Library has extensive music archive

Kathryne Rubright and Kathryne Rubright

There may not be many places in the world with a full collection of Rolling Stone, but the Sound Recordings Archives at the University is one of those places.

The magazine and the SRA were both established in 1967 and Sound Recordings Archivist Bill Schurk has an “approach to completeness,” according to Susannah Cleveland, head of the Music Library and SRA.

Senior Charisse Bailey was unfamiliar with the SRA, but after learning more about it, including the Rolling Stone collection, she thinks the SRA is similar to a hidden treasure and wishes she would have known about it sooner.

Schurk can’t choose a favorite song or artist. But as the Sound Recordings Archivist at the University since 1967, he’s familiar with many of them.

“I’m proud of the collection,” he said.

It’s a collection he’s been largely responsible for expanding since its establishment in 1967. At that time, the SRA was virtually a one-man show, he said.

Schurk was responsible for acquiring and cataloguing the materials and he was also the librarian. While it may sound like a lot, Schurk’s philosophy is that “If you like your job, you don’t work.”

Having been a collector of records from an early age, Schurk is a natural fit for the SRA.

“I lived my job and I still do,” he said.

In the beginning, the collection focused on more traditional types of music, like folk and jazz. After Ray Browne worked to establish the study of popular culture at the University, it became useful for the SRA to have popular music as well. At the time, that was unusual for a university library.

Today, the collection spans a variety of genres and includes not only music in various formats, but also the books, periodicals, sheet music, pictures and publicity materials that help tell the story of the music.

The SRA emphasizes trying to capture the fan culture that surrounds the music, said Cleveland.

To accomplish this, the SRA has a large collection of fanzines— informal and sometimes handmade publications compiled by fans for fans— and teen magazines, both of which are often left out of other university collections due to their non-academic tone and content.

This means that the SRA is sometimes the only place in the world researchers can find a particular issue.

To her surprise when she began her job, Cleveland found issues of 16 Magazine among the SRA’s most sought after items.

Another unique collection is a donated set of fan-made Neil Diamond scrapbooks.

The SRA also emphasizes being accessible. While many materials cannot leave the library, they are accessible within the library to all who need them. Some universities are less welcoming to outsider usage. At the University, visiting scholars and outside researchers are welcome to use the SRA.

Schurk’s approach to completeness and to having a broad and deep collection means that the Smithsonian Institution and Time-Life Music have approached the SRA when they have wanted to reissue music. Schurk said that was “a real feather in our cap” for the SRA.

Laura Pillman, a circulation supervisor at the SRA who is in her second year of a flute performance master’s degree, said she likes to use the SRA to find multiple recordings of the same piece. It can be useful to listen to eight or nine versions of a song, and the SRA makes that possible. She also enjoys the collection of musicals on DVD.

Junior Lisa Holcomb, a fellow employee, agreed about the musicals. She also said she likes to take advantage of the free records the SRA often puts out. They can be nice to listen to or to hang on a wall.

The SRA is open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.