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Music Advice for Individuals and for the Masses

Jacksonville Public Library
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Innovation Summary

Librarians at the Jacksonville Public Library have developed a personalized online Music Advisory service to help patrons discover new music to fit their tastes. They have paired this service with a weekly radio show, “Lost in the Stacks,” that highlights an eclectic variety of music available at the library.

Problem Statement

Many libraries are finding innovative ways to use reader’s advisory services to boost circulation statistics and turn patrons on to new and exciting reading. However, other media rarely get the advisory royal treatment. For too long, libraries have been ceding music advisory to commercial/automated services like Rhapsody, Pandora, or Amazon , where recommendations are based on search algorithms or commercial consensus. Why can’t a library apply traditional reference research and reader’s advisory-type skills to match a library user with the right album? In addition, music lovers who want to try out new music or enjoy old favorites for several weeks often overlook an ideal source – the library. JPL needed a new way to expose the community to the vast variety and wealth of music available at their library and to give listeners a chance to expand their musical horizons at the same time.


Two librarians, Matthew Moyer and Andrew Coulon, developed an online music advisory system, called “Personalized Playlists,” to address this problem. The patron submits an online form denoting their music likes and dislikes, or a particular song or performer they are interested in. The Music Advisory reference group (Moyer, Coulon, and Alissa Leonard) then draw up a list of several albums from the library’s collection that match the user’s tastes and preferences. The patron receives an email detailing these selections, along with direct links to the record in the library’s catalog, and a more content-rich version is simultaneously posted to the Personalized Playlist blog. Posting it to the blog allows us to create a playlist archive that is accessible to other music lovers in the community. Several months after the launch of the Personalized Playlist service, Moyer and Coulon also launched a weekly radio show, in partnership with the local NPR affiliate, WJCT, where they would play selections from the library’s collection. “Lost In The Stacks” is a one hour music program that features diverse selections from the library collection. Coulon and Moyer have also invited local musicians and educators into the studio to select songs from the collection and share on the radio how these pieces have influenced their own lives.


Over a year after its beginning, the Personalized Playlist service is still going strong, receiving very positive response from library users. A sampling: “I … appreciate the work my local librarians have done in putting my personal playlist together. I can’t wait to hear some of their selections.” “[All selections were] great. ‘Chairs Missing’ and ‘Different Class’ are now new favorites.” “I love the music suggestions you make! Thank you!” The service has also received national attention, with an article in Library Journal. “Lost in the Stacks” was given a permanent spot on the after hours roster at WJCT after its original run of 13 episodes expired. It has been on the air uninterrupted since the summer of 2011 and is gaining an enthusiastic local fan base, with feedback like the following: “I really don't think people realize how important it is to turn on the FM radio in Jacksonville (of all places) and hear things like this. Bravo.” “Best thing on the radio right now, I listen every week!” According to David Luckin, the Director of Music Programming for WJCT, “Lost in the Stacks is one of our most successful programs because it is so well produced and presented. We are happy and proud to have Lost in the Stacks on our air.” Coulon and Moyer both received Library Journal Mover & Shaker Awards for these innovative programs.