The Lafayette Public Library, as far as I can tell, is a criminally underappreciated institution in our city. This should come to no surprise considering the ever-increasing dominance of online media, which has severely lessened the appeal of “antiquated” physical media.
The library facilitates a free exchange of material entertainment, be it books, DVDs, board games or CDs. Therein takes place an exchange of ideas, identities, art, messages and memories.
But in a world where ten clicks on Amazon can have you read Harry Potter on a Kindle, watch the entirety of Doctor Who, order Scrabble with two-day shipping, all the while having Amazon Music blare Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black,” it is easy to write off the library as superfluous.
One must keep in mind that ultimately these are privileges. Not all of Lafayette is ready to invest in an Amazon Prime or a Spotify Premium membership, let alone a laptop, home computer or smartphone. Some people use the Library as a direct resource to satisfy the needs of this digital generation.
While I am fortunate enough to experience the library mostly out of a preference for physical media, it certainly satisfies a dire need: the ability to listen to music while driving. My 2004 Chevy TrailBlazer provides me with only a cassette tape player and a CD player, so the hidden luxury of streaming music while driving is out of the question.
However, this isn’t entirely bad news for me. Modern music streaming, despite its convenience, carries some underlying cons that affects music consumption. Considering the general decay of society’s attention span, music streaming services cater to the demands of a streamlined society.
This incentivizes artists to strip back their music and focus on immediacy and catchiness with gargantuan projects designed to fill Spotify playlists (I’m looking at you, Migos). Not all artists create with this intent, but it’s prominent enough to draw correlations between this trend and the rise of streaming.
This often renders the art of album-crafting a forgotten one. I don’t believe sprawling concept albums like Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” or Donna Summers “Four Seasons of Love,” could have attained commercial limelight in a music culture dominated by streaming.
With my situation, I’ve realized that the limitations of a CD player encourage more time and intention with music listening. I don’t appease to my impatience nearly as much when I’m listening to CDs. Albums that don’t immediately resonate with me receive more attention than they would with the ability to listen to anything else at any moment I choose via Spotify.
Don’t get me wrong, I still stream the hell out of music, but I’m thankful that being slightly technologically disadvantaged is actually enriching my music intake.
Additionally, I’m thankful that I have access to a broad and thorough collection of music through the Lafayette Public Library system.
At the library, I can check out a limit of 10 CDs for 3 weeks. If nobody puts the CD on hold, it automatically checks out again up to 6 times. This means I could indulge myself in any album they carry potentially for 4 months (which I did with David Bowie’s “The Platinum Collection”).
Not only is this a supremely generous borrowing policy for a library, but I continually find myself impressed with the music that the library has to offer.
The collection the library has curated spans dozens of genres, with most corners of contemporary music, popular along with the obscure, being included. Classical music, afrobeat, bluegrass folk, electro-industrial and more are given representation.
I find myself more drawn to what the library has labeled the “Rock” and “Urban” sections. From these two I’ve borrowed Frank Ocean, Iron Maiden and Janelle Monae CDs, as well as material from Kid Cudi, Aretha Franklin, Run the Jewels, the Beach Boys, Big Thief and a wealth of other artists.
The Lafayette Public Library has enabled me to turn an inconvenience into an opportunity to fully explore new music that I otherwise would miss out on. I urge everyone, whether you’re reliant on a CD player or not, to check out what the Library has to offer.