuttle said. “He’s really such a kid at heart.”

Schurk said he doesn’t know when he will make the choice to retire from the library. But after listening to music for 67 years and surrounding himself with countless tunes at work, a harder choice may be simply determining his favorite band.

“Don’t ever ask me what my favorite rock and roll artist is,” he said. “There are just too many.”