Streaming vs. Physical

Listen to a physical compact disc lately? How about pop a dvd into your player?

According to the BBC, sales of physical items like these mentioned above have declined more than 10% in the past year. Digital streaming and downloading are increasingly becoming the preferred mode of content delivery. I just had a conversation the other day with a student who recently bought a MacBook Air, a laptop without a disc drive. She said she never uses cds or watches dvds anymore preferring online options.

So, how does this affect libraries? We continue to collect both compact discs and dvds, not to mention those old things called books.

Well, to quote Johnny Cash, we walk the line.

In addition to the physical items many still profess to love holding in their hands (me included), your Robinson Music Library subscribes to a number of streaming music databases like Naxos and Music Online offered by Alexander Street Press. If you’re off-campus, you’ll need VPN set-up on your computer to access.

So, why do libraries continue to hold onto physical items if they can offer these groovy streaming options where seemingly everything can be found?

Well, your RML does not OWN the content that gets delivered on Naxos or Alexander Street Press, we are merely leasing them. The database proprietors have control over the recordings. Whereas, the cds and dvds we continue to collect are items that belong to the Robinson Music Library forever and ever. Plus, these databases don’t have EVERYthing, even though it seems like they do. For example, your Robinson Music Library has a sizable LP collection. We have replaced albums wherever we could with the same issue on a cd. However, only a minority of titles were available in a digital format. The rest only exist in the LP version, which we kept for your listening pleasure. This is quite a hot button issue in libraries and has been debated (you’ll need VPN to access the article) most notably by D.J. Hoek, director of the Northwestern Music Library.

So, the issue in libraries comes down to one of ownership, a pretty important one when collecting is our business.

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